132 thoughts on “Vallista Discussion with Spoilers”

  1. “Don’t worry,” I said. “It’s just a stage I’m going through.” What a great line!

  2. Can you be more specific about this statement from the “thoughts on Vallista” thread now that the book is out?

    “I don’t want to go into too much detail because of spoilers, but for example, “I was disappointed that you didn’t go into this kind of scene,” and, “this part of the book felt slow,” lend themselves to, “Okay, I can put that kind of scene in this part of the book.” “

  3. Loved it. Precipice Manor almost felt real by the end, and I think I understand what Verra’s trying to accomplish. Reading this a second time to try to put together a few of the things I know I missed the first time through.

  4. I kinda wanted to see Vlad try to remember a past life as a Phoenix. He probably didn’t have one either. I was curious since he had all the flashbacks as Dragaerans of various houses if this incarnation is his first as an Easterner and how usual or unusual that crossover is.

    I did my usual rereading of the series before a new book comes out, and it was neat to see the conference room building from Hawk make a reappearance. Especially since I was always confused about where that agreeableness enchantment thing that gets mentioned there came from. I mean, all his other preparations for that meeting are detailed, so it drove me nuts thinking I missed something.

  5. I…

    TOTALLY missed the fact that Vlad brings them into that specific room in Hawk. Wow. How did I miss that, with all the clues that were strewn liberally throughout both books???

  6. Alex: The thing that strikes me about the conference room is that having learned that the “agreeableness” that it influences on everyone isn’t so much a “spell” as just an inherent part of the nature of the room, is that it makes it surprising to me that the Jhereg sorcerer in /Hawk/ is so easily able to just dispell the effect prior to Vlad’s presentation.

  7. Maybe it’s because I’m older, but I kept singing “Hotel California” during the first few chapters (grin).

  8. It is universally acknowledged that one of the most famous opening lines in all of Western Literature, having attained this exalted position, must be in want of a parody.

  9. I always laugh out loud the most when Vlad has any interaction with Verra. He talks to his Diety like I would talk to my Diety if I had one. The man just can’t help himself.

  10. Part and parcel with the puns on famous Gothic novels that form the chapter names… although, I will confess, there are a few I haven’t worked out yet. ^_^

  11. larswyrdson, I was hoping someone else would mention the chapter titles, and likewise on the still working out. Maybe folks could “compare recipes?” Thank you for mentioning the Gothic, also…

  12. Okay, so the Jenoine are trying to make a civilization stagnate. Why? What is the value of that?

  13. Here’s a list of chapter titles and the relative few I know the reference to:

    1- Devera the Wanderer
    2- The Mystery of Elven Food
    3- The Phantom of the Dance (The Phantom of the Opera)
    4- The Legend of Sleepy Harro (The Legend of Sleepy Hollow)
    5- At the Fountains of Sadness (At the Mountains of Madness)
    6- In the Past Darkly (A Scanner Darkly? — not sure)
    7- The Turn of Discaru
    8- Withering Depths (Wuthering Heights)
    9- The Miseries of Odelpho (The Mysteries of Udolpho)
    10- Waters Below the Ground
    11- Gormin’s Guest
    12- The River at Housetown
    13- The Star of the Seven Jewels
    14- A Short Fatal Hate Chase
    15- The Smooth Magic
    16- On the Night of the Surly Mood
    17- Zhayin’s Heir (Jane Eyre)

  14. Did some research, but missed my edit timer:

    1- Devera the Wanderer (Melmoth the Wanderer)
    2- The Mystery of Elven Food (The Mystery of Edwin Drood)
    6- In the Past Darkly (In a Glass Darkly)
    14- A Short Fatal Hate Chase (A Long Fatal Love Chase)

    This is from combing over the wikipedia entry on gothic fiction. I am sadly not well-versed.

  15. A few more:

    7- The Turn of Discaru – The Turn of the Screw (Henry James)
    13- The Star of the Seven Jewels – The Jewell of Seven Stars (Bram Stoker)
    15 – The Smooth Magic – This Rough Magic (Mary Stewart)
    16- On the Night of the Surly Mood – On the Night of the Seventh Moon (Eleanor Hibbert)

  16. 1- Devera the Wanderer – (Melmoth the Wanderer)
    2- The Mystery of Elven Food – (The Mystery of Edwin Drood)
    3- The Phantom of the Dance (The Phantom of the Opera)
    4- The Legend of Sleepy Harro (The Legend of Sleepy Hollow)
    5- At the Fountains of Sadness (At the Mountains of Madness)
    6- In the Past Darkly (In a Glass Darkly)
    7- The Turn of Discaru (The Turn of the Screw) (Majikjon beat me to it)
    8- Withering Depths (Wuthering Heights)
    9- The Miseries of Odelpho (The Mysteries of Udolpho)
    10- Waters Below the Ground (Airs Above the Ground)
    11- Gormin’s Guest (Gormenghast) (ah ha! no one else has gotten this one!)
    12- The River at Housetown (The House at Rivertown?)
    13- The Star of the Seven Jewels (The Jewel of Seven Stars)
    14- A Short Fatal Hate Chase (A Long Fatal Love Chase) (damnit Billy Meyers)
    15- The Smooth Magic (This Rough Magic)
    16- On the Night of the Surly Mood (On the Night of the Seventh Moon)
    17- Zhayin’s Heir (Jane Eyre)

  17. @John Evans – unofficially, because this is the best response I’ve seen to the “forever society without progress”

    Officially, who knows. It’s magic(tm).

