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Yendi (1987)

Yendi (1987)

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4.13 of 5 Votes: 2
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0441944604 (ISBN13: 9780441944606)

About book Yendi (1987)

YendiI was midly disappointed by Yendi, the second book in The Vlad Taltos series. Contrary to Jhereg, where I was immediately pulled inside the story, things were much slower in Yendi. A quarter or even half the book felt like Brust (the author) was merely listing a series of action instead of telling a story. And it was hella boring. Stephen Brust has decided to write a non-linear series, therefore, his second book instead of continuing where his predecessor left, takes place in the past. At the time, Yendi starts, Vlad is still single and his business just kicked off. Loish, his pet/ companion/ friend is present and so is Kragar his secretary.One day, completely out of the blue, Laris a good fella (notice the sarcasm) from the Jhereg house just like him starts messing with his business. He order a couple of Vlad’s men killed, disturb a couple of our hero side activities, like it’s betting business, and most naturally, he tried to send Vlad back to his grave (and he actually survived once, but thankfully, revification exist). So, just like in Jhereg, Vlad has to find out his enemy’s motive and neutralize him if he wants to remain in the living. And just like in Jhereg, he’ll seek a helping hand from the Dragon Lord Morrolan and his niece Aliera. Now that I think about it, Yendi kind of essentially recycle old recipes in order to make a brand new meal. Also, I don’t know, in a way, I felt like this novel was just a way to introduce Cawti, Vlad (future) wife and that’s about it. She’s a top notch assassin just like him, and she tried to kill him twice in Yendi. I don’t feel like I truly learned more about the world Brust’s created or anything. Considering what we learned in Jhereg about Vlad, I think there were other (better and more interesting) ways the authors could have explored.Characters wise, there whether it is “now” or then, there hasn’t been any change in their personality. A young Vlad was still a skilled assassin, who knew how to handle his business, and the people on his dead-list and he was a single block. Loish was already (and perhaps, he has always been), a noisy but funny little Jhereg (a sort of poisonous dragon like creature, in Dragarea). And Kragar from back then was no different than the Kragar we met in the previous book. Same goes for the Dragon Lords, Morrolan and Aliera. Same old, same old.Don’t mistakes my sceptimicisn for anthipathy. I actually enjoyed Yendi. It was a quick, fun read with some nice action scene. It’s just that in a sea of books instead of being a refined French wine with a vintage, it would be one of these bland (and much cheaper) wines you’re always sure to find in a Tesco, Walmat, Aldi, I mean you get what I’m trying. Bland and cheap isn’t a bad thing, on a night you really feel like getting a little bit buzzed, this wine from Tesco or whatever would save your life (sort of). But Bottom line is bland and cheap remains bland and cheap no matter how you look at it.And so, even though I liked Yendi, I can’t say it was an amazing book. Nonetheless, I’m still looking forward to Teckla.

Originally posted at Fantasy Literature: assassin Vlad Taltos is back in Yendi, the second in Steven Brust’s VLAD TALTOS series. Yendi is actually a prequel to the first novel, Jhereg which introduced us to Vlad, his wife Cawti, his familiar, and several of his friends and enemies. Vlad is a new mob boss who is trying to protect his territory from the encroachment of neighboring mob bosses. When one of them sets up a racket in Vlad’s territory, Vlad has to take him on. As usual, he’ll need all his wits and all his friends just to stay alive.In Yendi we learn a little more about the Dragaeran Empire, the Dragon Lords, and the activities of Vlad and the other bosses, but for some readers the most significant event is the story of how Vlad met Cawti, how she killed him, and how they fell in love. I was looking forward to this story, but it was a disappointment. The romance was dull and not very believable because of how instantaneous it was. Another complaint I have is the same thing I complained about in my review of the first book, Jhereg: Vlad solves crimes or mysteries by using convoluted suppositions that just happen to be right and there’s no way the reader could have figured out what was going on. This is disappointing because I’ve learned that it’s not much use to try to use my brain to remember clues or reason out a conclusion — I’ll never work it out on my own.This sense of feeling slightly lost is part of Steven Brust’s unique style. He drops you right into his complex world, but only gives cursory explanations of the characters, politics and history as he goes along. Generally I like this technique because it doesn’t interrupt the plot, but there were several times while reading Yendi that I wasn’t certain that I understood the implications or all the nuances of what was happening. I was reading the audio version, so I’m not sure if I missed a glossary in the back, but fortunately there are plenty of resources on the internet for those seeking to study more of Brust’s world.Even though I don’t fully understand Brust’s world yet, I like it. I like Brust’s sense of humor (very dry) and I like Vlad Taltos and his turf war. I’m going to keep reading this series for these reasons and because I have friends whose opinions I trust who love this series. I expect that the more I learn, the more I’ll like it, too.I read the audio version which was recently produced by Audible Frontiers and read by Bernard Setaro Clark who is excellent in every way. Yendi is less than 7 hours long.

