The Barnes & Noble Review
If you've never read a novel by Steven Brust, shame on you! You have no idea what you've been missing. The author of the bestselling Five Hundred Years After, The Phoenix Guards, Dragon, and the widely popular Vlad Taltos series doesn't just deserve your attention. He earns it.
Issola is a fine place to start if you've never experienced Brust before. Although it is a continuation of sorts of Dragon, this novel can certainly be read as a stand-alone novel. Dragon gave us insights into the eccentricity of an epic cast of characters, whereas Issola takes us back to a tiny crevice in time. Brust introduces us to the beings that roamed the earth even before the Jhereg (dragons) and the easterners (man).
Brust's characters are philosophical and subtly drawn. Especially strongly rendered is Vlad Taltos, a man who throughout his life has believed that "desperation requires and opportunity presents."
Vlad Taltos, accompanied by Lady Teldra, is off to rescue the Dragonlords Morrolan and Aliera, who have been kidnapped by the Jenoine, a species that built the world of Dragaera as a sort of laboratory experiment and regard the beings there as test subjects. With assistance from the Necromancer and Sethra Lavode, Vlad and Teldra locate the Dragonlords beyond the confines of their world. Vlad magically frees them only to discover that he and Teldra have become trapped instead. During their captivity, they discover that the Jenoine have tapped into the Lesser Sea of Arnorphia (chaos) and are using its power to gain access to the Orb and those whose minds link to it. Morrolan releases Vlad and Teldra, and together they, Sethra, the Necromancer, and the other gods battle the Jenoine to secure Dragaera from Jenoine access. No mere plot summary can describe accurately the fun and adventure that naturally seems to follow Vlad Taltos. Vlad is irreverent, ingenious, and funny. His silent dialogue with his familiar, Loiosh, a sort of minidragon who rides on his shoulder, is charming and witty. This delightful romp also is relatively short in length, making it attractive to some teens who avoid longer books. Give this newest volume to Terry Pratchett fans. Quality is consistent so add the preceding volumes in the Vlad Taltos series, among them Jhereg (Ace, 1987), Taltos (Ace, 1988/VOYA August 1988), Orca (Ace, 1996), and Dragon (Tor, 1999/VOYA April 1999), to the collection as well. All four are available as mass-market paperbacks. VOYA CODES:4Q 4P J S (Better than most, marred only by occasional lapses;Broad general YA appeal;Junior High, defined as grades 7 to 9;Senior High, defined as grades10 to 12). 2001, Tor, 255p, $23.95. Ages 12 to 18. Reviewer:Nancy K. WallaceVOYA, December 2001 (Vol. 24, No. 5)
Newcomers will not be hard pressed to find their footing in this new installment of the popular Vlad Taltos saga (first hardcover in the series: Dragon, 1998) as Brust paddles in place orienting them and waits for his first big hook to arrive. Invisible Assassin and wisecracking hood Vlad, when not running something illegal for himself, works for House Jhereg, one of the 17 Great Houses of the Empire of Dragaera, a land ruled largely by semi-immortal "elfs." In the forest between Appertown and Ridge, Vlad awakes in a paranoid state and instant telepathic contact with his companion and familiar, Loiosh, a very small dragonlike jhereg, and Loiosh's mate, Rocza, the wild jhereg often on Vlad's other shoulder. Vlad's jheregs' smart chatter echoes that of Fritz Leiber's Gray Mauser, while sometime criminal Vlad's lowbrow tough-talk recalls that of Tony Soprano (without the obscenities). Lady Teldra, the High Priestess of Lord Morrolan, has arrived with urgent need of Vlad's services. She's an Issola, a nonhuman creature so graceful, elegant, and well mannered that Vlad feels plain and clumsy by contrast. Lady Teldra leads Vlad to Castle Black, the floating home of ten-foot-tall Lord Morrolan, whose friends (also close to Vlad) have been kidnapped. Then the Issola teleports our hero to the Halls of Verra, the capricious Demon Goddess, whose skills and abilities surpass any human's. To rescue his friends, Vlad believes he has to destroy Verra, but instead the Goddess lays out a plan he must follow to threaten the Jenoine, who hold the prisoners. All turns on a gambit made by Sethra, the Dark Lady of Dzur Mountain. And on Lady Teldra, who is not what she seems. Vlad's relentless wrynessamuses steadily and gives this fantasy the lift it needs.
No mere plot summary can describe accurately the fun and adventure that naturally seem to follow Vlad Taltos."-Voya
"As always, Brust invests Vlad with the panache of a Dumas musketeer and the colloquial voice of one of Zelazny's amber heroes."-Publishers Weekly