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I remember reading (or reading about) a remark by Steven Brust about his Vlad Taltos novels, in which he, rather than suggesting a reading order, advised against looking for a preferred order and explained that he wrote some of the novels, on purpose, in such a way that they partially took place before and partially after some other ones.

Does anybody remember such a remark? Did my memory create it?

6

Seen on sffworld, a message states that there is a mention of reading order in the Book of Taltos. I don't have a copy right now so I don't know what it is. (Somebody can edit this if they can find it).

Also, I personally think the publishing order is good enough for reading the series. (Chronological order can't be done because all the books haven't been released and the books are not set in any order.) An article on tor that also discusses this.

  • +1 for "Publishing Order" I think everything develops pretty well from there. – Satanicpuppy Mar 14 '11 at 14:16
9

There are actually three different orders to consider.

  1. publication order
  2. chronological order
  3. optimal reading order

For more about this, see the Lyorn Records on books.

While the publication order of the Vlad books is clear:

  1. Jhereg
  2. Yendi
  3. Teckla
  4. Taltos
  5. Phoenix
  6. Athyra
  7. Orca
  8. Dragon
  9. Issola
  10. Dzur
  11. Jhegaala
  12. Iorich
  13. “The Desecrator” (short story, not novel)
  14. Tiassa
  15. Hawk
  16. Vallista

The chronological order is anything but:

  1. “The Desecrator” (short story, not novel)
  2. Taltos
  3. Dragon, main chapters
  4. Yendi
  5. Dragon, interludes
  6. Tiassa, section 1
  7. Jhereg
  8. Teckla
  9. Phoenix
  10. Jhegaala
  11. Athyra
  12. Orca
  13. Issola
  14. Dzur
  15. Tiassa, section 2
  16. Iorich
  17. Tiassa, section 3
  18. Vallista
  19. Hawk

The short story “The Desecrator” is Daymar (a Hawk) meets Telnan (a Dzur); it appears to occur at least 20 years before Vlad meets Telnan in Dzur, thereby placing it before even the earliest of the Vlad novels, Taltos.

Then there is the vexing problem of when to read the Khaavren Romances. This trilogy of three related novels starts out a thousand years before the events in Taltos and spans events up to only a couple hundred years before it. The Khaavren Romances were published in five volumes, each consisting of two 17-chapter “Books”. The three books of the Khaavren trilogy are:

  1. The Phoenix Guards
  2. Five Hundred Years After
  3. The Viscount of Adrilankha, published in three volumes but not a trilogy :):
    1. The Paths of the Dead
    2. The Lord of Castle Black
    3. Sethra Lavode, originally titled The Enchantress of Dzur Mountain but shortened for reasons of spine space on the cover.

All the Vlad books are 17-chapter books, including Tiassa — which was also a Khaavren book. It was simultaneously the 13th Vlad book and the 11th Khaavren “book”. You simply will not appreciate Tiassa without having read the Khaavren books. (Yes, Khaavren has a non-speaking cameo in Tecla, but that hardly counts.)

There’s one more piece of the puzzle. The standalone novel Brokedown Palace was published just after Yendi. It is neither a Vlad nor a Khaavren book. However, its prologue retells the ending of The Phoenix Guards but from the other side. So you would think you should read it right afterwards, or right before.

However, the main part of the tale occurs almost a thousand years later, right before Vlad’s own time. In fact, two of its main characters become the parents of the woman who will grow up to be Vlad’s wife. (Although this information comes from Brust himself, not from the book internally.)

So what’s the best reading order?

Well, there is no hope of reading the books in chronological order. You’d have to jump around, suspending one book before starting on other, then going back to it.

I generally recommend reading the Vlad books first, and in publication order. At some point before you get to Tiassa, though, you do need to read the Khaavren trilogy. The first two novels are better than the third, but they’re all worth reading.

Brokedown Palace is entirely optional, but interesting enough.

  • Hey, thanks @CorwinBrust; I can’t wait to see if my unscrambling of Hawk’s first page which I posted to the Hawk thread at Dreamcafé comes close. – tchrist Aug 22 '14 at 18:15
  • What is the publication order of the Khaavren books in relation to the other books? (Purely a theoretical question, mind you: Vlad Taltos is such an, um, self-contradictory name that I don't know if I'll ever make the time to read these books.) – Martha Aug 23 '14 at 18:06
  • This answer deserves many more upvotes. I probably wouldn't have enjoyed the series half as much without your guidance (especially the part about reading Khaavren before Tiassa). – frostschutz May 17 '15 at 13:13
  • Excellent breakdown, displaying both an interest and an awareness of the series. It is one of my favorites and since I own all of them, I may reread them with your order list to see if it improves the overall story flow, since I read them in the original publishing order when they first were released. – Thaddeus Howze Jan 6 '16 at 7:07
8

Thanks to the links pointed out by @apoorv20, I think I have found Brust's remark I kind of remembered. Commenting his novels, he says about Dragon:

Another Vlad novel, and I'm one I'm pretty happy with. I have a lot of sympathy with people who want to read the books in chronological order, so I wrote this one to help them out: it falls before and after Yendi. Heh heh heh.

