Reviewed by Steven H Silver
Steven Brust has long taken enjoyment in playing around with his narrative style, and in Tiassa, the thirteenth volume of his Vlad Taltos series, Brust incorporates three different styles while relating Vlad's involvement with a silver tiassa figurine and the family on a one-time highwayman known as the Blue Fox. Each of the three sections of the book take place at different times, although taken together they tell a single story about Vlad and remind the reader that while a book is a single narrative, life generally isn't as neat.
The first part of Tiassa is told from Brust’s traditional first person point of view…Vlad telling the story, although Brust also shows Vlad meeting, for the first time, someone with the initials SB, who would like to interview him. For the second part of the novel, Vlad is off stage, and an omniscient storyteller is relating the adventures of Cawti and Norathar several years after the first part. Finally, Brust returns to the style of Paarfi, his narrator for the Khaavren Romances, as well as introduce the characters from that series more fully into Vlad’s storyline.
By writing about three extremely different timelines, Brust is able to show a wide range of relationships with his characters as well as showing their growth. The Vlad who appears in the first section as an enforcer for the Jhereg and the fugitive Vlad in the final section are clearly the same character, but shows growth between the two periods. In fact, although Tiassa does have an overarching plot, it is more a series of vignettes and character sketches as Vlad and his compatriots, as well as Khaavren, interact in various ways and give a feel of more happening in the novel than actually does.
The broad span of years allows Brust to explore many of the themes and ideas he has developed over the series. A potential Jenoine invasion is heavily featured in the second part, Devera appears as more than just a minor character, and scenes from Vlad and Cawti's courtship and the aftermath of their divorce are shown. In many ways, though, Tiassa feels as if its primary purpose is to set up the events of a future novel. The silver tiassa which forms the crux of the search has the feel of a maguffin, although Brust is never quite willing to dismiss it, leaving the reader with the feeling that it, too, will eventually show important powers.
Tiassa is not one of the stronger novels in the Vlad Taltos series, providing a link between Vlad's series and the Khaavren Romances and pointing, one suspects, to a major event which will take place in a subsequent novel. For this reason, it is not recommended for new readers, but rather should be enjoyed, and yes, it is to be enjoyed, by readers who have a familiarity with Brust's characters as it gives a new depth to many of them and places them in entertaining circumstances.
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