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Excerpt Reveal: Lyorn by Steven Brust

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lyorn by steven brust

All The World’s A Happy Stage. Until the knives come out… Lyorn is the next adventure in Steven Brust’s bestselling Vlad Taltos series

Another Opening…Another Cataclysm?

Vlad Taltos is on the run. Again. This time from one of the most powerful forces in his world, the Left Hand, who are intent on ending his very lucrative career. Permanently.

He finds a hidey-hole in a theatre where the players are putting on a show that was banned centuries ago…and is trying to be shut down by the House that once literally killed to keep it from being played.

Vlad will take on a number of roles to save his own skin. And the skins of those he loves.

And along the way, he might find a part that was tailor-made for him.

One that he might not want…but was always his destiny.

Please enjoy this free excerpt of Lyorn by Steven Brust, on sale 4/9/24


Prologue

“Do it smaller,” my grandfather had told me over and over. “If your parry causes your opponent’s blade to miss you by more than half an inch, it means you’ve pushed too hard and your riposte will be too slow. In a fight, anything can happen, so end it as quickly as you can, and that means not giving him free chances at you. Do it smaller.”

I love how often my grandfather’s fencing advice applies to things that have nothing to do with fencing.

But let me start at the beginning, in that little klava hole, talking to Sara, who’d made the mistake of saying, “So, Vlad, what have you been up to?”

She listened without a word until I’d run down, then she said, “I may be able to help.”

That was it. Not “That’s amazing, Vlad!” or “I can’t believe you did that!” or “You could have been killed!” Also, no “So, you got out of the trouble with the Jhereg, but now the Left Hand wants to kill you?” Nothing like that. Just “I may be able to help.” I hadn’t told her the whole thing because I thought she could help, I just wanted to talk about it, so I was both pleased and surprised by her reply.

“Go on,” I said.

“You need to hide from the Left Hand so they can’t get rich by killing you, now that you went and, that is, now that you no longer have your sorcery protections.”

“Right.”“But you want to be here, in the City.”

“Exactly.”

“So you need a place with protections from sorcerous detection.”

“Right.”

“But you can’t exactly move in to the Imperial Wing of the Palace.”

“Yeah.”

“So you’re thinking of some individual who is already worried enough about surveillance to keep such protections up all the time.”

I nodded. “I know a few, but either the protections aren’t strong enough to stand up to the Left Hand, or they’re too obvious, like my old office.”

“And putting up a new one defeats the purpose; it’s like a sign saying, ‘Here I am.’”

“Precisely.”

“When did you last sleep, Vlad?”

“Night before last.”

“So a place to sleep where you can actually relax is getting urgent.”

“Yeah.”

“Yes,” she said. “I can help.”

“I’m listening.”

“That’s the trouble. If I understand you right, you might not be the only one.”

“Um. True.”

My familiar interrupted into my head. “Boss? Does this mean Daymar?”

“Maybe not.”

“So,” I told Sara. “I need to make sure I’m not found or listened to long enough to get where we’re going.”

She nodded. “Can you do it?”

“I think so. Or, rather, I think I can arrange it.”

“I’ll wait to tell you the rest, then.”

So, yeah, if you happen to have the most powerful sorceress in the history of the world as a friend, there are times when you go, sure, I can ask her for a favor.

“Vlad. What is it?”

“Greetings, Sethra. I want to ask you for a favor. Is this a bad time?”

“No, it’s fine. What can I do for you?”

“Can you make me psychically undetectable long enough for me to get to a safe place? Say, an hour or so?”

She was quiet, then, “From here?”

“Yeah.”

 “You want to walk somewhere, and be sure no one knows you’re going there. And you want me to do it from here, while you’re there.”

“Yeah. Me and one other. I mean, I don’t mind if you come here first, but—”

“No, I want to try it from here. I’ve never done that before. Give me a minute to think about this. I should be able to come up with something.”

Sara was looking an inquiry at me. I held up a finger.

We were, by the way, in a little klava joint in the Hook, which is where I ended up after a night of walking through the city, not wanting to stop for fear of being sorcerously evaporated or something. It had nine tables, mostly deuces with a couple of four-tops, and woodwork that needed painting, and the only light was what came through two paper-covered windows in the front. It did, however, have a rear exit. I was tired, but too keyed up to be sleepy. It was late morning, and the place was empty except for us and the staff. I kept them supplied with clinky things and they kept me supplied with klava so everyone was happy.

I love klava so much. The worst part of dying is the idea of an afterlife without klava.

Okay, maybe not the worst.

Presently, I felt the delicate probe of a familiar presence insinuating itself into my mind, and Sethra spoke into my head again.

“Yes,” she said. “I can do it. Now?”

“Now?” I said to Sara.

She nodded.

“Yes,” I told Sethra.

Then I felt something like a warm blanket settle over my mind, if that makes any sense. Sara looked mildly startled.

“Thank you, Sethra.”

“My pleasure; it’s a rare treat to do something I’ve never done before. You’ll have to tell me the story sometime.” 

“Sometime.”

“We can talk now,” I told Sara. “And move without being detected.”

She stood up, picked up her instrument case, slung it over her shoulder, and led me out, preceded by Loiosh and Rocza, who like to be sure about such things. Sara had to hold the door for them as they flew out. Once we started walking, Loiosh returned to my shoulder while Rocza continued circling overhead, for all appearances just another of the jhereg who flew around the city hoping to scavenge someone’s leftovers.

Sara immediately turned south, toward the ocean-sea, and took us downhill.

Before I could ask, Sara said, “So, you’ll never guess who gets completely paranoid about secrecy.”

“Who?”

“Theater companies.”

“Really?”

