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Vallista is the 15th novel in the Vlad Taltos series by Steven Brust. Taltos is an Easterner warlock who is a retired assassin — retired because he ran afoul of the leaders of his guild, who now want him dead, so Taltos is on the run because he’d much prefer not to be.
It’s rare for me to follow a series too long; I prefer to explore different worlds and stories rather than revisiting previous ones. I do have exceptions to that, though, and the Taltos series is one of them, having been reading it since the first book was released.
That said, the previous couple of books (Tiassa and Hawk) both left me feeling like the series was running in place and was maybe falling into contractual obligation mode. Both books had Vlad running around trying to stay alive while solving his problem with the group that wanted him dead and not really accomplishing much. The ending of Hawk did, in fact, solve that dilemma, but replaced it with a new group that wanted him dead instead, and that felt really forced and didn’t work for me as a volume climax. Hawk left me wondering if it was time to drop the series, to be honest.
I’m happy to say that Vallista ended that thought. It’s a big change from the previous couple of books because Brust has written a locked room story, in which Taltos is brought to a manor house by Devera, the child demon, and when they enter, the doors immediately lock, Devera admits that she’s trapped in here and needs Taltos to rescue her, and then disappears.
Taltos then spends the book exploring the house, discovering the mysteries, learning how to solve the problem that has them prisoner in this manor, and rescuing himself and Devera.
Brust writes with a strong conversational style and the Taltos character has a rather snarky sense of humor and a tendency towards self-deprecation, which makes it a fairly fast, light read. For being a magical locked house, Taltos travels fairly widely, both through location and through time, in his investigations. Along the way he meets a number of interesting characters, some of which will ultimately end up dead, of course, this being a Taltos book, and as he does, he pieces the history of the house together and that leads him to understanding what created the trap and how to remove it.
It’s a fun, entertaining read. If you’re new to this series, you probably should start at the beginning with the book Jhereg. It’s not strictly speaking required, but the series does move forward in time across the volumes and while each more or less stands alone, I think this series works best when also following the longer story arc on its path.