“Quiet iorich won’t forget”: Steven Brust’s Iorich

Iorich will be published in January, which probably means “any minute now.” It’s the latest Vlad book, the eighteenth Dragaera book (I miscounted before) and it’s set in the ongoing continuity, a few years after Dzur.

I have an ARC. It’s surprisingly odd to go from re-reading a long series of books—seventeen distinct volumes—to starting a new one. It’s not that re-reading isn’t pleasurable, but there’s no sense of urgency to it. Even if I’ve forgotten the details, the general flow of the shape of the story will be in my mind, so that things will come back to me before I get to them, and I’ll at least half-remember what’s going on. Going on to a new one is entirely different. Suddenly, it is urgent. What is going on? Will characters I care about survive? Why is this happening? It’s like, and yet unlike, the difference between reminiscence and experience. What it’s actually like is when you’re on a long familiar trip, and you’re looking out of the window from time to time but mostly reading your book, and then the train takes a detour and you’re suddenly way up in the mountains and you drop your book because you’re suddenly riveted to the view out of of the window. Only, you know, the other way around.

What can I say about Iorich without spoilers? Well, nothing at all, except that I enjoyed it a great deal. I happen to know that four people reading this have also read it, and I’m actually longing to have a spoiler-filled discussion about Devera and other matters, but I shall restrain myself until more of you have had a chance to have the book unroll itself before your eyes in the proper fashion.

House Iorich are concerned with justice and law, and so Vlad spends the book caught up in concerns of justice and law. There’s an advocate of House Iorich who is the representative Iorich of the book. The animal iorich seem to be a kind of rhino dinosaur, judging from the silhouette on the representation of the Cycle. We don’t see any, except in carvings, which is probably just as well. The book is mostly set in Adrilankha, and features all the characters you’d expect to see in Adrilankha four years after Dzur. They have some great interactions. There’s also strong indication that there’ll be another book between Dzur and this, because quite a lot seems to have happened to Vlad. Kragar mentions that he’s looking older, which really struck me—I know Dragaerans don’t age at the same rate, but having an Easterner friend must be really hard for them.

For some reason it suddenly struck me as I was thinking about the plot of Iorich that the Vlad books are remarkably self-contained. We were talking in the Dzur thread about who he’s telling them to and why and when, and how he doesn’t know if the reader knows about events of the other books. Vlad’s life is continuous, but he’s narrating episodes as stories, and either the episodes have the shape of stories or he’s giving them that shape. The occasional comment about “skip it” or “that’s another story” is part of that shaping, I think.

Most of the books cover about a week, as near as I can figure—Jhegaala‘s longer, and so is Dragon, but generally they’re intense minute by minute descriptions of about a week in Vlad’s life, with gaps in between where his life doesn’t fit story shape. Now they are all very self-contained. The volumes of this series definitely stand alone—I’ve been suggesting better or worse places to start, but really you could read any one of these books and want to read the others. They work in any order. Yet they’re not episodic. I mean they are, but there’s always a very strong feeling that each episode is part of an arc, part of a greater whole, that they are going somewhere. I think these break my definition of series and are a different kind.

Anyway, Iorich. You want it, you’ll like it. But you knew that anyway.

Next—well, I’ll have to decide what to read next, which feels odd after all this time, but I’m also going to be interviewing Steven Brust, so watch out for that.


Jo Walton is a science fiction and fantasy writer. She’s published eight novels, most recently Half a Crown and Lifelode, and two poetry collections. She reads a lot, and blogs about it here regularly. She comes from Wales but lives in Montreal where the food and books are more varied.

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