Listen up: you really owe it to yourself to read 15 Vlad Taltos novels, seriously

Originally published at:

I have been reading Steven Brust’s Vlad Taltos novels since I was a pre-teen and singing their praises on Boing Boing since 2006, and with the occasion of the publication of Vallista, the fifteenth and nearly final volume in the series, I want to spend some time explaining to you why goddamnit you should really consider reading 15 books, get caught up, and finish this sucker with me, because if there was any justice in this world, the Vlad books would have a following to shame The Dark Tower at its peak.


Good for a ten year into fantasy?


Well I was, dammit, but I haven’t seen a new one for a few years. Or I’ve been looking in the wrong place.


Depends on the child, of course. The series (anti) hero is a professional assassin, a serial murderer for hire, and during the character development arc he goes from being a member of an oppressed underclass who has few alternative routes out of poverty, to someone who honestly enjoys slaughtering members of the upper class racial group, to a crime kingpin who operates within a strict (but bloody) moral code, and so on and so on (no more spoilers!). As Cory notes, the character grows and changes as an adult, and that’s not something most ten-year-olds can relate to.

This is the only series I know of that is both very much worth reading and also has its roots in a fantasy role playing game. Generally speaking the genres complement each other less than one would expect, there’s few things more boringly trite than reading someone’s writeup of their D & D campaign.


And don’t forget to read the Draegaran books that aren’t about Vlad Taltos.



Hawk was the previous book and it came out in 2014, so it has been years since the last one.


I blame book-chain computerized inventory systems that micro-manage the profit-returns of every centimeter of shelf space. After a book has been on the shelves for a while, and sales slow, the algorithms cut it off. (Literally. The paperback covers were ripped off and returned to the publisher to prove that it was unsold. They’ve probably modernized that.)

If the management system was smart, when a new Vlad book comes out, they’d also stock some of the older ones for people just getting into the series/author. However, that would require keeping warehoused back-inventory, which is the bane of the publishing world. (Apparently they can’t manage small batch JIT publishing and distribution…)

It’s really killing off the name authors (Arthur C. Clarke, Isaac Asimov, who they?) because they have no books in the store to hook new readers. The only things that survive are the franchise universe books (Trek, Star Wars, Warcraft, etc) and book factory authors who pump out a constant churn, because they maintain shelf-space.


Or, alternatively, avoid them like the plague.

The writing styles are extremely dissimilar; Taltos* novels are hard-edged, vernacular and Strunk’n’White to the point, reminiscent of post-1940s detective novels. The other Draegaran books are elliptical, elaborately and whimsically phrased, in explicit homage to Dumas.

It you are one of the large number of people who regard The Count of Monte Cristo as a self-abusive literary death march, stick to the main Taltos sequence!

* pronounced as in Hungarian, so probably talt-osh or something like that.


Don’t forget Brokedown Palace. (Oh… You were trying to? Sorry! )



These were favorites when I was a kid. I re-read the books I had (up to Orca) a few summers ago, but didn’t realize the series continued. Thanks for reminding me.


I did - yet a third writing style! Brust is very talented.


What!!! Who are these people?!? Why have there not been inquisitions to root them out?

As I seem to recall the in-universe author explicitly states that he writes for those who love reading.

As in those who like the act of reading, not those who like books which have a plot and move nicely from point A to point B.

They are people who prefer to savour the carefully crafted phrase and enjoy the learned asides that move the story on not one iota but which, properly viewed and allowed to linger on the mind like a fine brandy lingers on the palate of a connoisseur sipping it in the knowledge that he will be executed once he has swallowed the last drop, provide a profound pleasure to those who can appreciate them fully and leave behind an almost unutterable sadness when the book, or brandy to continue the analogy, is finished.

Only much more so. :slight_smile:


I nearly think I enjoyed the section on how to write like Paarfi of Roundwood.


In terms of fantasy series based on someone’s role playing session, there is The Malazan Book of the Fallen by Steven Erikson, which is a 10 book series (the books are much thicker than the Taltos novels), which has the advantage of being complete (even though the Taltos novels had a head start)! It’s great if you like doorstop fantasy and complicated mythologies. The first two books stand alone, more or less, with the second book, Deadhouse Gates, being a standout of the series… start there first, then go back to Book 1 if you like that (Gardens of the Moon is good, but Deadhouse is better at doing what Gardens sets out to do, which is throw you in the deep end and let you figure out the world via compelling story arcs).

If I recall correctly, a number of the Cosmere series (uh oh) by Brandon Sanderson also are based on RPGs… Sanderson loves, loves his convoluted magic systems and interlocking multiverses.

Also, there are at least 2 more books to come in the Taltos sequence (Brust has this thing for the number 17 and there are 17 sigils in his Cycle; each of the Taltos novels so far is named after one such sigil — except for the novel Taltos, which is named after the protagonist).


The Vlad books I’ve read are good, thought I’ve only read about five or six. But my favorite Steven Brust novel is his lesser known To Reign In Hell.


As opposed to, say, Dwarf Fortress write-ups, which tend to the hilarious.


I’m not convinced that’s an advantage in that case.

I liked the first three and a couple in the middle but the whole thing just dragged on too long and then comes to a very unsatisfying conclusion.

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I didn’t make it past no. 1

I’m one of the weird people (apparently) who thought Gardens of the Moon was brilliant.

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