Dragon: In which Vlad Taltos is a soldier

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsDragon by Steven Brust epic fantasy audiobook reviewsDragon by Steven Brust

Dragon is the eighth novel in Steven Brust’s VLAD TALTOS series. As you’re reading the series, it probably doesn’t matter when you read Dragon since it’s really a stand-alone story which tells of a battle that occurred earlier in the series’ chronology, just after the events of Taltos, which was a prequel to the first three VLAD TALTOS novels. (As you can see, the books jump around in time). But Dragon is not one of the better volumes, so I wouldn’t recommend, say, reading it first and basing your judgment of the entire series on this novel. Read Jhereg, Yendi, Teckla and Taltos first.

Most of the VLAD TALTOS books are named after one of the Great Houses, feature one or more characters from that house, and usually in some way discuss its denizens’ personality characteristics in a way that includes some social commentary about the general human condition. The Dragons are known for their confident, strong, aggressive bearings. They tend to be leaders who think they know how the world should run and they are willing to fight for what they believe in. Fans of the series are already familiar with the Dragonlord Morollan. In this story, Morollan declares war on the Dragonlord Fornia who has stolen a Morganti weapon from a wizard who was recently killed. Vlad gets recruited into Morollan’s army which is led by Sethra Levode, the undead enchantress of Dzur Mountain.

Most of the plot details Vlad’s experiences as a soldier. He complains about picket duty, latrine digging, marching in the rain, slogging through the mud, eating bad food, waiting for hours and days for something exciting to happen, and then being terrorized when something finally does happen. There are a couple of interesting discussions about tactics and how the ultimate purpose of war is peace, but mostly (like Vlad) I didn’t find Vlad’s soldiering experience to be very exciting except for the couple of times he and Loiosh (his jhereg familiar) tried to sabotage the enemy camp. Those parts were fun.

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsJust like the series as a whole, the story in Dragon is not told linearly. (I wonder if Steven Brust has something against straight lines?) It follows three different timelines which are easy to keep straight and help to change up the pace and add a little more texture to a somewhat bland story. In one of the interludes, Vlad mentions that Cawti has agreed to marry him, which helps orient us in time. We also hear a prophecy that Vlad will someday carry a weapon called godslayer.

As usual, the strength of the story is Vlad’s appealing personality. He’s often funny as he tells us his story (“Virt said that the bandage around my forehead made me look like a real warrior. I made scatological culinary recommendations.”), makes occasional geeky pop culture references (“Run away! Run away!”) and carries on a snarky internal dialogue with Loiosh (“You’re pretty smart for a guy with no opposable thumbs”). Besides just liking Vlad as a person, I also like that all of Brust’s female characters are strong and smart.

If you’re reading these books in publication order, you might be glad to return to this “old” Vlad because he’s been kind of depressed in the previous three novels and I thought the last two, Athyra and Orca, were not up to par. Dragon is better than Athyra and Orca, but not as good as the books 1-5. (Fortunately, I like the next book, Issola, a lot better than Dragon.)  I continue to listen to VLAD TALTOS in audio format. I love Bernard Setaro Clark’s narration of Audible Studio’s version.


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KAT HOOPER, who started this site in June 2007, earned a Ph.D. in neuroscience and psychology at Indiana University (Bloomington) and now teaches and conducts brain research at the University of North Florida. When she reads fiction, she wants to encounter new ideas and lots of imagination. She wants to view the world in a different way. She wants to have her mind blown. She loves beautiful language and has no patience for dull prose, vapid romance, or cheesy dialogue. She prefers complex characterization, intriguing plots, and plenty of action. Favorite authors are Jack Vance, Robin Hobb, Kage Baker, William Gibson, Gene Wolfe, Richard Matheson, and C.S. Lewis.

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