This article was originally published on Ferretbrain. I’ve backdated it to its original Ferretbrain publication date but it may have been edited and amended since its original appearance.
The Reading Canary: a Reminder
Series of novels – especially in fantasy and SF, but distressingly frequently on other genres as well – have a nasty tendency to turn sour partway through. The Reading Canary is your guide to precisely how far into a particular sequence you should read, and which side-passages you should explore, before the noxious gases become too much and you should turn back.
Dragon: The First Disposable Taltos
If you’ve been reading Ferretbrain for a particularly long time you might remember that I’ve waxed enthusiastic in the past about the Vlad Taltos series by Steven Brust once or twice. I’m sorry to report that Dragon, the eighth book in the series might be the breaking point: whereas the seven previous volumes managed to be tightly-written sword and sorcery adventures with a Mafioso twist written in a style reminiscent of Hammett and Leiber and with each book both providing a fresh twist on the formula and adding something to the continuing story of Vlad’s life, the eighth book is an occasionally-sloppy sword and sorcery adventure with the organised crime element almost entirely absent and which doesn’t seem particularly relevant to the bulk of the story.
Perhaps part of the apparent irrelevance is the fact that Dragon jumps back in the timeline a fair way, to a point before Vlad got married and before he quit the fantasy Mafia and went on the run. Granted, this has happened previously in the series (as in Taltos, which is the fourth book in the series but details Vlad’s earliest adventures), but each time this has been to chronicle an incident which had been referred to in previous books and was clearly always part of the timeline. Not so with Dragon; I don’t remember any other books where Taltos reminisced about the time he joined his warlord buddy’s army in order to co-ordinate sneak attacks and recover a stolen magic sword.