She nodded. “They’re absolutely convinced their competitors are going to steal their set ideas, their blocking, their interpretations.”

“So, they’re nuts?”

She shrugged. “It’s happened a few times, so there’s at least some reason for it.”

“Okay. So, they have good security?”

“Every theater in the City has spells to prevent sorcery, and powerful spells to prevent clairvoyance and any other sort of detection until the show opens, and most of them don’t bother to take the spells down after that.”

“Huh. Okay, you’re right. I wouldn’t have expected that. What about psychic communication? Will I be out of touch?”

“As a rule, they leave a channel open for that so the director can supply a line an actor forgets. I’m not sure how that works, but you can reach the Orb, it just won’t let you pull in any power for sorcery.”

Psychic contact, for most people at least, involves sorcery, at least a little. So there was a mystery there, and maybe indicated a way the Left Hand could find me. Still, it sounded like the best I was going to get. “So,” I said, “your idea is for me to hide in a theater?”

She nodded. “Most of them have places backstage where people can sleep, and many of them have extensive basements. Some of them, like the one we’re going to, are effectively a block of flats with a theater above them.”

“How do I convince them to let me stay?”

“I know some theater people. A lot of musicians do theater work.”

For the first time, I had a sinking feeling. “Musicals?”

“Sometimes.”

“All right,” I said.

By this time, we were climbing again, and I guessed were heading toward North Hill. We didn’t speak for a while, and, yes, we got to North Hill, and turned onto Fallow Street.

The theater was called the Crying Clown, and there was a big handbill outside of it. I stopped and read it.

Opening on the 14th of Tsalmoth,
A New Production of Linesca’s
SONG OF THE PRESSES
Expanded to Three Days! with Six New Songs
Crafted by our Own LADY SINDRA!
Featuring MONTORRI as Keraasak
and MARSKO as Lethra Savode!

I looked at Sara. “Lethra Savode?” I repeated.

“Liability,” she said.

“Um. Okay. In any case, there’s one good thing you can say about a three-day musical.”

“It isn’t a four-day musical?”

“’Xactly.”

She smiled a little. “I like musicals.”

“Really?”

“The singing is usually very good, and the lightness lets it come up under your guard.”

“Huh. Okay. I haven’t seen that many. There was childhood trauma involved. And it opens in six days?”

“Yes, the big push to get the word out probably started a week ago, and dress rehearsals will most likely begin in a couple of days.”

We went around to a side door. Sara pulled the clapper, a peeper opened, closed, and the door opened. An old man, a Chreotha, ignored me and asked Sara, “Substitute?”

“No,” she said. “I’m a friend of Kota. Can I see him?”

The old Chreotha grunted and stepped aside.

Sara led us through a labyrinth of corridors broken by open areas that looked like workshops, and eventually up a stair, then through more hallways, until we emerged into the main hall. We went down a last hallway toward what I later learned was called “side seven,” that is, the way to get to the stage without passing through the audience. She paused long enough to make sure no one was in the middle of a line or something, and stepped onto the stage. There were several musicians, many of them with instruments I couldn’t name, sitting and looking attentive in the lowered area immediately to our left. We took two steps and jumped down into it.

“Hey Sara,” said one of them. He looked like he was probably a Jhegaala, and hadn’t brushed his hair since the Interregnum. He was holding a violin.

“Kota,” she said. “Good to see you.”

“Who’s the Easterner?” he said.

“A friend.”

Kota seemed surprised but only nodded.

“Can you introduce me to the director?” she said.

“Sure. What’s it about? I mean, if you feel like telling me.”

She looked at me and I shrugged. “In general, sure. If it works, they’ll all know eventually.”

“My friend here is in a spot of trouble,” she told Kota. “I’d like to see if he could use this place to stay out of the way.”

“Huh,” he said. “All right. Can you wait for the end of rehearsal? We have half an hour until lunch.”

We agreed that was no problem, and Sara led me toward a far corner in the side-four section where we’d be out of the way. As we navigated the aisles, I said, “What is Song of the Presses?”

“It’s about the suppression of another play, Last Man Printing, in the Fourteenth Cycle, which was about—”

“Wait,” I said. “They’re putting on a play about putting on a play?”

She nodded.

“Huh,” I said. “That seems kind of—”

I was cut off by a woman sitting right around the middle of the theater, maybe just a bit forward, calling, “Run it from the dramaturge. Keraasak, your line. ‘Ah, but you see.’”

A guy, I presume Keraasak, addressed the woman near him in a stage voice. “Ah, but you see, we are not like other companies. We have our own dramaturge.”

“You have your own dramaturge?”

“We have our own dramaturge!”

The musicians I’d noticed earlier started playing, and I became frightened. A guy entered from the same place we had, turned to show himself to all six sides, and said, “I am their own dramaturge!”

Then, as I was afraid would happen, he started singing.

I am the very model of a Fourteenth Cycle dramaturge
I can tell an epic from a canticle or from a dirge.
In Landza and in Ekrasen I’ve studied all the references
And if you give me time I will expound upon my preferences.
I can tell you of the change in rhyme and meter from a younger age
And why it is you’ll always find six sides on every proper stage.
I’ve knowledge of the pay-scales of full actors and apprentices
Along with all the fines for being late upon their entrances.
I know about the costuming of the Eleventh Phoenix Reign
And why the makeup artists nearly always ended up insane.
In short where all the branches of the thespianic arts converge
I am the very model of a Fourteenth Cycle dramaturge.

I’m familiar with the history Lord Neering used about Northport,
And how to dodge the censors when presenting it before the Court.
Producers, they all seek me for my lore of esoterica
And how to turn fine art into the gold returns numerica.
I know which plays will always recompense you monetarily
And which will fail and leave the comp’ny bankrupt most unfairily.
I know why complex stagings can be hoist with their own petards
And why there’s no production of that silly work The Phoenix Guards.

