By Steven Brust

Tor Books


288pp/$27.99.00/April 2024


Reviewed by Steven H Silver

Lyorn is the seventeenth novel in Steven Brust's Vlad Taltos series and follows the events depicted in Hawk, despite two novels being published between those two books. Vlad has spent most of the series with his House, the Jhereg, wanting exact vengeance on him. In Hawk, Vlad managed to settle the situation with the Right Hand of the Jhereg, only to discover at the last minute that the magic-wielding Left Hand has decided to target him. As Lyorn begins, Vlad is trying to figure out a way to eradicate the threat from the Jhereg's Left Hand. His solution leads him to an unlikely place.

Because of the Left Hand's ability to use magic, Vlad is trying to find a place where magical ability is diminished and Sara suggests that he hides in a theatre. She helpfully places him at a theatre which is staging a musical production to Vlad's annoyance. While trying to hide at the theatre, Vlad learns that the Lyorn are trying to get the play shut down and if they are successful he'll lose his magical hiding place. Much of the novel deals with Vlad's attempts to ensure the show will go on, although he also is working on his own goal to avoid the Left Hand, made more difficult when Kragar comes to him in need of a favor.

In some ways, Lyorn is three books in one. In addition to the storylines that immediately concern Vlad, Sara gave him a history book to give him something to do. The book provides the history upon which the musical is based and Brust includes lengthy quotes from it, thereby fleshing out the history of the empire. While the reader is told what the play is about, the excerpts from the history book allow Brust to discuss the specifics of tyrannical rule and give more background to the Dragaeran empire. Finally, each chapter opens with a song, giving insight into Dragaeran musicals and able to be sung to recognizable tunes.

Pinning Vlad to the confines of a theatre that he can't leave for fear that the Left Hand will find him would seem to limit his ability to become a catalyst for action, however, even if Vlad views himself as a fish out of water within the confines of musical theatre, his real strength is his ability to quickly understand human relationships and take advantage of them in ways that benefit him, and often society at large. His role at the Crying Clown during the pre-production of is no different and Vlad insinuates himself into the company even as few of them are aware of his purpose in being there.

Although, as with most of Brust's stories of Vlad Taltos, the novel can stand on its own, it can be more thoroughly enjoyed with knowledge of the entire series of books, especially Hawk to give the reader the full background. Brust offers enough information that a new reader won't be lost, but because the specifics of the events that led to his seeking refuge in the theatre and the situation between the Left and Right Hand of the Jhereg all took place before the beginning of Lyorn, a casual reader will certainly be more aware that they are missing a nuance than in many of the other novels in the series.

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