“My heart gave a thump. It had been doing that a lot lately. I wished it would stop. I mean stop giving random thumps, not, you know, stop.” ~Vlad Taltos
Note: This review contains spoilers for previous novels in the series.
Hawk is Steven Brust’s fourteenth (and latest) novel about Vlad Taltos, a charming assassin living in Dragaera. Over the past 31 years, fans of this series have been through a lot with Vlad and Loiosh, Vlad’s flying reptilian familiar.
We first met Vlad when he was at the top of his game, running the Jhereg criminal organization of Adrilankha. Then he married Cawti, who also used to be an assassin but later became a social revolutionary. The change in her worldview was too much for the marriage to handle and they separated, but that didn’t stop Vlad from betraying the Jhereg in order to save Cawti from being executed. The Jhereg want revenge and have been hunting Vlad for years while he wandered around the Dragaeran Empire. Meanwhile Cawti gave birth to Vlad’s son, which he didn’t know about until later.
Now, Vlad wants his life back. He wants to return to his city and be able to visit his son (now eight years old) without worrying about the safety of his son, Cawti, or himself. So Vlad hatches a plan to make peace with the Jhereg. He thinks he has discovered a new form of sorcery that he can offer to the Jhereg — something that will make them rich and powerful — in return for their promise to call off his assassination. Will it work? Or will he just expose himself and get killed?
After watching Vlad brood for a long time, it’s great to see him come out in the open, face his fears, take charge of his destiny, and once again become the smart assassin he used to be. It’s great to be back in Adrilankha among Vlad’s friends and associates (including a couple of interesting new characters). For these reasons, Hawk feels more like the earlier novels in which Vlad was witty, clever, and full of life. His voice is once again breezy and ironic, and he’s fun to listen to, even when he’s just walking down the street….
…which is fortunate since Vlad does a lot of just walking down the street in this story. Until the very end, the pace is slow and leisurely, but that’s okay since it’s actually amusing just to listen to Vlad bicker with Loiosh, or wish he had a name that starts with “The,” or lament that his cloak doesn’t billow dramatically when he walks down the street.
I’m glad Vlad’s back. I’m not sure when we’ll see the next VLAD TALTOS novel, but I look forward to it. I listened to the audio versions of this series which were produced by Audible Studios. Hawk is almost 9 hours long, though I increased the playback speed as I usually do. Bernard Setaro Clark is an excellent narrator and this is one of those cases where I enjoyed the book more because of the reader’s performance. I wouldn’t think of reading these any other way.