|With this novel, Brust seems to have lost the unique voice of Vlad Taltos.
Instead of the clever wittiness of previous volumes, the Vlad of this
book is merely sardonic and shrill. There's also an oddly anachronistic
tone in a patter drawn with distinctly 20th century rhthyms and tone.
loss may have something to do with the fact that Brust is, once again,
jumping back to a much earlier time in Vlad's life. He handled
back-and-forth movement of the meta-narrative adroitly in the past, but
the Vlad that we had last seen in Orca had
been deeply transformed. Brust wouldn't be the first author to
demonstrate that, sometimes, you just can't go home again.
other failings of the book are less understandable, perhaps, but might
ultimately have the same origin: If Brust was struggling to find young
Vlad's voice, that inauthentic note can very easily spread to other
aspects of the work.
there's a narrative bloat coupled with a lack of focus. There's lots of
stuff on the page here that doesn't seem to serve any real purpose and
a lot of it is authorial meandering of the worst type. ("I'm going to
talk about my inability to cook a particular type of bread because I've
got a word count to hit by Friday and I don't know what else to write
Even the non-traditional
narrative structure doesn't work. It's not actually being used to
accomplish any specific effect (unlike the similar structure used in Taltos).
So it just comes off as gimmicky and trite. In fact, the novel probably
would have been better without
this cheap trick. (In Taltos
the same technique improved the novel because the structure reinforced
the themes of the book and gave wider context to the individual events.)
In the case of Dragon,
Brust tries to blatantly tell you that he's giving you wider context.
But, in actual practice, he just deflates the entire plot: The fact
that you know what's going to happen long before it happens just adds
an even larger sense of bloat to the mild bloat which is
dragging the novel down.
It should also be noted that things
generally improve as the novel continues, feeling almost as if Brust
was warming up to his subject. In the end, however, I found this to be
the weakest of the Taltos novels.