Book Review: Jhereg

Cover for the Book of Jhereg omnibus
Source: Goodreads.com

Written by Steven Brust

Published by Ace Books

Motivation

A friend has been raving about Brust. He decided to loan me the omnibus of the same name. While I will read all of three of the books in the collection, this review only pertains to the first book.

The Pitch

Vlad Taltos is an assassin who has a fairly well off organization. However, he finds his position at risk when a council member for the House of Jhereg makes off with 9 million money units (my term). The council needs the thief taken out quickly, before anyone outside the council discovers the theft, else the House will find itself vulnerable. Unfortunately, the fastest way to kill the thief could also cause an incident between two Houses that have a fragile peace.

The Good

Brust did something I did not expect: He crafted a good mystery. The background and motivation of the thief made sense once Brust had built his world. I could follow the clues, and it felt gratifying to figure things out along with (or a page or two before) the characters. I didn’t expect a well-plotted mystery in this book, so that was a pleasant surprise.

The Bad

First person narration can be hit or miss. If you like the character, it is fun. If you don’t like the character, however, it can be tedious. I didn’t like Vlad as a character or a narrator. He wasn’t an unpleasant or despicable character; I just didn’t like him. I never believed him. He felt like a player character from a game, which is not what I’m looking for in novels. On some level, he fits a type of iconic hero trope in that he doesn’t really develop as a character. He is the same in the end as he was in the beginning. There isn’t anything wrong with that, but I just wasn’t in the mood for it. As a result, spending 170+ pages in his head was not engaging. I was far more interested in other characters, such as Morrolan, The Demon, Aliera, and Sethra.

The Ugly

The idea of a wise-cracking, snarky assassin doesn’t sit well with me. Vlad comes across as someone for whom killing is a light thing. I am personally far more interested in the acknowledgement of how killing diminishes the individual or how it causes emotional pain. A character who comes across as carefree about killing as Vlad would not, I think, be as pleasant to be around. You could argue that with the reincarnation and revivification in this world, killing isn’t as traumatic, but I’m not entirely convinced. If it works for you, great, but it doesn’t for me.

Closing

I will continue on with the omnibus for two reasons: It was recommended by a friend and I want to see if Brust’s writing develops more. Although, it is sometimes hard to tell with first person narration if it is the author’s style or the character’s voice that is at play. Regardless, there is a good start with the main plot, but I would have preferred a third person narrative. The humor didn’t really work for me either. From a craft standpoint, I would give Jhereg a solid 3/5, but from a personal preference standpoint, I’d give it a 2.

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Television Review: The Magician’s Apprentice (Doctor Who)

Doctor Who Series 9.01: The Magician’s Apprentice

Written by Steven Moffat

Directed by Hettie MacDonald

Child from opening
Image Copyright BBC

Motivation

I have been a fan of Doctor Who off and on since I was three. At this point, I don’t think I will ever not watch it.

The Pitch

In this opener to series nine, a decision the Doctor made a long time ago has consequences that threaten to destroy his closest friend . . . and his best enemy. However, the Doctor must first be found.

The Good

Missy is probably my favorite new recurring character. I enjoy every scene she is in. Likewise, Peter Capaldi is able to take the most absurd scene and make me believe.

And that pre-credit scene . . . that’s how you hook an audience.

The Bad

There is too little plot stretched across 45 minutes. And since this is part one of two, I am a bit worried. Many of the scenes in this episode didn’t really advance the plot much, and those scenes didn’t do much for me other than make me wish they would get on with it. But again, if a scene isn’t going to advance the plot, you could do worse than putting Missy in it.

The Ugly

The “would you kill a child if you knew he would be a brutal dictator” argument moves out of the abstract.

Closing

I would characterize this as average Steven Moffat fare: not his best but certainly not his worst. The performances and direction put this at a 3/5 for me. I look forward to seeing how he resolves the story, though I doubt the resolution will make me change my mind about this episode.