    I suspect it has to do with amorphia and/or necrophia, and the ability to control it; remember to the Jenoine that we are like pets, and that might be overstating our importance to them. It’s possible it’s nothing more than using amorphia to keep a kitten as a kitten, but, given the military Jenoine presence in Issola, I suspect it’s far more than that.

    Lemme think on it.

    My mind is still piecing things together, hopefully way more than Steve WANTS me to be able to piece together. Because a pox on his cagey-ness anyway. But I have the hint of an inkling of a seed of something that may one day become an idea about how things all fall together.

  18. For #12, There’s a 2007 novel entitled “The House at Riverton” by Australian author Kate Morton. This seems a little contemporary compared to the other entries here, but the book appears to fit the theme.

  19. Also: Vlad knows who Devera’s father is. Does anyone else find that weird?

    Nobody alive knows this but Devera, Verra and Aliera. Which one told him?

  20. Steve: thank you very much for Vallista. It is very well-written and will provide fodder for YEARS.

  21. Steve: If you are not lounging in an armchair with a snifter of brandy, cackling as your puppets dance, I will be deeply disappointed.

  22. Let’s try this again, not sure what happened to my previous post

    Every time Vlad talks to Verra I laugh out loud. I would like to think that if I had a Deity I would interact with said Deity in just the same manner, because a {smart mouthed asshole(scratch that)} {man(scratch that}} person who is not afraid to speak their mind in real life should be same when they meet their maker.

  23. And then after I post I look back and there it is. By the nail polish on Verra’s toes someone is messing with me. I wonder if I actually have a Deity I just went too far with? SKZB are you messing with me from the Sea Of Chaos

  24. Okay, here’s something I was thinking about:

    Verra’s exhortation that Vlad would be given a pass to leave the Paths of the Dead…once. “Do not return, Easterner”, she says to him.

    Yet this is a highly unusual comment given her history with Dolivar’s soul.

    I have a few different interpretations of this remark:

    1) Do not return, as an Easterner.
    2) Do not return, Dolivar (because you became an Easterner)
    3) Do not return (because I don’t want you finding stuff out that I’d rather you not find out – memories, how the paths work, how I interfered with your life, etc)
    4) Do not return (because I know what you’re destined to wield/do
    5) Do not return (because the Gods might interfere with my plans for you
    6) Do not return (because I don’t want you to use Godslayer on the Great Cycle, which, presumably, would make a number of beings, including Sethra and Iceflame, quite irate at you…and therefore me since I essentially created you)
    7) Do not return (by getting yourself killed, which would be inconvenient to my plans).

    Of course, we have to allow for the possibility that Vlad’s memory of what Verra said to him in that moment is untampered with, but…anyone have any other interpretations? And how do we reconcile that with what we know Verra knows about Dolivar’s soul, ie, that he is one of her pawns?

  25. My thoughts are more about the book in general, not so much about the new information about Vlad and the world. Feel free to delete my comment if it is not what we are discussing in this post.
    In my opinion the book could have been shorter, I found the middle a bit long. I like short books for some stories (like many Zelazny stories are quite short.)

    Below I allow myself some nitpicking, again feel free to delete.
    At the start of the book there were a few disturbing things:
    – Early in the book, why does Vlad ask himself if doors can lead him to other worlds? It seems too early for that. He went to one room with windows on the wrong side, presumably because of some sort of “mirror magic,” learnt the disturbing news that the building “appeared” in Adrilankha recently even though it’s a hundred years old, and he saw Devera vanish (but the laws of space and time don’t apply to her, so what to deduce from her vanishing?) All this is peculiar, but nothing there indicated that there will be doors leading to other worlds.
    – Vlad is very slow at reacting to things. For example, why doesn’t he react right away when Zhayin asks if he is a necromancer? (He reflects on it much later) That’s not something he would casually let pass.
    Other than that I liked the beginning.

    I loved the bits about dancing and arts, the memories in the Path of the Dead, hanging out with Vlad and Loiosh in general, but some of the wandering around the manor was too long for me and didn’t seem to matter at the end. I feel that the book could have been perfect if it was shorter. But maybe that’s just me.

    Other than that, it is a great adventure added to the Taltos books! It is amazing how different each book is.

  26. Excellent! Even thought it’s “none of my business”, I’m hoping that Gormin will regain status with his house (Issola) and get back together with Hevlika. Or break the house barrier somehow and get back together with Hevlika.

  27. @Scott Drummond

    Breaking down the House barriers seems to be a large part of what Verra is up to.

    The backstory explained in this book seems to shed a great deal of light on many things from VoA as well; Piro and Ibronka’s relationship–why they don’t have a problem dating each other (they were both born after Adron’s Disaster) and why Khaavren was so opposed to it.

    If it’s true, however, that Verra’s ultimate goal is to “Break the Cycle” to a greater or lesser extent, then it does make me wonder why she seemed so opposed to Kelly’s activities in /Phoenix/. It seems like their goals are substantially similar.

