A Slippery Tightrope: Hawk by Steven Brust

I envy Steven Brust. He’s been writing stories about Vlad Taltos since 1983, so for over 30 years now, and yet he manages to keep things new and interesting. Even more, he’s created a 14-book series that you can read in almost any order. Sure, you appreciate deeper layers the more of them you’ve read, but I’d say you could easily pick up Hawk, the latest in the series.

And if you do, I’d dare you not to go back and start reading the earlier novels, especially as Hawk ends one period in Vlad’s life and promises a new one.

For those who aren’t familiar with the series, you can check out this handy primer Jo Walton wrote back in 2008. Brust’s books focus on Vlad Taltos, a human assassin living in Dragaera, a fantasy world largely populated by magical and superpowered elves. Earlier books covered Vlad’s time as a semi-sanctioned assassin in the capital, Adrilankha, but along the way he pissed off his former employers, the Jhereg, and has been on the run for several books at least. The problem, aside from the fact that Vlad would prefer to stay alive, is that Vlad has reason to stay in Adrilankha—his ex-wife and his son both live there.

 

 

So after a nearly successful attempt on his life, Vlad sets about concocting a scheme that will get him out from under the Jhereg once and for all. This being Vlad (and Brust), the plan is typically complex and convoluted and really doesn’t matter all that much, partly because Vlad doesn’t really fill the reader in on everything that’s happening. But if it helps, it involves a Hawk egg, a wand, and a euphonium. To go through with the scheme, though, Vlad has to depend on many of his old friends. Hawk gives us a parade of all of them – Morrolan, Aliera, Sethra Lavode, Kragar, Kiera, and several others. And of course, the Hawk himself, Daymar.

Hawk also shows us a different side of Vlad. This is Vlad after all of his previous adventures – by now he’s capable and confident and, frankly, powerful. But in Hawk, he’s also scared. This is Vlad in the snake pit, surrounded by enemies, a man with a target on him everywhere he goes. And a man with something to live for.

And that’s the crux of this book. There’s the scheme, of course, which is highly entertaining, but there’s also Vlad’s battle against himself. His struggle with trust and with risk, walking a slippery tightrope with something so very important on the other end.

With Hawk, Brust proves that Vlad’s adventures are still going strong. Good thing, because there are five more planned! I’m very much looking forward to them. In the meantime, if you haven’t checked out any of the previous books, I highly recommend them, especially for fans of hardboiled pulp or Roger Zelazny.

Hawk is available now from Tor Books.
Read an excerpt from the novel here on Tor.com


Rajan Khanna is a writer, narrator, and blogger. His first novel, Falling Sky, a post-apocalyptic adventure with airships, was published in October 2014. He tweets @rajanyk.

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