by Steven Brust
Reviewed by Steven H Silver
Dzur, the tenth novel in Steven Brustís ďVlad TaltosĒ series sees the one-time Jhereg assassin back in the city of Adrilankha, his old stomping ground. Although the character seems more at home, even with the constant threat of assassination, Brust makes it clear that the city has continued to change during Vladís years in exile.
While many of Vladís informants and operatives may have vanished or moved on in his absence, some are still around. Perhaps most notable is Cawti, Vladís ex-wife. Worried that she is in danger due to her efforts to take over South Adrilankha, Vlad offers to help Cawti in return for some information. This offer, made out of a sense of nostalgia and loyalty sets Vlad on a path which could conceivably take him directly into the arms of the Jhereg, whose long-standing contract on Vlad caused him to leave Adrilankha in the first place.What Vlad discovers is the Left Hand, a mysterious group of women tied to the Jhereg who are trying to kill him. The shadow organization also is involved in a power struggle to determine the leadership of the Jhereg. On top of the physical danger Vlad is in, he has a growing suspicion that the Demon Goddess is messing with his brain. These adversaries give Vlad more than enough to keep him occupied and on the run as he tries to figure out the best way to gain the upper hand.
Vlad's investigations take him to many of his old haunts in the streets of Adrilankha and Brust makes it very clear that Vlad is part of the city and the city is part of Vlad. Vlad's ability to move around and find exactly the right people, even when he doesn't know who he is looking for. There is a familiarity about this novel which has been lacking in the more recent volumes following Vlad's adventures and the presence of Adrilankha may well provide that familiarity, just as Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser always were more at home within Lankhmar.
Culinary description has always played a role in the series, perhaps no more so than in Dzur, where the chapters are headed with detailed descriptions of Vlad's dinner with the Dzurlord Telnan at Valabar and Sons. While this meal is lovingly described in a manner to make even a gourmand's want to seek out these dishes, these interludes seem apart from the novel itself, although Brust does manage to tie them into his main narrative before the book ends.
And Dzur doesn't come to a conclusion as much as it comes to an end. Brust brings resolution to Vlad's immediate problem, but at the same time, he opens up a can of worms for his hero which one can only assume will be explored and dealt with in future novels in the series. With luck, the gap between Dzur and the next book will be significantly less than the period between the publication of Issola and Dzur.
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