    To pose an answer to my own question, I suppose it boils down to the fact that he isn’t pursuing those goals in precisely the way she wants–a problem just as great in real-world politics as it is for Dragaera.


  28. @Majikjon *nods* That’s why I’m interested to see which way Gormin and Hevlika advance (if they actually do anything).

  29. @Majikjon Re: Kelly. I haven’t been back through Phoenix recently, but I thought that Vlad talked to her about it, where she seemed surprised that her plan for a foreign distraction (the Elde Island War, which Vlad started) wasn’t going to work, and, in fact, was backfiring entirely. I’ll have to dig that passage back out later.

    The alternate explanation, of course, is that she hadn’t figured out yet that her “breaking of the cycle” via Adron’s Disaster had actually worked at that point.

  30. @Alex:
    “I was curious since he had all the flashbacks as Dragaerans of various houses if this incarnation is his first as an Easterner and how usual or unusual that crossover is.”

    If we understand correctly, Easterners do not go to the Paths of the Dead and therefore don’t reincarnate. So it would be very unusual for a Dragaeran to come back as an Easterner, and likely their final incarnation.

  31. @steverapaport Not quite. There’s the “Plane of the Waiting Souls” which gathers up the souls of Easterners and Dragaerans (those who aren’t sent to the Paths, anyway) alike. Chapter 11 of “Teckla” describes the process (page 419 in the omnibus “The Book of Jhereg” which is all I have handy).

  32. Regarding Vlad’s knowledge of Devera’s parentage: The section of Tiassa titled “The Silver Tiassa” is Devera rambling at Vlad, and contains sufficient hints about her parentage that Vlad could have put it together.

  33. I like Vlad’s talk w/ Harro.
    “How long have you known that you’re a complete moron?”

  34. Sorry for the delay for those who were in the moderation queue. The wifi on the cruise was spotty at best.

    Also, what, no one has any comment on the beginning of the epilogue?

  35. I’m a bit confused about what happened to Tethia. Did Vlad rescue only her soul and allow her to return to the Paths? Or did breaking the thread return her to life?

    Also, what happened between now and Hawk. Do the servants ever figure out that ‘hey Zhayin is dead, time to go look for a new job’.

  36. You’ll be pleased to know that the “it’s just a stage I’m going through” joke hit me like Zelazny’s “The fit hit the shan” joke in Lord of Light.

    I immediately closed the book and sat there for a few seconds in grudging delight.

  37. @skzb I referred to it in my day-one review on the dragarea list, titled Oooh, Vallista!

    :A lovely shout-out to the Gothic Romance, beginning with a paraphrase from Austen, ending with one from Bronte, and loading the chapter titles with
    punny Gothic Fiction references.

    :So I finished it far too fast. Oh my goth!

    By the way, in case nobody else has mentioned it, I also loved the Hamlet reference in Athyra about the true, true salad flax. There was another Shakespeare quote in that book too.

  38. For the record, the “stage I’m going through” line is one I stole from my friend Brian Murphy, and is why he’s mentioned in the acknowledgements.

    Thanks, Steve. (Also, just FYI, there is a Hamlet pun in every odd-numbered chapter in Athyra, though most of them I have mercifully forgotten).

  39. Vallista feels like the cards are finally hitting the table – and one of the delightful things about any role-playing game is when, after years of adventuring, things finally start to fall in place. Things that didn’t appear connected (because the storyteller didn’t know, necessarily, HOW they were connected at the time) suddenly line up, and the players go – WAIT WHAT!?!?

    This is such a brilliant payoff to a journey that began for me in the 1980s, when my GM introduced Morganti blades into our campaign, and none of us players knew the reference yet. And more books yet to go! Don’t get hit by a bus, @szkb! :D

  40. @skzb Mark Mandell’s Cracks and Shards used to have a whole section on the Hamlet quotes in Athyra on the “jokes and allusions” page.

    Unfortunately, that site went away a few years back and never returned. I regret that his collection of those quotes never made it onto the wiki. I’ll have to go back and dig through the mailing list records and see if I can re-assemble them. I believe we had identified 7 of the 9 quotes.

  41. Good news, everyone!

    Through the magic of the Wayback machine, I was able to scavenge the Jokes and Allusions page from Cracks and Shards!

    I’ve added the Hamlet puns section to the Meta page for Athyra, so it will be preserved somewhere. (Namely, here: http://dragaera.wikia.com/wiki/Meta:Athyra_(book) )

    In the process, I think I might have spotted another one of these:

    “They give you a bucket” seems eerily similar to “Dead for a ducat.”

    That’s probably just a coincidence, right?

  42. Not sure if Steve’s getting me to overthink things, but the running jokes in HAWK and now in VALLISTA seem to comment on the traits of the title House. In HAWK, it’s “threats and curses…and see what that gets you,” with sight being a key characteristic of Hawks (and hawks), and in VALLISTA, Vlad entertains himself by trying to create new epigrams, with creation of course being a key element of that House.

    Of course, I don’t know how Hamlet ties into the characteristics of Athyras, or lightbulb jokes to Yendis, so maybe I just need more sleep.

