by Steven Brust
If, when reading, I catch a lot of errors in editing, it really takes me out of the story. I can get back to it, but it completely ruins my concentration when I see that someone happens to be eating “Eastern-style desert (sic) pancakes”––you know, the ones you eat after dinner––or talking about his “closet (sic) neighbor to the west,” or the inexcusable: the wrong “their” being used in a sentence. As you may have guessed, these are all examples from Teckla, the third book in the Vlad Taltos series. I worry that Brust––or his editor––didn’t give this instalment the care it deserved, but for more reasons than this admittedly petty gripe.
Firstly, Teckla somewhat ruins the character of Vlad Taltos. In this instalment, Vlad comes across as a huge jerk, especially toward his wife. Being married, I understand when this happens; sometimes you just don’t listen to your significant other, or care what she says, and you happen to be completely unreasonable, even though you don’t realize it. So, you can chalk some of this up to realism, potentially. The big issue is: Vlad becomes unlikeable. (Without providing any spoilers here, I’ll just say that the ending does everything in its power to not change this.) Vlad also comes across as incompetent in Teckla. He spends a lot of time carrying on with reckless abandon, and either finds himself requiring rescue or just getting lucky. Admittedly, this has happened in previous instalments, but it’s pronounced here, mainly because of plot issues, as I’ll go over.
Teckla also takes everything Brust improved with the plot and the pacing in this series, and effectively throws it off a bridge. This book is much slower than the previous ones, with lengthy parts detailing how Vlad does housework or sits there staring at a door. I suspect Brust did this sort of thing intentionally to show that Vlad is getting bored in his comfort––or, in the case of the latter, patiently sets a trap––but having a purposefully boring plot is still boring. Rather than building the plot logically, Brust makes unexplained things happen to move things along. (I’ll throw up a ***SPOILER WARNING*** here just to be safe.) Since the story revolves around Vlad’s marital difficulties, I would have expected him and his wife to work to resolve things. Instead, a ghost appears and convinces Vlad to be less monstrous, and Vlad’s grandfather tells Vlad’s wife that she’s being silly. What comes across is a protagonist who does very little to contribute to his own story. (Once again, perhaps this was intentional, given the foreshadowing in the prologue, but, intentional or not, it didn’t improve things.)
Perhaps my expectations were too high going into this one, but I really didn’t enjoy Teckla. While Taltos appears to be highly regarded, I’ll probably put this series aside at least for a while. (Where Yendi made me want to keep reading, this one served as the potato in my tailpipe.)