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Jhegaala    by Steven Brust order for
by Steven Brust
Order:  USA  Can
Tor, 2008 (2008)
* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Having read and appreciated Stephen Brust's long-lived Dragaeran series from the start, I picked up this latest episode, Jhegaala, with anticipation, and was in no way disappointed. The series is set in a world divided between the lands of the Easterners (humans whose only magic is witchcraft) and a variety of Dragaeran Houses (the humans call Dragaerans elves). Easterner antihero Vlad Taltos, who was raised amongst Dragaerans, mimicked their ways and rose through the ranks of House Jhereg as a ruthless assassin (though he didn't accept jobs to kill his own kind).

As Jhegaala opens, Vlad - partnered by his jhereg Loiosh, a small, poisonous reptilian with a peculiar sense of humor, and the jhereg's mate Rocza - has recently fled to the East with an enormous price on his head. Jhereg assassins are on his trail, probably armed with a soul-stealing Morganti weapon. Vlad travels with a purpose - to search out his maternal roots in the river town of Burz, known for its paper factory and bad smell. There, he proceeds to make enquiries about his Merss relations, and in so doing stirs up a tornado of trouble for himself and others.

It turns out that the Burz community is finely balanced on a triangle of three factions - a powerful Coven of witches, a greedy Merchants' Guild, and a Count whose power derives from a monarch with little interest in the outlying provinces. Vlad's presence in town disturbs that balance, by arousing the suspicions of each group. This leads to a massacre of innocents and our culture shocked hero's capture and torture. Surviving this - and avoiding being handed over to the Jhereg - by the skin of his teeth, Vlad seeks revenge and achieves it with one of his cleverer ploys. Steven Brust fans will be delighted with Jhegaala.

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