Flying lizard that communicates psychically?
Ridiculously complicated revenge/redemption plot?
–check and mate
It’s hard to review book fourteen in a series, partially because, well, I don’t. Read series that long, that is. Usually it is only mysteries that manage to extend that long, by virtue of the lead solving a new case each time. But it is an interesting question–how do you extend a character life over a multitude of books? Does your character change or are they timeless? I find myself less of a fan of the ‘timeless’ sort of narrator, the sort that is relatively unscathed by life but might have surrounding events change from book to book (Evanovich’s Plum, Robb’s Eve, Harrison’s Rachel all come to mind). Vlad Taltos has changed a great deal over the course of fourteen books, perhaps because the series has been written at a very organic pace (Jhereg, the first book, was published in 1983). Obviously, so has Brust and so have I, so the changes sometimes bring a sort of nostalgia. Early Vlad was far more careless of long-term consequences (so was early me, for that matter). At any rate, Hawk feels like a return to form for Vlad, a decision to put his strengths to work for himself and take responsibility for his life instead of continuing to run (nope, no message resonating there).
Vlad is finally returning to his home city of Adrilankha, and he’d really prefer to stay. His son is growing up, relations are civil with his ex-wife, and his friends live there. The trouble is, way back when, Vlad royally, dramatically and irrevocably screwed the reining criminal organization and ever since, there’s been a price on his head. A rather large one, in fact, meaning he’s dodging professionals as well as amateurs.
Hawk has a relatively straightforward narrative–particularly early in the series, Brust did some interesting things with structure–with a ‘heist’-type plot. Told in first person, Vlad lets the reader know details as he builds his plan, but he avoids sharing the scheme until it unfolds real-time. The story definitely captures the feel of the oh-so-clever thief/con/criminal who hatches an elaborate scheme known only to himself (hello, George Clooney and Locke Lamora). It’s a clever story, and a decent return to action-Vlad. The cleverness does get a bit annoying at times, but that could be because I’m sensitive to arrogance (and if I thought Vlad was arrogant, did I ever have a character waiting for me with Jean in Quantum Thief!). It is nice to see the return of a familiar face or two, particularly an old associate of Vlad’s. I also appreciate that Brust avoided the “getting the gang back together” gimmick and allowed characters to make an appearance without being the ultimate solution to the plan. That decision also feels appropriate in terms of character growth.
I’d definitely recommend it to fans of the series. As it is book fourteen, I’m not sure it would be a good place to begin the series, however; it does reference prior events and world-building is not extensive. But so what? I envy you your chance to read from the beginning. In fact, I should put that on my to-do list.