Then I can say what handbills will attract the most nobility
And know how rigging wire can replace lack of agility.
In short where all the branches of the thespianic arts converge
I am the very model of a Fourteenth Cycle dramaturge.

In fact, when I know what is meant by Prop and by Enunciate
And when I know the difference between Punctual and Punctuate
When such affairs as openings and callbacks I’m no stranger to
When I know what the usher and the lighting color-changer do
When I have learned what progress has been made in modern set design
When I know more of blocking than an abstinent might know of wine
In short, when I know values of reserved and of the common seats
You’ll say a better dramaturge has never counted gate receipts.

Though actors run and cower when they hear that I am on the set
And no one has admitted my advice has ever helped him yet,
Still where all the branches of the thespianic arts converge
I am the very model of a Fourteenth Cycle dramaturge.

“Okay,” said the woman who was obviously the director. “Good, but come down left another couple of steps at the beginning of the second verse, so when you get to the second chorus, you can cross and—”

She went on for a while, but I stopped paying attention. Instead, I turned to Sara, who was looking at me. “Well?” she said.

“I have no words,” I said.

She laughed. “If you can withhold your artistic judgments, we might be able to hide you here for as long as you need to settle things.”

I nodded. “I’ll be strong,” I said.

“You always are,” she said.

“And thank you,” I added.

Copyright © 2024 from Steven Brust

Pre-order Lyorn Here:

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Excerpt Reveal: Tsalmoth by Steven Brust

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Tsalmoth by Steven Brust

Tsalmoth is the next installment in Steven Brust’s bestselling Vlad Taltos series—hold on to your hats and get ready for another swashbuckling adventure!

First comes love. Then comes marriage…

Vlad Taltos is in love. With a former assassin who may just be better than he is at the Game. Women like this don’t come along every day and no way is he passing up a sure bet.

So a wedding is being planned. Along with a shady deal gone wrong and a dead man who owes Vlad money. Setting up the first and trying to deal with the second is bad enough. And then bigger powers decide that Vlad is the perfect patsy to shake the power structure of the kingdom.

More’s the pity that his soul is sent walkabout to do it.

How might Vlad get his soul back and have any shot at a happy ending? Well, there’s the tale…

Please enjoy this free excerpt of Tsalmoth by Steven Brust, on sale 4/25/23.


1

There are problems that just can’t be solved by sticking something pointy into someone. I try to stay away from those kinds of problems, because they get complicated, and I don’t like complicated. I’m a simple guy. Ask anyone. “That Vlad,” they all say. “He’s a simple guy.”

“Hey Kragar,” I called out to the next room. “I’m a simple guy, right?”

I heard footsteps, and he stuck his head into my office. “What?”

I repeated my question.

His eyebrows did funny Kragar-things, and he came in and sat down across from my desk. “What happened?”

“Why should something have happened?”

He just waited.

I said, “You know that Tsalmoth who went into us for eight and scampered?”

“Bereth. Sure, I put Sticks on it.”

“Yeah, Sticks just got back to me.”

“And he found him, and got the money, and broke his legs, and everything is fine now, right?”

“Heh,” I explained. “Someone killed the son of a bitch.”

“Need an address to send flowers?”

“No, I need a way to get my Verra-be-damned money.”

“Hmmm. Tricky.”

“I know,” I said. “Tricky. And I’m a simple guy.”

“Can he be revivified? We could add the cost on to what he owes us.”

“Sticks says no.”

“In that case, Vlad, I would suggest a clever strategy: write off the money.”

I felt myself scowling.

“It’s not tricky,” he added, with his fake innocent smile.

My familiar, Loiosh, arrived in the window about that time, flew over, and landed on my shoulder.

“What’s going on, Boss?” he said into my mind.

“Nothing, nothing.”

He let it drop.

I said to Kragar— Wait a minute.

Sethra, Why are you still here? Last time you put me in a room with this box and just left.

Wait, Seriously? You think you can help? But before, you told me—

No, no! I’ll take a maybe. Maybe is good. If you can give me a maybe, I’m happy to tell you the whole mess. Get comfortable. Can I get you some wine?

Right. I won’t count on anything, I’ll just tell it. Only, uh, what happens when you come into it? I mean, do I say, “You did this?” which won’t make sense to whoever is going to listen to this, or do I say, “Sethra did this,” which is dumb with you sitting there?

Oh, yeah, Sethra. It’s so easy to just pretend you don’t exist. Heh.

Okay, okay. Where was I? Right. Talking to Kragar. He’d made that remark about, hey, it’s not tricky. I said to him, “You see, you might not know this, but I don’t like letting money get away. It makes me feel bad.”

“Uh huh,” he said.

“So, come up with something.”

“How,” he said, “did I know this was going to end up on my back?”

“On account of that, what’s it called? Wisdom.”

“Fatalism,” said Kragar.

I shrugged. “Let me know what you get.”

He left, muttering under his breath. I leaned back and closed my eyes. I checked my link with the Imperial Orb and did deep and powerful sorcery, which it was designed for. Just kidding, I usually leave the deep and powerful sorcery to those who are better at it; I used it to find out what time it was, and discovered that I had a couple of hours to wait until it was time to meet Cawti.

“Aw, Boss,” said Loiosh. “Do you know that every time you think about her—”

“You can shut up now,” I said.

While I waited, maybe I should tell you a bit about myself.

Nah, skip it. That’s boring. You’ll figure it out.

There was a street singer not far from my window, singing something in a language I didn’t know—probably one of the classic disused tongues of the early Empire. I hate listening to songs when I don’t know the words.

