Friday, 31 August 2007

Dzur by: Steven Brust

Steven Brust
TOR Books
ISBN 978-0765301482

It is hard to believe that a series of books has kept my attention through 10 books. Yet that is exactly what Brust has done. Every time a new book comes out I go back and reread the entire series up to that point. I read the first ones back in the 80's in high school as they came out, and I thought that the Character of Vlad Taltos was the coolest. He is a member of House Jehreg and a sometime assassin. Vlad once read quickly becomes an immensely popular protagonist. I have introduced these books to numerous friends and all have loved
him and the books.

Issola, in the book before Dzur Vlad, is wandering around the countryside with a price on his head, and lamenting about how his life got so turned upside down. Vlad in Dzur, gets to do what he likes best- he starts stirring things up and seeing where the pieces fall.

One of my favorite elements of this series is that you never know how Brust will start chapters off. Each book has had chapter headings in a new and unique way. In the one book it was quick wit "No matter how subtle the wizard a knife between the shoulder blades will seriously cramp his style." In another it is a list of cleaning and repairs to an outfit. In this one it is a recollection of a meal at Valabar's - a restaurant that makes appearances throughout the series. If Brust is able to create the meal described in these snippets he is not only a master wordsmith but must be close to a master chef.

Brust had Vlad come back to the capitol city because his estranged wife is in trouble. He rushes in where angels would fear to tread. He steps into the middle of a power struggle with organized crimes' two sides of the family. He fears getting friends killed or injured, but is more than willing to risk his own neck. However, as Vlad is getting older, he is also mellowing some and maturing.

Vlad realizes that he cannot do it himself. He challenges his patron Goddess to help as much as she can. He also enlists the help of some of those who have offered, but warns them not to take too many risks. Vlad is a little more subdued and subtle in this book compared to some of the earlier ones. However he is just as enjoyable as a character and the journey with him through the adventure in Dzur is as exciting and thrilling as the previous books.

Like the meal described at the beginning of the chapters, Brust's books need to be savored and enjoyed at the pace they come at us. Just as Vlad describes the meal step by step and makes comparisons between preparing a meal and preparing a hit, Brust leads us to discover more and more about Vlad as we go through the courses in this book.

Like each of the previous 9 books in this series, Jhereg (1983), Yendi (1984),Teckla (1987), Taltos (1988), Phoenix (1990), Athyra (1993), Orca (1996),Dragon (1998), Issola (2001), Dzur (2007), and I'm sure, the forthcoming Jhegaala (2008) and now Iorich (2010) this book is a great read. The series is planned to be a total of 19 books, making this one the middle point as far as volumes. It leaves a lot of questions unanswered and the readers salivating for the next volume.

You can read the author's blog here.
(First Published in Imprint 2007-08-31 as "Series still captivates after 10 books.")

My Other Reviews of Brust Books:

My Own Kind of Freedom
The Sun, the Moon & The Stars

Thursday, 30 August 2007

The Least Among Us by Martin O'Shea & Tony Wright

The Least Among Us
Martin O'Shea & Tony Wright

Ascendant Press

ISBN 0955294509

I must admit I do not read a lot of graphic novels. Nor do I read comics all that much anymore. I was asked if I wanted to review this one, and thought I would give it a try. I have read it a few times, because I do not like to give negative reviews, yet with that said, this book has strengths and weaknesses.

The artwork is great. The variety of frames used, and styles is both visually pleasing and easy to read. Some of the graphics, especially of the inside of churches, would make amazing posters or prints.

The story on the other hand is a little confusing. Is the intent of the book to say that the church covers up sexual abuse, or that Christians should all be vegetarians and involved with animal rights, or that Catholics are not good Christians? The story seemed incomplete; I felt like I started a book in the middle and got to the end to find out that it was missing the last pages.

I find I cannot say what the story was really about because I could not figure it out for sure. If more volumes become available I would pick them up for the artwork and see if the intent of the story becomes clearer.

I would give the book 5 out of 5 for the artwork and 2 out of 5 for the story.