Vallista by Steven Brust fantasy audiobook reviewsVallista by Steven Brust fantasy book reviewsVallista by Steven Brust

Everyone’s favorite Jhereg assassin is back in Vallista, Steven Brust’s fifteenth VLAD TALTOS novel. If you’re not familiar with this series, don’t start here. Get a copy of Jhereg and read the books in publication order (which is not, by the way, the same as the internal chronological order, but that’s okay). Let me recommend the audio versions produced by Audible Studios and read by Bernard Setaro Clark. He does such a great job capturing Vlad’s sarcastic personality and the amusing dialogue between Vlad and Loiosh, the reptilian familiar who rides around on Vlad’s shoulder.

If you’re reading this, I’ll assume you’re a fan of this series and will skip all of the introduction to Vlad and his world. (If necessary, you can get that information from our previous reviews, or elsewhere on the internet.)

Vlad, who’s been through some rough times and is still trying to recover, has been staying with his grandfather’s friend. One day Devera, that strange little girl who may be a sorceress, shows up and asks Vlad for help. She leads Vlad to a mansion on a cliff… a mansion that has suddenly appeared out of nowhere. When Vlad enters, Devera disappears and the mansion gets even stranger. The dimensions and orientation don’t seem right, the rooms and hallways don’t make sense, there are mirrors in odd places, the kitchen seems unused, and the house’s few residents are bizarre, too. When Vlad realizes that he’s trapped, he sets out to solve the mystery of the mansion and, of course, to save Devera and to escape. All of the answers he finds only lead to even more questions and some of those questions deeply affect Vlad’s personal history and, most likely, his future.

The plot of Vallista moved too slowly for me, mostly because I didn’t find the mystery of the mansion very intriguing. It involves necromancy, mirrors, a fountain, time travel, a ghost, a love triangle, and a murder. All of that sounds like it could be interesting, but Vlad’s method of putting it all together mostly involved walking around empty rooms and halls until he stumbled upon clues that eventually got put together. There are very few characters or scenes outside the mansion. The plot felt like its main purpose was not to entertain, but to relate a few pieces of important new information about Vlad’s history, the world of Dragaera, and the role of the humans who live there.

So, the plot of Vallista was dull, but the star of the VLAD TALTOS stories is, of course, Vlad himself and, therefore, I suspect that many of Vlad’s fans won’t care too much about the plot. They’re happy just to hang out with Vlad and Loiosh as they wise-crack their way through another adventure. It’s fun to listen to them and just to hear Vlad sarcastically narrate his own story:

Sethra nodded and looked very knowing. But then she always looked very knowing. Possibly on account of knowing stuff.

Vallista is not one of the better VLAD TALTOS books, but it does seem to be a set up for something major coming down the road. I’ll continue to read this series and to look forward to each new installment. Vlad has a great voice and it’s fun to see how Steven Brust will approach each new VLAD story (he’s always experimenting and often uses a clever structural gimmick). Also, as I mentioned, the audiobook performance by Bernard Setaro Clark adds a lot. If you’re a fan, or new to the series, you should try the audiobooks!

Published October 17, 2017. Full of swordplay, peril, and swashbuckling flair, Steven Brust’s Vallista is a treat for longtime fans of this popular fantasy series, a deep dive into the mysteries of Dragaera and all within it. Vlad Taltos is an Easterner—an underprivileged human in an Empire of tall, powerful, long-lived Dragaerans. He made a career for himself in House Jhereg, the Dragaeran clan in charge of the Empire’s organized crime. But the day came when the Jhereg wanted Vlad dead, and he’s been on the run ever since. He has plenty of friends among the Dragaeran highborn, including an undead wizard and a god or two. But as long as the Jhereg have a price on his head, Vlad’s life is…messy. Meanwhile, for years, Vlad’s path has been repeatedly crossed by Devera, a small Dragaeran girl of indeterminate powers who turns up at the oddest moments in his life. Now Devera has appeared again—to lead Vlad into a mysterious, seemingly empty manor overlooking the Great Sea. Inside this structure are corridors that double back on themselves, rooms that look out over other worlds, and—just maybe—answers to some of Vlad’s long-asked questions about his world and his place in it. If only Devera can be persuaded to stop disappearing in the middle of his conversations with her…


  • Kat Hooper

    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.