I still had a few minutes before I felt justified in leaving for the day to meet Cawti when she jumped the bell on me by coming in.

I was up out of the chair in a second, standing there grinning like a Teckla smoking dreamgrass.

Look, I’m telling you what happened, including it all, because that’s what you paid for, so there it is. I probably looked like an idiot with that big grin all over my face, so go ahead and laugh. But if you do, I’ll track you down and break both your kneecaps, got it?

Uh, I didn’t mean you, Sethra. I meant, you know, whoever is going to listen to this.

Right. You aren’t here.

All right, so I kissed her, which is as much as you need to know, and then we went out and did some stuff together. We ate and drank and laughed and all that. It was a good time. I asked about Norathar, her partner, or I guess ex-partner, and they’d been in touch, which was good. Then we had an argument about the best kind of pasta to serve with clams and promised to settle it by each doing our own recipe. Then we went home to her flat. She lives a good distance south of me, in a decent neighborhood where she’s the only Easterner but where you can smell the ocean-sea, which she likes. And her flat, like mine, has its own kitchen. I mean, a real kitchen, with a stove, an oven, a sink with a pump, cupboards, and countertops. So we hung out there, and decided to find a place in South Adrilankha to have the wedding, and then we did what you do when two people can’t keep their hands off each other.

Look, I’m not bragging, I’m just saying how it was, and that feeling that she wanted me was—

Crap, this is hard to talk about with you here, Sethra, and no one’s business anyway.

Back to what matters, I finally got around to telling her about the guy who’d had the nerve to go and die when he owed me money.

“Some people,” she said.

“I know. Thoughtless.”

She stretched like a cat, which made me stupidly proud, as if I’d accomplished something. She put her head on my shoulder and said, “Mmmm. What about his family?”

“Maybe,” I said. “I should find out.”

She wrapped her leg around me and said, “Maybe.” Who can argue with logic like that?

So that’s how I decided to check out the guy’s family. I still don’t think it was that bad an idea, okay? It’s not like I have the Dragon treasury; I need the money. And also, once word gets out that people can get away with not paying you, it’s gonna keep happening, and eventually you get put out of business. You know, in the big steel thing in your neck way of being put out of business. Not my favorite idea. This time, what with the guy dying, chances are no one would have thought anything except bad luck, but I’m still new at this, so I’m not sure and didn’t want to take chances. And I wanted my Verra-be-damned money.

I’m just saying this so you’ll understand.

Oh, I know. Now you’re saying, “He’s going after a bunch of innocents, heartless bastard, blah blah blah.” That’s not how it is, that’s not how it was ever going to be. I wanted to see if there was a way to do it clean and easy. I was not going to walk in and start making threats or doing violence to his kids or his grandparents or whatever. For one thing, well, maybe for the only thing, as soon as you cross that line and start messing with families, or with people who aren’t involved in the organization, the Phoenix Guard stop being these friendly sorts who greet you with their palms out for their weekly payoff, and turn into mean sons-of-bitches with all sorts of sharp things and no sense of congeniality. And because of that, even if word never reaches the Empire, if the Jhereg thinks you’re doing something that might get the Empire involved, then you will end up with a leaky body and a shiny skin. So I don’t do that. All I figured on doing was finding out if there were any loose funds there that might be subject to friendly persuasion, by which I mean, this time, friendly persuasion. Sometimes you go up to a grieving widow and say, “Sorry for your loss, but he owed me money,” and that’s all it takes. I had no intention of pushing it any further than that. I didn’t. I swear by Verra’s extra finger joint I didn’t.

The next morning, I told Kragar to find out what he could about the family, which is one of the things Kragar is good at. Some of the other things he’s good at are reminding me of unpleasant things I’ve agreed to do, unintentionally sneaking up on me, and being irritating.

He said, “Don’t you want me to tell you what I’ve come up with?”

“Sure. What have you come up with?”

“Check into his family.”

“Good thinking.”

“Thanks.”

“Get on that, then.”

“Already did.”

“I suppose you expect a compliment.”

And a bonus.”

“Good work.”

“Thanks. The bonus?”

“Very good work.”

“Nice.”

“Let’s hear about them.”

He didn’t use notes or anything this time. “Survived by a younger brother, has a fabric shop not far from here, just north of Malak Circle. Unmarried, an occasional lover, a Chreotha named Symik, nothing serious between them though. Parents are both alive, living in Cargo Point, in Guinchen, where they run an inn called Lakeview.”

“Financials?”

“Hard to be sure, Vlad. The inn supports them, but not much more, and there’s no signs of wealth. I guess the brother is doing a bit better than the others.”

“Then I’ll talk to him. Get me his exact addr—Thanks.”

Kragar smirked and walked out.

Well, I figured, no time like the present. I stood up, strapped on my blade, and checked the various surprises I keep concealed about my person. Not long before, I wouldn’t have left the place without at least two, more likely four bodyguards, but things had quieted down now. That was good, I like quiet. I like things quiet, and simple. Did I mention I’m a simple guy?

So, yeah, a quick stop in front of the mirror to make sure my cloak was hanging right, and off I went. I keep meaning to practice putting on the cloak, you know, with a kind of swirl, like they do in the theater, but I never seem to get around to it, and I don’t think the ones in the theater are packed with as much hardware as mine, so it might not be possible. But, hey, since I’m talking about it, let me tell you about my cloak. I love my cloak. It’s Jhereg gray, ankle length, and looks good thrown over my shoulder or wrapped around, and it has inside pockets and seams to put things in, and a wide collar for more things to go under. And it looks very good on me; I know because Cawti said so.

