Hawk – Steven Brust



Vlad Taltos, ex-criminal with friends in high places, is under threat from his own clan - the Jhereg. Bluntly, they want him dead - permanently - and they're willing to spend a lot to make that happen. But Vlad has other ideas.


I loved the Jhereg/Vlad Taltos series when I first encountered it – good sardonic humor, interesting setting, hints of ties to the real world – it had a lot going for it. Unfortunately, with time, Brust started repeating himself and relying too much on those attractions, and too little on any real story. I took a break from the series for a long time – almost ten years now, to my surprise. It may not have been too long.

I saw book 16 in the series, Tsalmoth, on NetGalley, and figured I’d jump back in. I’d bought Hawk a while back, and picked up the intervening book, Vallista, on sale. So I had three books to read in sequence. I don’t have, and therefore skipped over, Issola, and I’m not too worried about missing anything.

That’s because, frankly, not much happens in Hawk; it’s mostly an excuse for Brust to have Vlad do his sardonic thing while everything around him seems to work out, largely because people like him so much. That’s not terrible – I enjoyed it before, and it was nice to come back to – but it’s not great, either. Hawk ends up being a pleasant and largely forgettable time filler. Fun while it lasts, but nothing to write home about.

In part, that’s because a lot of it isn’t too credible. To take just one point – we know at the start that Vlad is sought after, watched, at risk of death every moment; unable to take the shortest walk without someone trying to kill him. He takes elaborate and necessary precautions… for a while. But as the other machinations of the plot gather steam, Vlad seems to wander around, even in places he’s very well known, with only the thinnest of disguises. At one point, he insists on a wheelbarrow to make him look like a laborer, but then dumps it unceremoniously mid-journey – presumably because Brust got tired of writing about it, or just forgot and had to insert a quick correction.

If you’re new to the series, you’ll enjoy this; it’s fun. If you’ve been along since the start… Well, it’s fine. It’s more of the same. And if that’s not your thing, you can certainly skip it, because not that much of importance really happens. One big change, but it’s pretty heavily undercut, so…

This was fun to go back to, but I admit to feeling that by the end of the next two books, I’ll need another multi-year break to build up enthusiasm again.

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