Steven Brust



320pp/$24.99/January 2010


Cover by Ann Monn

Reviewed by Steven H Silver

The latest of Steven Brust's novels about Vlad Taltos, Iorich is almost a legal procedural.  Long on the run from the Jhereg, Vlad finds himself drawn back to Adrilankha by the news that Aliera has been arrested on a trumped up charge.  Iorich, named for the creature in Brust's cycle known for justice and retribution, follows Vlad's machinations to find out what really happened and free Aliera while her other friends sit idly by.

Early in the novel, Vlad hooks up with Perisil, an Iorich attorney who agrees to help him with the legal proceedings, made more difficult by the fact that Aliera seems indifferent to her predicament and has not requested any legal counsel.  Vlad and Perisil's first step is to get Vlad in to see Aliera and to have Perisil entered as her attorney of record, with or without her agreement.  For much of the book, Perisil and his legal machinations are handled off stage, allowing Brust to focus his attention on Vlad's activities.  While this permits a tighter novel, it means that Brust does not reveal potentially interesting aspects of the Dragarean legal system.

Being in Adrilankha means that Vlad has put himself within easy range of the Jhereg, who are still trying to assassinate him.  Vlad deals with this by spending as much time as possible in the confines of the Imperial Palace, where a truce is maintained. However, he does find himself having to leave the palace at times, and even return to his old haunts, visiting other characters from earlier books, including his former secretary, Kragar, and his estranged wife, Cawti.  These visits place him in a position for the Jhereg to attempt to ambush Vlad and gain their vengeance.  This potential raises the tension of the novel beyond the fate of Aliera.

Iorich also brings Vlad in direct contact with Empress Zerika, who previously figured in the novel Phoenix.  These interactions allow Brust to present a couple of science which show a delightful send of multiple personalities as both Vlad and Zerika show their official sides and their personal sides, with Vlad never quite sure in which capacity he was talking to the Empress and having to quickly change as Zerika switched between her own different roles, or switched the manner in which she treated Vlad. These scenes provide Iorich with the majority of the novels humor, which is only possible because of the groundwork Brust has laid concerning the social contract of his world.

The lead in to each chapter provides a look at the trial system used by the empire, but the actual legal proceedings are masked by Brust's decision to focus entirely on Vlad and only use Perisil sparingly limited the range of activity in Iorich.  However, Vlad is essentially a loner, despite the vast network of friends and acquaintances he can call upon as needed. His division of labor with Perisil drives the point home, even as he works with Cawti, Morrolan, and others to help a friend who he deems in need.  At the same time, as Vlad uncovers the reason Aliera has been charged with a crime, information about the history of the empire comes to light.

Although Iorich is not the strongest of Brust's Vlad Taltos novels, it does return Vlad to his natural habitat.  While he always seems a little out of place when Brust sets one of his novels outside the city, when Vlad is in Adrilankha, he is in his element and both he, and the narrative, seem to move a little more easily.  Seeing Vlad navigate the upper echelons of the empire, while retaining his ties to his own people, such as they are, makes Iorich an enjoyable addition to the Vlad Taltos cycle.

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