Loiosh landed on my shoulder (he says the cloak makes my shoulder less bony, so that’s also a plus), and the three of us—me, Loiosh, and my cloak—took a walk through the beautiful streets of Adrilankha. The bright blue and yellow and green clothes of the Teckla were most common, even if a lot of them had become dingy or gotten stained, but there were merchants we walked past as well, and now and then you might catch sight of a Dragonlord or a Tiassa who had business in this part of town.

Malak Circle is built around a fountain, with stalls and carts about the outer edge and streets and alleys shooting off from it. I don’t know what magic is used to make the water shoot out from the mouths of the stone dragon and dzur into the cupped hands of the woman in the middle, or how more water sprays in from the sides, or where any of the water goes, but I know I like it, and sometimes I just stand there and watch the water. Not many do that.

There are Teckla in the area, most of them in service, running errands for the more successful merchants or the occasional aristocrat. For the Teckla, just like for the Easterners who live across the river, survival depends on two things: doing what they’re told, and never slowing down. They don’t have time to stop and look at the sparkling water. I don’t blame them for it, it’s just the stones they have to play with.

There are merchants around the edge, with carts or stalls: Chreotha, Tsalmoth, Jhegaala. They’re much better off than the Teckla, as long as they keep coins coming in and goods going out; if they don’t, they can fall even lower than the Teckla, out the bottom, living on scraps and stealing from each other in the Mudtown district, or parts of Little Deathgate. They always know that could happen, and it scares them like Morganti weapons scare me. Talk to one of them sometime. Ask one of them about courtball, and he’ll tell you how much sales are better if some local team wins. Ask about the weather, and you’ll hear how they can’t sell anything when it rains. Ask about rumors of war, and you’ll hear about how those rumors make customers stock up on some things and stop buying others. It’s always buy and sell, sell and buy, supplying what customers want, and never slowing down to watch the fountain. I don’t blame them for it; they, too, have the stones they were given and have to play them as best they can.

The merchants are supplied by the craftsmen: also Chreotha, Tsalmoth, and Jhegaala, and they, too, know what will happen if no one wants to buy what they make, or if someone can make it cheaper, or better. They have to keep the merchants happy the way the merchants have to keep the customers happy. Maybe they aren’t told what to do in so many words, but they’re told, and they listen, and they don’t stop to watch the water because they don’t have time, and I don’t blame them either, it’s just how the game works.

Once in a while, you’ll see one of the aristocrats: a Dragon, a Dzur, a Tiassa noble, an Iorich, a Hawk, an Orca, an Athyra; but even if you put all of them together, there aren’t many of them, and even most of those can’t support themselves as landlords, so Orca end up on ships, Dragonlords and Dzur in military service, Tiassa as writers or artists, Iorich as advocates, Athyra and Hawks as sorcerers. And all of those might as well be merchants or craftsmen, because someone is telling them what to do, and they’re doing it, and if they do it too slow, they, too, will fall out of the bottom, because wishing won’t turn a round stone into a flat one.

That’s what I can do. I can slow down. I got my income, and my skills to fall back on. If I want more, I can work harder; if I want to take it easy, I can do that too. Yeah, I’m beholden to my boss, but most of the time, I just do what I feel like, just like the landlords, and no one tells me what to do.

That’s why the Phoenix Guards hate me, and why some of those I passed in the market who saw my Jhereg colors hated me; I could do what they couldn’t. And, worst of all, I was an Easterner—you know, human: short, short-lived, weak; Easterners were supposed to be the next step down from Teckla, and stay there; Easterners should do what they’re told, and be quiet, and never slow down.

Some of those I passed knew who I was and what I could do. There are a good number of those in my neighborhood, and in the middle of the day, when the market is busy, they mostly stay out of my way. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t get some pleasure out of that. But I got even more pleasure in knowing that no one could tell me what to do, and that I could slow down when I wanted. Because there’s one thing we in the organization have in common: we don’t like being pushed. People know better than to push us.

Today, I wanted to visit Bereth’s brother, but I stopped for a bit on the way there to watch the fountain in the middle of Malak Circle, because I felt like it.

Copyright © 2023 from Steven Brust

Pre-order Tsalmoth Here:

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New Ebook Bundles: 1/15/2019

Here are the new ebook bundles that went on sale today!

A Caitlin Strong Collection, Books 1-3 by Jon Land

Image Placeholder of - 34Caitlin Strong is a fifth-generation Texas Ranger, proud to wear the badge of her father and grandfather—until a deadly shoot-out along the Mexican border causes her to question her calling. Caitlin Strong pursues justice the Ranger way in this mystery thriller series.

 

A Dog’s Purpose Puppy Tales by W. Bruce Cameron

Placeholder of  -59New York Times bestselling author W. Bruce Cameron presents heartwarming novels for young readers adapted from his beloved A Dog’s Purpose novels. Adorable black-and-white illustrations by Richard Cowdrey bring the puppies and their worlds to life for young animal lovers, while reading and activity guides at the end of each book encourage family and classroom discussions.

The Galactic Empire Trilogy by Isaac Asimov

Image Place holder  of - 68The Galactic Empire Trilogy is a classic science fiction adventure by multi-award-winning grandmaster Isaac Asimov, set between the Foundation and the Robot series. This is Golden Age SF at its finest.

 

Saga of Recluce: Books 14-18 by L. E. Modesitt, Jr. 

Poster Placeholder of - 11L.E. Modesitt, Jr.’s bestselling fantasy novels set in the magical world of Recluce are among the most popular in contemporary fantasy. Each novel tells an independent story that nevertheless reverberates though all the other books in the series, to deepen and enhance the reading experience. Rich in detail, the Saga of Recluce is epic storytelling at its finest.