  43. In Issola, Vladimir mentions a myth about Chaos, Darkness, Magic (who he thinks is Verra) and Evil (who he thinks is Jeonine) He wonders if Darkness also represents a real god – apparently yes. Wonder if we will get to meet Chaos?

  44. bookworm1398:

    A myth from Issola also mentions Night and Pain, Darkness’ daugthers and Magic’s sisters. That means Verra, Moranthe and Keurana.
    According to Lyorn Records, Verra is said to be a patron of those who practice Elder Sorcery, Moranthe is a patron diety of all witches, and Keurana is responsible for sorcerers.
    Vlad thinks that Verra the Demon Goddess is Magic. But in this scheme she’s more like Pain, whereas Magic should be Keurana, and Moranthe is Night.
    But we’re talking about Chaos, Darkness’ husband…
    Someone who has banished Jenoines and thus freed Verra (and Tri’nagore who also served Jenoine). Someone old and wise.
    …And we have one of the Lord of Judgements called Trout. Mysterious, whose name used in the oaths.
    Funny. Maybe Aliera may call him ‘Grandfather Trout’?

  45. I loved Vallista and read it all in two sittings, which was probably too fast. So much packed in there! One tidbit that I especially love is the fact that Discretes have their eyebrows shaved.

  46. I also thought the Manor House had some cool similarities to the Last House from Gene Wolf’s Shadow of the Torturer series.

  47. I finished Vallista in an open stairwell, with the wind blowing fallen leaves around my feet and the sky threatening rain. It was a rather eerily good match of environment to reading material.

  48. KRAGAR. The manor reminded me of the very first science fiction story I remember reading. “And he built a crooked house” by Robet A Heinlen

  49. I would just like to note, smugly, that I realized we were going to see the dancer again, and when, and why, before Vlad got to the tavern. It is perhaps the only thing in the entire book I caught hold of in advance of the moment, and therefore I am inutterably pleased with myself.

  50. Since nobody has commented on it yet: page 40, when Vlad inspects the oven and finds it cold, and inspects the icebox and finds it warm, I couldn’t help but realize that both of them were the same temperature, neither warm nor cold. You know, room temperature.

    This had to have been intentional by SKZB.

  51. “I couldn’t help but realize that both of them were the same temperature, neither warm nor cold. You know, room temperature.”

    Yeah, I read that as “they’re both the same temperature” and then I was thinking about it and started wondering if maybe they actually were opposite temperatures. It’s a really fun bit.

  52. I’m working on my Timeline and have a few observations from chapter 7:

    Vlad’s life as a Hawklord is in an Athyra reign, and also clearly post-Interregnum — therefore in the future! Time is weird in the Halls…

    The (or at least *a*) unifying theme of the memories seems to have been “Guides to the Paths of the Dead”. If so, then that explains what the Athyra’s carving, the Hawk Signet, and the Jhereg medallions were.

  53. @Alexx I’m presuming your assessment that this was a post-interregnum vision is due to the use of a teleport block at one point. I do not think this is sufficient proof, however.

    We do have evidence of the existence of teleportation prior to The Interregnum (indeed, several prominent characters from the Khaavren Romances (including Khaavren) as well as the Orb itself, would not have survived without it).

    The amusing failure of Trigarrae of Plainview in this regard notwithstanding, there may well have been others during the reign of Cherova III (an Athyra) who had this talent, but little interest in having the full extent of their sorcerous abilities known amongst the general populace. (Much like Sethra and Adron).

  54. “The (or at least *a*) unifying theme of the memories seems to have been “Guides to the Paths of the Dead”.”

    The ones in chapter 6, when he looks at the fountain while considering the connection between the manor and the Halls. That’s how Vlad figures out how to dismantle Zhayin’s spell.

  55. There is limited suggestion that teleportation may have happened occasionally pre-Interregnum. There have been no indications that teleportation was remotely common enough for teleport blocks to have even been thought of.

    That said, if it was *just* the teleport block, I would agree that my conclusion was iffy. However, when the teleport block is added to all the *other* fast and powerful magic deployed during this brief scene, especially when compared to what we see “wizards” perform in the Paarfi books, I stand by my assertion that this is definitely post-Interregnum.

    I may, of course, be wrong, but I *am* certain :-)

  56. No, it’s pre-interregnum. You’re leaving out that some stuff was filtered through Vlad’s POV, and other stuff through Paarfi’s.

  57. Read most of this on the flight last night/today on a flight from Brisbane to LA. Traveling through the time zones have a nice parallel to Vlad’s journey.
    Loved it! More thoughts later after jet lag.

  58. Alexx, we’ve been led to believe that for all 200,000 years before the Interregnum, magic like teleportation and revivification was rare or impossible. I’m not so sure about that. Perhaps at earlier points in the Great cycle, those things were almost as common as they are now, but nobody is alive who remembers it. Have we ever gotten confirmation from an authoritative POV (Sethra, maybe Verra)?

    My theory is that the newly upgraded Orb made magic easier and far more convenient for ordinary people, but didn’t make it more powerful. The analogy is to modern cell phones, which are portable computers with many programs (apps) that can easily be used even by people who aren’t good with real computers. However, the actual computing power available on a cell phone is less than on a desktop computer from five years ago, to say nothing of supercomputer clusters. A programmer or systems engineer is going to do his real work in front of a real computer, and his cell phone will mostly just be used to communicate and monitor systems he’s responsible for.

