Jhereg - an assassin's tale in an interesting fantasy world

Posted by Lore on Fri, 11/25/2022 - 18:38

Originally started all the way back in 1983, the Vlad Taltos series follows a human assassin of the same name living on the planet Dragaera. The Dragaerans are a race of beings that were created when humans were cross-bred with a few of the local animals. The characteristics of these animals therefore became a genetic component of the members of each Great House, influencing their physical features and personality traits. The lone exception being the lowest of the Houses, the House of Jhereg, which is more of an organization formed by outcasts of the other Houses. House Jhereg is looked down upon by almost everyone and its very existence is controversial. Despite having no actual genetic basis for it, it too is named for a local creature, the Jhereg - which is a tiny, dragon-like animal. The House of Jhereg is quite a bit shadier than the other Houses and allows many frowned upon practices, including selling titles within the House for a price. That's why Vlad's father was able to buy his way in as a human, thus making Vlad a rare Easterner in a Great House. This puts Vlad in quite a unique position that he uses to his advantage in his role as an assassin for hire.

Vlad's territory is in the city of Adrilankha, and it becomes the starting point to learn about this complex and detailed world. Beyond the volatile political structure of the Houses, there are all also multiple magical systems at play. Both sorcery and witchcraft exist, and each has its own unique set of rules and capabilities. Vlad dabbles in both, but he received an education in witchcraft from his grandfather, so he is more proficient on that front. He uses witchcraft to cast a spell that enables him to acquire a Jhereg egg from a brood mother, and he bonds the hatching, Loiosh, to be his familiar. Since the PoV of this book is Vlad's, we get to experience the mental bond between him and Loiosh and it does lead to some entertaining exchanges along the way.

The story is centered around the most lucrative contract of Vlad's assassin career and we learn the history of the Houses, and the world, as he goes about trying to fulfill it. There are a lot of interesting characters and this book is just the tip of the iceberg, as it is the first of 15 in the entire series. So if you looking for a throwback series with some depth to it, give  Jhereg a read or a listen and it could be your first step down a long fantasy road.

Bernard Setaro Clark narrates to audiobook version and I found his performance to be well done. That makes listening to this one a viable option.