is a somewhat surreal experience right now. Written in 1996, it
nevertheless feels as if it should have a "RIPPED FROM THE HEADLINES OF
TODAY!" blurb blazoned across its cover.
In my reaction to Jhereg,
I described the novel as: "A pulp detective novel by Raymond Chandler,
except that the main character is an assassin instead of a private
detective and his seedy office is in a world of high fantasy instead of
on the other hand, is just a flat-out pulp detective novel. It feels
played out across the financial headlines of today in a world of high
And, much like Jhereg, that's
pretty much as cool as it sounds.
also continues Athyra's
approach of using non-Vlad points of view to tell the story. I have two
thoughts on this:
First, Brust makes this approach work
for reasons completely different than what made it work in Athyra. In Orca the technique
is used to show us Vlad from the angle of one who knows him not at
all.l In Athyra,
Brust uses the technique to show us Vlad from the angle of one who
knows him very well... and in the process reveals a lot about both Vlad
and the narrator.
Second, there is a very deliberate effect
created in choosing to tell the story of this portion of Vlad's life
through the eyes of others. There is, in fact, a layering of
narratives: The story is being told to a very specific character
(Cawti) by another character (Kiera); and as she narrates to Cawti,
Kiera also re-tells parts of the tale which were only told to her by
So while some portions are, at first glance,
narrated by Vlad in a traditional fashion, even that narrative is being
filtered through a second point of view.
Unreliable narrators are
often used for cheap effect. But there's nothing cheap -- or simple --
about what Brust is accomplishing here.