Yendi by Steven Brust. ★★★
Yendi is set sometime before the events of Jhereg. The books are independent and can be read in any order.
Vlad Taltos, the protagonist and narrator, is a member of House Jhereg, which seems to be the criminal organization of this world. Vlad controls his own area of the city, but another member of House Jhereg starts muscling in. What results is a war between them over territory which comes to be connected to a conspiracy of the highest order.
Yendi is a short book – just over 200 pages, but the pacing is slow in the beginning and it took me a few days to get through it. It takes a bit for the gang war to start up, and then much longer for the conspiracy to be brought in.
Yendi‘s biggest flaw is lack of characterization. All the characters are thin and forgettable. Everyone felt just like a name, and I never got the sense of anyone’s personality.
What I liked most about Yendi was the world. When I read Jhereg, I had a hard time understanding the complexities of the world that Brust has created (I discuss some of the details in my Jhereg review). For whatever reason, I didn’t have any problems this time. I remembered some of the basics from Jhereg, and this helped me immensely. Other things were vague, but I was able to figure it out. If I ever do read another Vlad Taltos novel, it will be for the world that Brust has created.
As the back of the book says, Vlad ends up falling in love with the woman who kills him (people can be “revived” after death in this world). This happened remarkably quickly. One moment they’re killing each other, the next they’re falling in bed together? Even accounting for their similar backgrounds, this all happens within the span of days.
Also, Yendi was a lot better on the female character front than you’d expect from a pulpy 80’s fantasy novel. At least four women were significantly involved, and while they were as thinly characterized as the male characters, they weren’t any worse either.
In the end, I enjoyed Yendi but am unlikely to seek out more books in the series.