A world of warring magical forces: black order, white chaos, and shades of gray.

Vlad Taltos Collection by Steven Brust

Place holder  of - 86Full of swordplay, peril, and swashbuckling flair, New York Times bestselling author Steven Brust’s fantasy series follows Vlad Taltos, a short-statured, short-lived human in an Empire of tall, long-lived Dragaerans.

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New Releases: 5/1/18

Happy New Release day! Here’s what went on sale today.

A Dog’s Way Home by W. Bruce Cameron

Image Placeholder of - 93 Lucas Ray is shocked when an adorable puppy jumps out of an abandoned building and into his arms. Though the apartment he shares with his mother, a disabled veteran, doesn’t allow dogs, Lucas can’t resist taking Bella home.

Bella is inexplicably drawn to Lucas, even if she doesn’t understand the necessity of games like No Barks. As it becomes more difficult to hide her from the neighbors, Lucas begins to sneak Bella into the VA where he works. There, Bella brings joy and comfort where it is needed most.

Ban This Book by Alan Gratz

Place holder  of - 62 In Ban This Book by Alan Gratz, a fourth grader fights back when From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E. L. Konigsburg is challenged by a well-meaning parent and taken off the shelves of her school library. Amy Anne is shy and soft-spoken, but don’t mess with her when it comes to her favorite book in the whole world. Amy Anne and her lieutenants wage a battle for the books that will make you laugh and pump your fists as they start a secret banned books locker library, make up ridiculous reasons to ban every single book in the library to make a point, and take a stand against censorship.

Medusa Uploaded by Emily Devenport

Image Place holder  of - 69 My name is Oichi Angelis, and I am a worm.

A generation starship can hide many secrets. When an Executive clan suspects Oichi of insurgency and discreetly shoves her out an airlock, one of those secrets finds and rescues her. Officially dead, Oichi begins to rebalance power one assassination at a time and uncovers the shocking truth behind the generation starship and the Executive clans.

The Military Science of Star Wars by George Beahm

Poster Placeholder of - 69 The first ever in-depth analysis of the tactics and equipment used by the heroes and villains of the Star Wars universe has arrived! Spanning all of the films, this comprehensive book goes in to detail about the various guerrilla tactics of the Rebel Alliance and the awe-inspiring might of the Grand Army of the Republic and Darth Vader’s Empire.

Including detailed examples from Earth’s military history, bestselling author George Beahm illustrates how a merciless empire managed to subdue a galaxy with the application of overwhelming force and technology, and how a ragtag group of rebels could cobble together enough of a punch to topple a seemingly-unbeatable enemy.

 

NEW FROM TOR.COM

Black Helicopters by Caitlin R. Kiernan

Placeholder of  -51 Just as the Signalman stood and faced the void in Agents of Dreamland, so it falls to Ptolema, a chess piece in her agency’s world-spanning game, to unravel what has become tangled and unknowable.

Something strange is happening on the shores of New England. Something stranger still is happening to the world itself, chaos unleashed, rational explanation slipped loose from the moorings of the known.

NEW IN PAPERBACK

And Into the Fire by Robert Gleason

Give Your Heart to the Hawks by Win Blevins

Gone to Dust by Matt Goldman

King Rat by China Mieville

Pawn by Timothy Zahn

Tiassa by Steven Brust

NEW IN MANGA

Arifureta: From Commonplace to World’s Strongest (Light Novel) Vol. 2 Story by Ryo Shirakome; Art by Takaya-ki

If It’s for My Daughter, I’d Even Defeat a Demon Lord Vol. 1 Story by Chirolu, Art by Hota

Lord Marksman and Vanadis Vol. 7 Story by Tsukasa Kawaguchi; Art by Nobuhiko Yanai

Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid Vol. 6 Story and art by coolkyousinnjya

Nameless Asterism Vol. 2 Story and art by Kina Kobayashi

Yuuna and the Haunted Hot Springs Vol. 1 

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Where to Start with Vlad Taltos

Placeholder of  -13Written by Steven Brust

I’ve often been asked why I wrote the books in the series out of order. I’m afraid the answer is pretty prosaic: I’ve just been telling the next story I feel like telling. And for those of you who are inclined to accuse of me having done something original and clever (not that I mind the accusation), I should point out that mystery series are often told without thought to the detective’s chronology, and that, in our own field, there is no special order to the Darkover books by the late Marion Zimmer Bradley and the wonderful Vorkosigan books of Lois McMaster Bujold.

Having done this, however, brings up the inevitable question: in what order should someone read them? The trouble is, I’m exactly the wrong person to ask. One thing I wanted to do, when I finally admitted to myself I was writing a series, is make each book fully self-contained, so the reader wouldn’t have to worry about just grabbing one at random. The fact that I was trying to do that makes it hard for me to give an answer to the question of what order to read them in, even though, well, the fact is, I was not successful.

I mean, good try, you know? And to some extent, sure, some of them stand fully on their own, but there are several that, based on the feedback I’ve gotten from readers and reviewers, leave too much unexplained to fully qualify as stand-alone.

So then, if I admit the order does matter, what’s the best order? The obvious choices would be publication order, chronological order, or according to the Cycle. This last is one that I don’t recommend for first time readers. That is, given that you sort of have to read the books to know what the Cycle even is, that wouldn’t be my first choice. Yes, I am playing a bit of a game with that, that I hope will make sense and add a new dimension if and when I finish the books, but for now, don’t worry about it.

So that leaves chronological order or publication order. I tried very hard to make it so either of those work, keeping track of what I was and was not spoiling, foreshadowing, or hinting at.

