Book Review: Hawk

Hawk by Steven Brust, Vlad Taltos #14

Years 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.

For years, Vlad has run from one end of the Empire to the other, avoiding the Jhereg assassins who pursue him. Now, finally, he's back in the imperial capital where his family and friends are. He means to stay there this time. Whatever happens. And whatever it takes.

Hawk is the latest in Steven Brust's New York Times bestselling Vlad Taltos series. 

When I first looked up Hawk I saw that it was already the 14th book in the Vlad Taltos series so I was actually a bit hestistant to pick it up since this is my first Vlad Taltos book, but when I read the press release it stated that this would be a nice start to begin reading the series, so taking this into account I started reading and I have to be honest and say that this was a great start in the series as you got to learn some bits and pieces of the main protagonist Vlad and also some of the extensive background of the series so far. Hawk can be read a stand alone story but I think that in the bigger of it all, when you have read the whole series so far, you will understand it better than I did. 

The story of Hawk picks up with the focus on Vlad Taltos, the main protagonist of the series. It starts of pretty itneresting with the prologue where Vlad, in first person narration, relates something of his earlier life, "My name is Vlad Taltos. I used to be an assassin, until—", this already makes you wonder what happened or what might happen in a bit, Vlad also mentions that he broke certain rules that you shouldn't break and now he has the House of Jhereg working against him. Every moment he has to fear his life, assassins lurk around every corner to take a shot at him, to remove him from the picture. But Vlad woulnd't be Vlad if he didn't have a plan of his own to go against them. Added to this you also learn to Vlad has a young son, only 8 years old and that he would very much like to spend time with him. But the story basically boils down to Vlad trying to survive many assassination plots while he is planning to make sure he doesn't have to face any Jhereg no more. This might sound like an pretty plain plot line and well yes it is, but there is a big but coming, in setting up the story of Hawk, like I mentioned, Steven Brust does take into account a lot of possible new readers and here come the true aspect of the story, recapturing a lot of the history but still delivering a very action packed story for already existing readers. Vlad finds himself in a very thick plot and he does everything, sort of like urban fantasy MacGyver kind of style to get out of it all. One aspect that I liked of Vlad's character that he isn't an untouchable character, he is a former assassin and knows how to work a blade but he can still be touched and on more than one occasion Vlad has to call in his angel on his shoulder. 

As I was new to the whole Vlad Taltos series I can only say that I was nightly impressed by what Steven Brust managed to show in this unfortunately too short of a story. I have to admit that I didn't get the full grasp of the universe or kingdom or several places that were mentioned, their descriptions were very nicely done but I couldn't compare them with earlier. This aside, the world that Steven Brust show in Hawk is something to think about, it feels like there are endless possibilities, it is full of magic and weird creatures and defintiely inspires something in the lines of a mashup between Epic Fantasy and Urban Fantasy, there aren't that concrete a line present but they seem to blur into each other creating a very cool effect on the world itself. 

Now one thing I always like in fantasy are magical things; weapons and the likes. This is preceisely what Steven Brust brings to the forefront in Hawk, the objects that Vlad requires to set his masterplan into motion are all of magical origins. It's just plain cool stuff. Magic weapons or items have a tendency for me to really liven up the storyline, but what normally happens is that there are actually not that many restraints on said items, like take for example magical swords they just slice and dice everything up, in the story of Hawk, there are definite restraints on these items. Vlad carries with him a powerful sword, but it comes with a cost. Adding this part in the equation does inspire a much more darker sense to the story that even Vlad isn't completely untouchable.

Vlad makes up for a interesting character, I do think this is mainly owed to the fact that you read this story in his first person narration, as this helps to make several experiences resonate that much stronger. From the first sentence in the book you just know, even without the prior knowledge of the 13 other books, that Vlad is a character with a definite past, a complicated past. Soon after this you learn that he wasn't always a nice guy or someone to get along easily, he has a mindset of his own but besides being only a real hardass he does have a bit of a soft side when it comes down to his family as I already explained. Added to this comes that he is a very smart and resourceful guy. Two other characters that I really enjoyed reading about where Vlad's familiars: Loiosh and Rocza, they help to liven up the story of Hawk, some of their commentary given to Vlad put a big grin on my face. Oftentimes you see that a main protagonist has something in the lines of a sidekick, but with these familiars you are once again led into your own thoughts and let you imagination play in how it all should look like, very cool and gave a very nice extra engagement to the story. 

Hawk is a fast pace and highly entertaining read, the plot of the story might not involve a very deep storyline but this is skillfully masked by involving a lot of extra's in setting up the story of it. Vlad makes up for an interesting protagonist to say the least and Steven Brust's world of the Vlad Taltos series so far gets a nice re-introduction. The world itself is something that really drew me in and of which I am eager to learn a lot more from. Even though Hawk is already the 14th book in the series, it features as a solid standalone. If you ever want to read something that is hard to place within a single category, pick up this series it will be more than worth your time!


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