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I freely admit that I don't know whether this second book was written before or after the first's publication date, but it certainly falls five years before the main action of the previous novel.Why does this matter? I don't mind having that tantalizing clue of having died years ago in the first novel being expanded into it's own interesting tale, but something has been itching under my skin as I read Yendi.It didn't feel as polished as the previous novel. I kept picking up on clues that felt like this was the first tale, not the second. It was straightforward, following action after action, reversal after reversal. The previous novel jumped through time with important scenes and barrelling through ten years giving us the weight of great things and interesting stories untold, letting our imaginations do most of the work and driving us into some seriously important Work without stalling. This second novel compressed the time involved to just a few months, keeping things simple if not uncomplicated.So why do I feel like this one could have really been the first novel of Mr. Brust? Because he didn't use all of the excellent tools of his writing that were at his disposal.Don't get me wrong. This was a great mob-boss turf-war novel set among half-dragons and an unfortunate Easterner (read human) interloper in a big city. It also catapulted his love-interest to the forefront, and despite being such a whirlwind romance, I was charmed. Cawti was fully in the driver's seat, whether she was literally killing or loving Vlad. I rooted for both of them. What can I say? It was hopelessly romantic. Thank goodness for revivication. It's what turns any would be tragedy into high comedy.One thing Steven Brust does fantastic in both novels is the near breakneck speed he can turn any desperate situation into a natural tragedy following from unintended consequences of character's actions.(view spoiler)[In the first book, neither Vlad nor us knew what his casting of the second dragon invitation would do. My heart was in my throat when I, like Vlad, believed that he had just severed the connection with his best friend in order to save his life. The situation was a bit twisted in this novel after I was invited to see Cawti's world through Vlad's eyes after Vlad's assassination had been accomplished. Love at first sight for both of them at the moments of both their deaths... so fucked up, and so damn beautiful. So yes, I say again, thank god for revivication and the kindness of fucking powerful dragon hosts at Castle Black. (hide spoiler)]

The second book in the Vlad Taltos series is something of a prequel to the first, Jhereg. In this we learn about how Vlad met and fell in love with Cawti, who would be his wife by the time of the first novel.We also see much of Vlad's rise in the Jhereg organization. We see how he assembles his crew and stakes out a claim in the neighborhood. We see his early friendships blooming with his Dragonlord allies, Morrolan and Aliera. Like the first book, this one is a story that is detective fiction set in a fantasy world. This has more elements of The Godfather thrown in, but still carries the mystery very well. Vlad has a problem and must use his resources, both magical and political, to figure out what is going on and survive it.So far these Vlad books come across as episodes in a larger series. The individual stories are self-contained and pretty short, with everything being wrapped up as the mystery is solved. Yet there is also that feeling that each one contributes to a larger, epic scale that will be slowly explored over the 19 books that are planned in the series (12 are currently out there). I'm definitely in this for the long haul...

Sometimes a sequel comes across favourably when compared to the original. Yendi is most definitely a case of this, improving on what made Jhereg good, while learning from – and fixing many of – the problems of the original, while trying some new things in the process. I’m going to be comparing the two quite a bit in this review, so you may want to see what I had to say about Jhereg before continuing.In this instalment, the protagonist, Vlad, finds himself fighting for what’s his when Laris, a neighbouring mob-boss-type-guy, tries to move in an take over his domain. While Yendi still, overall, doesn’t move that quickly, we actually get some action right from the get-go, with Vlad trying to scare away – or kill away – the intruders. Vlad’s familiar, Loiosh, gets treated better by both the author and the protagonist, presented less like an outright pet/minion and exhibiting some measure of subtlety in his comedy. Brust respects the reader much more in Yendi, leaving some details unexplained and occasionally presenting something with the apparent intention of it coming up in a later book. (Don’t worry, it’s not anything critical to the plot, but it is intriguing enough to make me want to try and piece it together and read on to see how accurate I was.) And, of course, the fights are enjoyable when they happen.Unfortunately, Brust sometimes takes the approach to giving out information a bit too far this time around. In Jhereg, a plot twist gets revealed to the reader way before the characters are hip to it, mainly because people telegraph their every thought, explaining everything in great detail. Brust doesn’t risk that this time around, mainly because he commits the mortal sin of having all the facts and hints be things we don’t know regarding characters we only just met, and who we only met on a completely superficial basis. I also think that the pacing was greatly hurt by the way Brust wrote Yendi, intending it to stand alone from Jhereg and, in doing so, it becomes repetitive when read back-to-back, with the author having to reintroduce characters and their quirks, and establish relationships that we understood from the first book. (It’s a bit of a Catch-22, where it either makes little sense when you pick Yendi up first, or it repeats itself to readers familiar with the series, so I can’t fault him too much for choosing the latter.)Flaws and all, however, I enjoyed Yendi much more than the first, with an author showing a clear understanding of what may have worked and what did not in the first, and doing his best to improve the series. I can’t wait to check out Teckla in the hopes that this trend of refinement continues.
—Alexander Kosoris

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