I’m trying to make the books build on each other, and, ideally, do so in interesting ways in whatever order one reads them. Insofar as one might find themes in the books, or ideas playing off each other, that is the order they emerged in. For example, Orca deals with, among other things, the relationship between trade (and associated finance) and the state. This led me naturally to consider other aspects of the state, one of the main ones of which is war, so I wrote Dragon. Dzur was about (well, in addition to food) the whole question of the role of the individual in an effort to change complex systems. I hadn’t felt like I’d gotten very far in that, so I continued looking at the same thing in Jhegaala.

My point is that if you’re interested in the development of the character, read them in chronological order; if your interest is more thematic, then read them in publication order. If you’re just interested in a good story, then, I hope, it doesn’t matter.

Publication order: Jhereg, Yendi, Teckla, Taltos, Phoenix, Athyra, Orca, Dragon, Issola, Dzur, Jhegaala, Iorich, Tiassa, Hawk, Vallista

Chronological order: Taltos, Dragon (main arc), Yendi, Dragon (interludes), Tiassa section 1, Jhereg, Teckla, Phoenix, Jhegaala, Athyra, Orca, Issola, Dzur, Tiassa section 2, Iorich, Tiassa section 3, Vallista, Hawk

And one last note, just to make things even more difficult: most of the people whose opinions I respect believe that publication order is best. Take that as you will.

Order Your Copy

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New Releases: 10/17/17

Dark Signal by Shannon Baker

Place holder  of - 27 Reeling from her recent divorce, Kate Fox has just been sworn in as Grand County, Nebraska Sheriff when tragedy strikes. A railroad accident has left engineer Chad Mills dead, his conductor Bobby Jenkins in shock. Kate soon realizes that the accident was likely murder.

Who would want to kill Chad Mills?

Deadlands: Boneyard by Seanan McGuire

Image Place holder  of - 64 Step right up to see the oddities and marvels of The Blackstone Family Circus and Travelling Wonder Show! Gasp at pit wasps the size of a man’s forearm. Beware the pumpkin-headed corn stalker, lest it plant its roots in you!

Annie Pearl is the keeper of oddities, the mistress of monsters. Her unique collection of creatures is one of the circus’s star attractions, drawing wide-eyed crowds at every small frontier town they visit. But Annie is also a woman running from her past…and the mother of a mute young daughter, Adeline, whom she will do anything to protect.

Edgedancer by Brandon Sanderson

Poster Placeholder of - 75 Three years ago, Lift asked a goddess to stop her from growing older–a wish she believed was granted. Now, in Edgedancer, the barely teenage nascent Knight Radiant finds that time stands still for no one. Although the young Azish emperor granted her safe haven from an executioner she knows only as Darkness, court life is suffocating the free-spirited Lift, who can’t help heading to Yeddaw when she hears the relentless Darkness is there hunting people like her with budding powers. The downtrodden in Yeddaw have no champion, and Lift knows she must seize this awesome responsibility.

Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card

Placeholder of  -70 Once again, Earth is under attack. An alien species is poised for a final assault. The survival of humanity depends on a military genius who can defeat the aliens. But who?

Ender Wiggin. Brilliant. Ruthless. Cunning. A tactical and strategic master. And a child.

Enhanced by Carrie Jones

Image Placeholder of - 75 Seventeen-year-old Mana has found and rescued her mother, but her work isn’t done yet. Her mother may be out of alien hands, but she’s in a coma, unable to tell anyone what she knows.

Mana is ready to take action. The only problem? Nobody will let her. Lyle, her best friend and almost-boyfriend (for a minute there, anyway), seems to want nothing to do with hunting aliens, despite his love of Doctor Who. Bestie Seppie is so desperate to stay out of it, she’s actually leaving town. And her mom’s hot but arrogant alien-hunting partner, China, is ignoring Mana’s texts, cutting her out of the mission entirely.

From the Two Rivers by Robert Jordan

Since its debut in 1990, The Wheel of Time by Robert Jordan has captivated millions of readers around the globe with its scope, originality, and compelling characters. From the Two Rivers is a special edition that contains Part 1 of The Eye of the World, Jordan’s internationally bestselling epic fantasy saga, and is a perfect gift for old fans and new.

Last Chance by Gregg Hurwitz

The New York Times bestselling author of Orphan X, Gregg Hurwitz, returns to Creek’s Cause to follow the Rains brothers as they fight an alien threat that has transformed everyone over the age of 18 into ferocious, zombie-like beings, in this thrilling sequel to The Rains.

Battling an enemy not of this earth, Chance and Patrick become humanity’s only hope for salvation.

Old Man’s War by John Scalzi

John Perry did two things on his 75th birthday. First he visited his wife’s grave. Then he joined the army.

The good news is that humanity finally made it to the stars. The bad news is that, out there, planets fit to live on are scarce—and alien races willing to fight us for them are common.

The Rains by Gregg Hurwitz

In one terrifying night, the peaceful community of Creek’s Cause turns into a war zone. No one under the age of eighteen is safe. Chance Rain and his older brother, Patrick, have already fended off multiple attacks from infected adults by the time they arrive at the school where other young survivors are hiding.

Most of the kids they know have been dragged away by once-trusted adults who are now ferocious, inhuman beings. The parasite that transformed them takes hold after people turn eighteen–and Patrick’s birthday is only a few days away.

Six Months, Three Days, Five Others by Charlie Jane Anders

Before the success of her debut SF-and-fantasy novel All the Birds in the Sky, Charlie Jane Anders was a rising star in SF and fantasy short fiction. Collected in a mini-book format, here—for the first time in print—are six of her quirky, wry, engaging best.