1

My preferred reading order is "often". But I can also report that reading them (first) in publication order has been quite enjoyable.

  • 3
    This doesn't tell us anything about Steven Brust's suggested reading order (or lack thereof). – alexwlchan Jan 6 '16 at 9:49
  • Surely Brust's publishing the books in a certain order is a strong indication that this is at least a plausible order in which to read them? – Jon Kiparsky Apr 11 at 3:08
1

Steven Brust did confirm that he did write Dragon to make it impossible to read the series in chronological order, and that Tiassa goes back and forward in time. This is on a blog on the Tor.com site. I'll quote the relevant part for historical purposes[1]

Jo: Did you write Dragon that way to make it impossible to read the series in chronological order?

SKZB: Jo, I am a serious writer, attempting to explore the limits of my craft while expressing my observations on the human conditions by the interaction of form and content within the….

Um, yeah.

It's an interesting interview otherwise, also.

1

Publisher's note from The Book of Dragon omnibus (2011):

"The novels of Steven Brust's Vlad Taltos series do not tell Vlad's story in simple chronological order. The order in which they were written and published is Jhereg, Yendi, Teckla, Taltos, Phoenix, Athyra, Orca, Dragon, Issola, Dzur, Jhegaala, Iorich, and Tiassa. But to read the events of Vlad's life in their chronological order, one would read Taltos, part of Dragon, Yendi, the rest of Dragon, part of Tiassa, Jhereg, Teckla, another part of Tiassa, Phoenix, Jhegaala, Athyra, Orca, Issola, Dzur, Iorich, and a third part of Tiassa. Many readers of the Vlad novels argue that the books are best read in the order of their composition and publication, and the organization of the omnibus editions from Ace Books and Tor Books reflects that view. The author has opined that the choice is up to the reader."

Hawk (2014) and then Vallista (2017) were published after the note above. Vallista appears to take place shortly before Hawk, and Hawk is clearly the last book chronologically as of this writing.

There are some inconsistencies between various books that may be more obvious when the books are read in chronological order, especially when including the Khaavren books. As an example, Morrolan's history with the Empress is strikingly different between Taltos and the prequel histories.

0

Some of the above links are dead; so here's my straight to the point answer...

In The Book of Jhereg by Steven Brust, (it contains Jhereg, Yendi and Teckla in one volume); there's an Author's Note where Brust states (I'm paraphrasing):
That he intentionally wrote the books so you could read them in any order (with some exceptions). Most people prefer publication order while others want to read them in (internal to the story) chronological order.

Publication order:
Jhereg, Yendi, Teckla, Taltos, Phoenix, Athyra, Orca, Dragon, Issola, Dzur, Jhegaala, Iorich, Tiassa

Internal chronological order:
TALTOS, YENDI, DRAGON, JHEREG, TECKLA, PHOENIX, Jhegaala, ATHYRA, ORCA, ISSOLA, Dzur, Iorich, Tiassa

  • That’s not quite right. – tchrist Jan 5 '14 at 2:17
  • @tchrist: Actually it's good enough. IIRC, the above information was taken directly from a note from the author himself. I clearly state that publication order is the preferred reading order and it should be sufficient for most people. Brust has stated either in the author's note or in interviews that the chronological order would prove to be difficult to achieve, but he listed the chronological order anyway. – djm Jan 5 '14 at 4:22
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I've been reading this series every single year at least 1x a year since 1987. My daughter's name is Aliera.

The best way to read them is with Jhereg first bc that sets you up with vlad and the cycle. Everything else will fall into place as you read them. Make sure and read the romances even though they are set years before vlad.

The books all will bounce around but the steady point is with vlad and in relation to vlad. I found that while reading, Vlad will mention something in passing. Put a post it on the top of the page with 1 word. Then as you read you'll start to see word pop up, go back and read about it in the other books. The other books only flush out that word.

These books are great in the way that you hear different parts of a story as it unfolds like say you're sitting down with grandma and grandpa, mom and dad. There's one story they are telling you but everyone will pick up and over lap and add to what the other family members are saying!

Brust writes the same storyteller way. There isn't a straight line, its a ball of spaghetti! If it was clean, neat, and orderly do you think I could have read them so often and so long?

I read 200-300 books a year. I don't want a destination I want an adventure and boy how I love vlad and cawti!

  • 5
    This doesn't answer the question about Steven Brust's supposed reading order – HorusKol Jan 6 '16 at 6:17

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