  59. Yes indeed, @alexx, the unifying theme of the fountain visions was “keys to the Paths”. With the notable exception of the first vision, where he’s the hermit sculptor who brings back his trance-induced work to the house of Athyra every few decades to sell it on and make a deep connection to someone.

    I’m still trying to figure out that one and where it fits in. In time, yeah, it’s early, since the Enclouding is still possible to see through sometimes. But why that vision, and how does it tie in to anything?

    My wild-ass guess is that it’s an early attempt by Verra to nudge progress though subconscious inspiration, much as Mafenyi and Devera later do with the Silver Tiassa. It provides evidence that Verra keeps on trying.

    What do you all think?

  60. I re-read the Verra-and-a-bottle-o’-wine scene again last night, and I came away with a very strong suspicion that Verra either poisoned him with it or was somehow screwing with his head (again). Not without reason — he appeared without warning or invitation in her presence, wielding Godslayer, and that’s something she has found uncomfortable before.

    She didn’t seem uncomfortable this time; she greeted him with wayyyy too much syrup, poured him the best wine she could find, and even explicitly told him at one point to stop thinking.

    That, in addition to the failed use of truth serum (or a reasonable facsimile) in an earlier chapter, in addition to the fact that Loiosh wasn’t there to keep an eye on him, makes me think she was up to something inside Vlad’s head.

    The only other option is that it’s the first time we’ve ever seen Verra when she WASN’T up to something sneaky…

  61. “…And we have one of the Lord of Judgements called Trout. Mysterious, whose name used in the oaths.”

    Now I want to hear Paarfi pontificating on if the god was named for the fish, the fish for the god, or the two are unrelated.

    With appropriate snarks about the people who care about such questions.

  62. SteveRapaport, I’m pretty sure that that carver was making Path Guides. He says that his work will be bought by “someone old and near death most likely”, and that the connection between himself and the buyer would last “As long as either of us lived, and quite possibly beyond”.

    (And I’m not sure that the thickness of the Enclouding is actually a time cue here. It’s of somewhat variable thickness for him because of his *altitude*. He is up a mountain, explicitly *in* the Enclouding.)

  63. SKZB: I’m not so much “leaving out” the fact of unreliable, inconsistent narrators, as I am dealing with the fact that I have nothing *but* unreliable narrators, and am attempting to see a coherent truth behind their various accounts. This is why the first major section of my timeline is a more-than-5,000-word discussion of these narrators and their influences. Prominent in which is my discussion of the (at least) two Steven Brusts, and how you can’t necessarily trust them, either :-)

  64. @GritaFan Vlad does mention a discussion he had with Sethra at one point in /Dragon/ regarding the evolution and development of Battle-Magic. While this is still filtered through Vlad’s PoV, obviously, it is information he got “straight from the source” as it were, so I’d say it improves the odds that it is reliable.

    The discussion is rather vague about dating, but it does go a long way towards explaining the lack of metal armor amongst Dragaerans, and why no one uses Flashstones anymore. It also implies that there was a time back in the very early days when military magic was used for little more than reconnaissance and deception.

    By the Fourth Cycle, Paarfi reports the use of the “Fire-Ram” which is speculated to have been an early form of battle-magic. There are additional clues given regarding the use of the Amorphia stones having been banned by the Lyorn in the 10th cycle, so presumably things had been advancing steadily up to that point. Those are about the only solid markers we have prior to what things were like at the start of /The Phoenix Guard/.

    All of these things (apart from the clues Sethra gives us, perhaps) are based only on official, recorded events. However, I think it is reasonable to assume that there were always standout users of sorcery in any given age (Such as The Sorceress in Green, or Sethra the Younger) whose actual abilities went far beyond the norm for their time.

  65. @Alexx There’s nothing the sorcerers do in that scene that I could not imagine Tazendra being capable of pre-(or even mid-) Interregnum. Sure, she was tutored directly by Sethra Lavode–but that’s kinda my point. We don’t know the backstory of Kelham and Lady Mundra, nor those that they are battling against.

    Perhaps they were also tutored by masters of their age; or perhaps Rodwik carried a Great Weapon. We just don’t have enough information to form solid conclusions about the dating.

  66. Just finished reading it yesterday on the commute home (I had to go back and read Hawk again before Vallista). Loved it of course. The banter between Vlad and everyone was a joy to read like always. I especially liked the conversation he had with Lazlo (correct me please, but I’m assuming that Vallista takes place before Iorich because didn’t he come into contact with Lazlo in that book as well?).

    The one part that bothers me about the book (or really part of the whole series) is the discussion with Verra about the stagnation experiment. It’s great that we get more details from that conversations and I’m fine with whole idea of the Dragaeraen society being magically manipulated into stagnation and Verra’s (and other gods) efforts to break the cycle. It ties into the whole idea that the world itself is being manipulated by the Orb to keep climate change from occurring (because over 200,000 years you’d normally have some variations if Earth is any indication, still coming out of the last ice age after all).