 

Vallista by Steven Brust

Vlad Taltos is an Easterner—an underprivileged human in an Empire of tall, powerful, long-lived Dragaerans. He made a career for himself in House Jhereg, the Dragaeran clan in charge of the Empire’s organized crime. But the day came when the Jhereg wanted Vlad dead, and he’s been on the run ever since. He has plenty of friends among the Dragaeran highborn, including an undead wizard and a god or two. But as long as the Jhereg have a price on his head, Vlad’s life is…messy.

Wild Cards I by George R.R. Martin & Wild Cards Trust

There is a secret history of the world—a history in which an alien virus struck the Earth in the aftermath of World War II, endowing a handful of survivors with extraordinary powers. Some were called Aces—those with superhuman mental and physical abilities. Others were termed Jokers—cursed with bizarre mental or physical disabilities. Some turned their talents to the service of humanity. Others used their powers for evil. Wild Cards is their story.

NEW FROM TOR.COM

Weaver’s Lament by Emma Newman

Charlotte is learning to control her emerging magical powers under the secret tutelage of Magus Hopkins. Her first covert mission takes her to a textile mill where the disgruntled workers are apparently destroying expensive equipment.

And if she can’t identify the culprits before it’s too late, her brother will be exiled, and her family dishonoured…

NEW IN MANGA:

Alice & Zoroku Vol. 2 Story and art by Tetsuya Imai

Beasts of Abigaile Vol. 2 Story and art by Aoki Spica

Devilman Grimoire Vol. 1 Story by Go Nagai; Art by Rui Takatou

Ghost Diary Vol. 3 Story and art by Seiju Natsumegu

Hatsune Miku Presents: Hachune Miku’s Everyday Vocaloid Paradise Vol. 1 Story and art by Ontama

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New Releases: 11/29/16

Here’s what went on sale today!

Hawk by Steven Brust

Hawk by Steven BrustYears ago, Vlad Taltos came to make his way as a human amidst the impossibly tall, fantastically long-lived natives of the Dragaeran Empire. He joined the Jhereg, the Dragaeran House (of which there are seventeen) that handles the Empire’s vices: gambling, rackets, organized crime. He became a professional assassin. He was good at it. But that was then, before Vlad and the Jhereg became mortal enemies.

The Traitor Baru Cormorant by Seth Dickinson

The Traitor Baru Cormorant by Seth DickinsonTomorrow, on the beach, Baru Cormorant will look up and see red sails on the horizon. The Empire of Masks is coming, armed with coin and ink, doctrine and compass, soap and lies. They will conquer Baru’s island, rewrite her culture, criminalize her customs, and dispose of one of her fathers. But Baru is patient. She’ll swallow her hate, join the Masquerade, and claw her way high enough up the rungs of power to set her people free.

NEW IN MANGA:

Haganai: I Don’t Have Many Friends Vol. 14 Story by Yomi Hirasaka; Art by Itachi

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Throwback Thursdays: Steven Brust on Animals, People, and Vlad Taltos

Welcome to Throwback Thursdays on the Tor/Forge blog! Every other week, we’re delving into our newsletter archives and sharing some of our favorite posts.

Vlad Taltos is back in Steven Brust’s Hawk! In the November 2007 Tor Newsletter, author Steven Brust talked about the characters—and the animals they’re similar to—he’s created over the years. Be sure to check back in every other week for more!

Hawk by Steven BrustBy Steven Brust

Why is it that I put animals in my books, or, more particularly, put in people with some sort of symbolic relationship to an animal? Is it because, in human history and pre-history so many people identified themselves with animals? No, that’s the justification, not the reason.

Is it so I can explore the animal nature within us all? Yeah, right, whatever.

Is it that it makes it easier to explore what it really means to be human? No, but if the New York Review of Books ever interviews me, that’s what I’ll say.

No, it’s so I can make fun of my friends without them knowing about it.

In the world in which the Vlad Taltos novel is set, the population is divided into what are called Great Houses, each named for an animal. Some of these animals are familiar to us all, some are made up, and some are familiar but altered. In truth, all human beings are a delightful mix of personality traits, some of which can appear dominant at various times depending on circumstances. In fiction, particularly fantasy, I get to exaggerate characteristics and make animal comparisons, and when I need to, make up the animal—all for the pleasure of laughing at my friends. I love this business.

Like, that guy who cares just a bit too much about money? Orca. The one with the temper? Dragon. The manipulative bastard? Yendi. The guy with ethics but no principles? Jhereg. The one who would cut off an arm rather than be rude? Issola. I don’t know about you, but I’ve had hours of fun figuring out which House all of my friends belong in.

My latest Vlad Taltos novel—out in paperback this month—is called Dzur. A dzur is your typical big, nasty cat. The people who identify with it are of the House of Heroes.

What, exactly, do I mean by “hero?” I’m not talking about real heroes, because real heroes only happen where character meets circumstance. Nor am I talking about people who constantly look for situations where they can show off their courage—they aren’t heroes, they’re adrenaline junkies. By “hero,” in this context, I mean someone who always goes in with the odds against him—in fact, who only goes in when the odds are against him. Sounds good, right?

You know them. At a party, he’s the one who won’t venture an opinion unless he’s pretty sure everyone in the room is on the other side. On the highway, he’s the ones zipping down the empty lane that’s about to vanish for construction, expecting you to let him in. On the internet—Oh, lord. Don’t get me started. Yeah, these are the guys who have raised being unpopular to an art form. One of my dearest friends is a Dzur. He sometimes refers to himself as Captain Social Suicide. Need I say more?

So, yeah, anyway. Those guys. They’re annoying as hell, but in stories they’re kinda fun.

This article is originally from the November 2007 Tor newsletter. Sign up for the Tor newsletter now, and get similar content in your inbox every month!

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