I've written before about Steven Brust's delightful, epic Vlad Taltos novels, a long-running series of sword-and-sorcery novels about a wisecracking human assassin in a land where the ruling class is composed of ancient, long-lived elves from a variety of noble houses named for animals. Brust has turned out a dozen of these novels to date (plus five more books in the style of Dumas, set centuries before the Vlad books), and they are, to a one, absolutely cracking yarns, Fritz Leiberesque novels where the steel flashes, the spells swirl, death is dealt, heroism is on display, and cunning saves the day.
But Brust's novels are also, to a one more than just fantasy novels. Each one is also a meditation on power, on freedom, on fairness, on economics — even on cooking. And Brust doesn't use the action to sugar-coat the "message" — no, the message, such as it is, is integral to the action revealed through it, naturally and engrossingly, so that each book is an education unto itself.
Take Iorich, the latest book, published last week. Iorich has the exiled Vlad Taltos returning to the capital city — where he is a hunted man — to rescue a friend from prison. And while Vlad has to do plenty of fighting and sneaking and skulking to get her out, the main method he employs is to use the law. And so Brust is able to skilfully blend a remarkable treatise on politics, law, justice, due process and even military ethics into a novel in which there is enough sword and sorcery to fill a dozen Vallejo paintings.
There are 17 noble houses in Dragaera, and so far, we've had books name for the first 12. I'm hoping that that means that there's at least five more to come. I've been reading these since I was a kid, and they've been fine companions all my life.