    So fine, I can suspend disbelief and enjoy the story and the world which you have created. Except for one little detail which just keeps popping up. The bloody Easterners. Those annoying dregs of society. Who aren’t being magically manipulated to stay stagnate. Who have writers and artists and poets and witches and scientists and inventors. Please put in some explanation of what has kept them from developing besides the periodic invasions from the Dragaeraens. Because the Dragaeraens don’t appear to go and conquer the entire rest of the world, just the Eastern kingdoms near their own borders. They aren’t destroying all of the literature and science which has been discovered by the Easterners.

    Like I said above, I love the stories. I’ve been reading this series and all of your other books since I was a teenager. I just have to purposefully set aside that one little problem I have with the timeline.

  67. @Seth: Vlad runs into Laszlo at the beginning of /Hawk/, not /Iorich/.

    We know that Vallista takes place AFTER /Iorich/, because Vlad gives the name of Aliera’s advocate, Peresil, to Gormin late in the novel, and Vlad did not meet Peresil until /Iorich/.

  68. Ah, yes. I should have read Iorich again.

    Anyone have thoughts on which house gets left out if SKB ends the series at 17 books? I’m guessing on Tsalmoth because:

    Vlad needs to get the Sorceresses off his back and “Chreotha – forethought & ensnarement” seems to hit the spot.

    Lyorn – because Vlad really is all about Duty. Even if it kills him sometimes.

  69. @Seth

    The plan is 19 books, and TSALMOTH is (tentantively) the next one after VALLISTA. #19 will be THE LAST CONTRACT.

  70. /Serioli/ is not a half bad, too.
    But… Jenoine and Serioli are not humans. Elves/Dragaerans are offspread from Easterneers root (created by Gods or Jenoine depending on who’s telling the whole story), and these two human races can quite good understand eachother if they care to. So they are “Framlings”, in Card’s Hierarchy of Foreignness.
    Jenoine and Serioli are “Raman” in the same Hierarchy. One – human – can communicate with them but cannot fully understand.

  71. This Zhayin is a bit of a nasty guy. A charitable interpretation is that he was totally focused on his goal of creating the gate between worlds, but the death of his infant son unhinged him somehow, leading him to take more and more risks with his family, leading to their deaths but successful completion of the platform.

    But when you consider that Zhayin worked with Discaru to take his pregnant wife to the Halls of Judgment (she couldn’t return), and almost certainly engineered the death of Tethia because of professional jealousy, the ‘accident’ with the infant son looks like less of one in context. The loyal nanny who always loved and protected him was ‘sick’ that day? As my boss often says: “coincidences are for suckers.”

  72. We don’t actually know that the Easterners aren’t/haven’t been magically manipulated, we just know that the Dragaerans *have*. I suspect that the Easterners were actually the result of an earlier, cruder experiment that simply involved stasis, without the added elaboration of “achieve a certain level of culture and *then* stop” (emphasis added).

    Added evidence for this: Easterner languages don’t seem to change significantly, if at all, over time. Fenarian is still recognizably Hungarian after all these years. Kelly was able to read books on Marxist theory that seemed to come from our world. Conversely, we find in _Vallista_ that Dragaeran language *has* changed significantly over time (p.186).

  73. I read the book whilst recuperating from an altogether too close encounter with a dental surgeon, and it seemed to me on first reading that the story was the product of a very cerebral Vlad, albeit one who made me laugh out loud in circumstances definitely not conducive to doing so.*

    And so the first line of the epilogue delighted me, albeit with a touch of disappointment that Vlad didn’t use the Lady Teldra to do it. That would have been poetic justice, all things considered…

    *I suspect that your publisher would decline a blurb along the lines of ‘A book so funny you’ll laugh even after having a wisdom tooth removed’

  74. Just a quick, and belated (projects deadlines oh my) fly by, to say thank you to all the folks that covered the chapter title co-leavening request. And to everyone else for your thinky bits that cut the “oh my, what do I now” feeling of closing Vallista today. Vlad said it better, “Thank you. For dancing.” Or, some thing like that. :-)

  75. > We don’t actually know that the Easterners aren’t/haven’t been magically manipulated, we just know that the Dragaerans *have*.

    Actually, if one look closer at _Broken Palace_, that’s what we’ll see. That’s how and becasuse Verra the Demon Goddess had been banished from Fenario.

  76. @jaerraeth: But… wasn’t Verra pro-stasis and anti-Tree in Brokedown Palace? How does that fit with her wanting to break the Jenoine’s experiment?

  77. I’m not sure for what _strategy_ Verra was really about in /Brokedown Palace/, but she wanted Miklos as King. Maybe because he’s the one who’d seen real Elves, maybe because he’s more fit to reform an archaic Fenarian system. One can only assume.
    But Verra has failed, and Vilmos as an epic hero-king is not a reformer at all.

  78. I loved the book! I am though left with questions about the consequences of this new technology.

    1) It would appear that the new gate arrives closer to the Halls of Judgement than the Paths of the Dead, given the presence of the purple robes. Does that mean Dragaerans could (for a nominal fee) skip the whole Deathgate Falls route and the chancy path guides, or do they perhaps need the virtual visa via that test (e.g. the Dragon gauntlet in Taltos) and by passing through their respective house gate at the end of their Path?

