Book Review: Steven Brust’s Jhereg

 

Sometimes a novel comes out and you rush to buy it and devour it right away. Other times, you hear about how great one is and don’t get around to it for a while. Jhereg is one where I heard for literal decades that I needed to read it, that it was exactly the kind of novel I like and I kept putting it off, putting it off. Cue to Gencon this year, where I’m sitting in writing workshop listening to Scott Lynch (another person who I kept putting off reading for who knows why), and he mentions Brust at least three times in an hour long session. So I was already regretting not reading Lynch, so I figure I should really get started on Brust. Bought a copy, put him in the mega stack of reads I had written down after the con and started reading him a few days back.

Now when you find an author who you connect with, you really hate to not single read the book. But life sometimes gets in the way, and I had family visiting the next day, so I had to stop about halfway through. Day after family left, I had to spend most of day doing webwork. Finally finished that at midnight and should have gone to sleep. But Jhereg was calling to me, all of the threads left unpulled wanting to be pulled. So I spent the next couple hours finishing it up, and it was worth it. I’m not going to go into too much detail, because even though I know it’s been out longer than most of you reading this have been alive, I think it’s the kind of book where too much discussion will ruin the enjoyment of reading it the first time. So I’m going to discuss it as circumspect as I can.

I really like Brust’s writing style. The main character’s personality comes across well, and you know he is not a person to kiss rings or otherwise toe the line on social graces and mores. He had led a rough life, and is now in a position where he chooses how he will act. That said, you never feel he is completely safe. He is competent, powerful, and connected, but he also knows he is not the shark in the water, he is a good size fish who knows how to navigate the waters. Brust keeps the novel going at a steady pace, provides enough description to make me want more information on parts of the world, and in my opinion does a great job in not letting world specific words throw bumps into the flow. The setting has a lot of unusual words, but by their use you gain insight into the world setting, without feeling like you clicked on a wikipedia link before going back into the narrative. Additionally, Brust knows he is writing a fantasy adventure, so his tone keeps to that. It almost reminded me of some of the Asprin Myth adventures, but a little rougher and darker. The banter between the main character and his employees was lighthearted, but not forced, with an undercurrent of grim purpose as befits their professions.

Based on what I read, I’m definitely going to read more of the series, and my procrastination has gifted me in having an author I enjoy with a large number of volumes to consume. If you like protagonists who walk that razor edged line between the shadows and society, then I can’t recommend it highly enough. And don’t be like me and take 3+ decades to get around to reading it.