    2) With this sudden new potential abundance of Dragaerans creating new gates between worlds, wouldn’t that open new vectors for the Jenoine to attack?

  79. > Does that mean Dragaerans could (for a nominal fee) skip the whole Deathgate Falls route and the chancy path guides

    Technically they could, but what will be the aftermath of their meeting with Lords of Judgement? After ‘skipping’ the whole Deathgate route they are ‘illegal tresspassers’, no less. So if one plans ‘never be reincarnated’…

    > With this sudden new potential abundance of Dragaerans creating new gates between worlds, wouldn’t that open new vectors for the Jenoine to attack?

    Well, we have no idea what powers Jenoine use. But it seemed that has nothing to do with necromancy because Morollan’s tower with necromantic windows no-one sees as an opening hole for Jenoine.
    Moreover, in /Setra Lavode/ I beleieve there’s a scene with Sethra and Tukko at some ‘strange magical device’ that is a part of Dzur Mountain defence system. The description of this device has some similarities to the one at Zhayin’s study – necromantic, that is.

  80. @jaerraeth: “Well, we have no idea what powers Jenoine use. But it seemed that has nothing to do with necromancy …”

    My counter example is in /Issola/, where they specifically ask the Necromancer to block the Jenoine, and when she cannot they ask her to at least try to hold them there. This seems to imply that necromancy is involved in at least that Jenoine access.

    As for Morollan’s tower I presume that since it was given by Verra it is also protected by her. But on that note, presumably access via the Halls of Judgement is similarly protected by the Gods, which would explain Verra’s lack of concern when learning of Precipice Manor.

  81. Some random thoughts:

    We know that Devera, born in the Halls, moves around time a lot, including visiting at least one relative (Verra) prior to her own conception. Did Tethia do likewise? Is Zhayin so secretive because he knows he will succeed, and even knows certain details of what will — and will not — happen? Further, did Zhayin at one point decide he wanted some more information from future-Tethia, and attempt to summon her, instead inadvertently summoning a different child of his into a disastrous accident?

    After Vallista, who is it that is renting out Precipice Manor? Who is “Zhayin’s Heir”? His few close relatives that we know about are all dead. He doesn’t seem at all the sort to will his property to a servant or entertainer. My guess is that it’s being held in trust by some part of the Imperial bureaucracy, while the question of who the proper heir actually IS is properly resolved. At some point apparently in the future, the house is fully inhabited again, apparently.

    Actually, maybe TETHIA is the heir! We were never 100% convinced that she was dead in the first place. Her behavior, though in some ways similar to that of a ghost, is also very similar to that of Devera, who seems to be alive by most definitions. Discaru definitely bound her into the meeting room, but was she actually dead at the time? She fell off the roof, but did she land? Maybe chasing her off the roof was a ploy to distract her from being able to defend against Discaru’s magic. Or she needed to be terrified for the magic to work for some reason.

  82. I have been reading these books since Jhereg came out and Vallista is my favorite since Issola. I especially enjoyed the glimpses into the mechanics of the Dragaeran world. Thank you for keeping it interesting.

  83. Hmm. It seemed I have found something….
    Ch. 14, when Vlad kills Diskaru, he says “Feed, Lady Teldra. Take it.”

    Vlad already knows that Great Weapon can be instructed not to destroy opponent’s soul when killing; Morrolan and Aliera did that trick when they wanted to, and seemed that Vlad himself in _Tiassa_ has managed to master that technique, too.

    But the knowledge that Great Weapon needs to be fed in order to obtain energy (at least with Vlad’s amulet on and no access to Orb) is revealed to Vlad a bit later – in _Hawk_, after he cuts his own throat and meets Laszlo in Ch.2. So in current time (well, we all understand what time means here) Vlad hardly would offer Lady Teldra any ‘food’. Right?

  84. Hm. I’m not sure that’s the case – Morganti weapons have been described as hungry theoughout the series. It could be employing the same metaphor without understanding her needs.

  85. On October 20th @skzb asked: What, no one has any comment on the beginning of the epilog?

    That was quite a while ago and perhaps I’m beating a dead horse, but I do have such a comment.

    The first word in epilog “reader” stopped my reading dead for maybe a half minute while I recovered from shock. It completely destroyed the mind picture I have carried around since Dragon of Vlad dictating his adventures into a black box, some kind of trans-dimensional communication device. This was reinforced earlier in Vallista by Vlad spelling out his name so a _listener_ would get it right. A reader would have already seen his name spelled out, right?

    So why the sudden, disorienting, direct address to a reader as if Vlad knows about how his stories are ending up in books read in totally different dimensional space than the one he resides in?

  86. I see I put my foot in it. I have read Jane Eyre, but it was 65 years ago, and the beginning of the the concluding chapter of that book did _not_ enter my mind when I began the epilog of Vallista. While I had seen a connection between Vallista and Jane Eyre, skzb’s reference in the epilog went entirely over my head. I only noticed that Vlad was acting out of character. Had I been more fully aware, I would have applauded the line as another bit of the kind literary fun that adds spice to skzb’s books, but since I wasn’t, I was just thrown of the tracks. I really did like the book. I rate it up with my other favorite Vlad novels: Issola, Dzur, and Tiassa.

  87. There is a song by Genesis, “Home By The Sea”, that leapt insistently to mind as I read (well, listened… audiobook addict here). Have a listen! This song inspired quite a few D&D runs, way back in the day… and it fits the vibe of “Vallista” perfectly.


  88. I finally read it and I will simply praise it as all the low hanging fruit for discussion have been swiped. I found it one of the most atmospheric books. It is also very cerebral with evidence that Vlad is actually thinking about the craft of narrative rather than his usual “simple” retelling of the “facts.”

    The side characters really popped in this one too. Great work.

  89. I’m a bit late to this conversation due to a later release date in the UK but well if the Jenoine get a book of their own I don’t see why the Serioli don’t get one too ;)
    Sorry SKZB I didn’t want to burden you with another headache.
    One mans paradise is another mans hell :)

  90. So given that the conflict between the Gods and the Jenoine is roughly the conflict about accelerationism from Lord of Light, does that mean we can get a cameo from Great-Souled Sam?

  91. I hope it’s not annoying for me to be several months late to the party.

    I think Verra said outright or at least hinted in the book Teckla that she opposed the Teckla rebellion because of timing. When the Teckla house was closer to its zenith in the Cycle their rebellion to break the cycle might work, but by the time Phoenix hits three turns of the Cycle later they have declined too much in power to do anything other than get slaughtered.

    On the other hand, in that book Vlad meets a Teckla that learned sorcery from a spellbook. That seems to tread into cycle-breaking territory. Maybe Verra was unaware of it. Though it’s also possible she knew about it but still didn’t consider it powerful enough to have an impact.

    I could swear up, down, and sideways that in one of the earlier books Verra tells Vlad that the Jenoine created the Dragaerians and also tampered with the Easterners. So that would explain the fact that both species stagnated even though the Easterners don’t even have a Cycle to contend with. Maybe someone who has read or re-read the series more recently can remember the exact point.

    I read Jhereg some time around 1989 and have been hooked on the series ever since. Thanks, Steve.

  92. Just finished Vallista for the second time. To say it richly rewards a second reading is a bit of an understatement. The second time through, I could stop trying to solve the mystery myself and focus on the tantalizing details and the absurdly cool way skzb makes it all fit together. Vallista may just be the very best Vlad book.

  93. Something about the Tethia thing is bothering me. Every time Vlad asks other characters about Tethia, they say Her Ladyship died during the interregnum. Does that mean Zhavin’s wife was also named Tethia? Or did something even more unspeakable happen, like Tethia being the mother and sister of the Zhavin’s son-turned-monster?

    And I am back on the fence about the accident with the toddler. Gormin certainly thought it was an accident, and that it was his fault. But a lot of coincidences had to pile up to make the thing happen. Perhaps the most obvious of which is why not lock the door to your laboratory if you are going to experiment with necromancy, doors to other plains, and other eerie, out-of-this-world forces?

  94. Fascinating theories about Her Ladyship! Next reread, I’ll have to look for evidence for/against them.

    Zhayin was certainly callous about his daughter’s life; he could easily have been that callous about his son’s. To the left, when one is messing with time travel, causality and probability can get quite tangled, leading tona lot of “coincidences”.

  95. Will we ever get to know more about the warlock? One of my favorite parts of this book was when the demon tried to curse him and he threatened to chain the demon the the fountain.

  96. After my 2nd reading, I checked for online reviews of ‘Vallista’, as is my habit when I finish something I really like, and don’t want to leave the little world of the book behind. I found several sharply critical ones. Reading them made me decide the following:
    -If in conversation with someone familiar with Vlad Taltos, who for some reason has not read ‘Vallista’ or has been a long time without a re-read, I will unhesitatingly recommend they read it.
    -If speaking with a fantasy fan, unfamiliar with the series, I will recommend another Vlad book to start with. I still think ‘Jhereg’ is a great place to start, but if they want the very best, sure, why not (Dzur).
    -if speaking with a general reader, not especially interested in fantasy but a reader of novels, I will once again recommend ‘Vallista’ though with some company, such as the aforementioned ‘Dzur’, ‘Jhereg’, and probably ‘Orca’.
    -if engaging with someone who does not read novels of any kind, I will turn my back on the philistine.

  97. skzb–

    About those Warlock books, I think we had better have two, because why try to just cram everything in to one?


    My first exposure to Vlad was when my high school friend Scott Hillis told me about the Dragon-Jhereg war and how the top generals and sorcerers were getting bumped off right and left and the brothels and Shereba parlors were getting burned down to such an extent that House Jhereg was damn near out of business. I was hooked before reading a single sentence.

    So I am struggling with how I would have received Vallista as a 16-year-old. I am thinking I would have liked it quite a bit.

  98. Hi Kragar, I agree – I think you would have liked it quite a bit. You see, you were in my first category, ‘familiar with Vlad Taltos’, albeit in a future which was not yet evident, and those in this category typically like ‘Vallista’ a lot. Had I access to a certain ‘platform’ I could have demonstrated this to you….

  99. Calanctus–

    Nicely done, although “platform” is, I believe, understating the case when referring to the time/space/plane spanning triumph Tethia completed.

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