Steven Karl Zoltan Brust (born November 23, 1955) is an American fantasy and science fiction author of Hungarian descent. He was a member of the writers' group The Scribblies, which included Emma Bull and Patricia Wrede. He is best known for his novels about the assassin Vlad Taltos.
The Dragaeran books
Spoiler warning: Plot, ending, or solution details follow.
The Taltos series is set on another world in an empire mostly inhabited by the Dragaerans, who are humanoid but have such differences as averaging about 7 feet tall. Referred to as "elfs" by some humans, they refer to themselves as "human". Vlad Taltos is one of the human minority (known by Dragaerans as "Easterners") and practices the human art of witchcraft ("táltos" is Hungarian for a kind of supernatural person in folklore). Though human, he is a citizen of the empire because his socially climbing father paid a lot of money to be adopted into one of the Dragaeran Great Houses. The only Great House that sells memberships this way is, not coincidentally, also the one that maintains a criminal organization, which Vlad joins. Despite being a human and a criminal, Vlad has a number of high-ranking Dragaeran friends and often gets caught up in important events.
Brust has written nine novels in the series, which is proposed to run to nineteen novels - one named for each of the Great Houses, one named for Vlad himself, and a final novel which Brust has said will be titled The Last Contract. The first three novels resemble private-eye detective stories, perhaps the closest being Robert B. Parker's Spenser series. The later novels are more varied than the first three. Though they read like fantasy, there are hints at science-fictional explanations for some things.
Brust has also written another series set in Dragaera, but centuries before Vlad's time. As Dragaerans live for thousands of years, many characters appear in both series. It is partly an homage to Alexandre Dumas's novels about the Three Musketeers, and is five volumes long, following the pattern of Dumas's series. The books are presented as historical novels by a Dragaeran roughly contemporary with Vlad. They are written in an elaborate, old-fashioned style based on Dumas's.
There is a certain amount of variance in the writing style amongst the Taltos novels as well. Brust uses a different narrative approach in almost every novel in the series. Some of these approaches are more purely stylistic and, though enjoyable, have minor effects on the actual story-telling; some are profound and involve the point-of-view of characters whom the reader never expected to get to know so well.
Further, as the writing of the Taltos novels has spanned over two decades, they have been influenced by events in Steven Brust's own life. An infatuation and (subsequent to the murder of a friend) disillusionment with the Mafia, and later the breakup of Steven Brust's marriage, have both profoundly influenced his storylines.
Lastly, it should be noted that Brust has a decided knack for slipping absorbing mysteries into the minor details of his stories; mysteries that tend to fascinate his readers, once they notice them, and often form the kernel around which later books coalesce, even though their resolution still springs upon the reader unexpectedly when it finally comes.
The same character, usually a cute brown-eyed girl of about nine, appears in all of Brust's novels. In the Dragaeran books her name is Devera, she's the daughter of another character, and she seems to be able to appear anywhere in time and space. In the other books she has "walk-on" roles, and sometimes it's not obvious where she shows up.
(partial - book-length works only)
with Vlad Taltos
the Khaavren romances
The Phoenix Guards (1991)
Five Hundred Years After (1994)
The Viscount of Adrilankha, published in three volumes:
The Paths of the Dead (2002)
The Lord of Castle Black (2003)
Sethra Lavode (2004)
Brokedown Palace (1986)
To Reign in Hell (1984)
The Sun, the Moon, and the Stars (1987)
Cowboy Feng's Space Bar and Grille (1990)
The Gypsy (1992) with Megan Lindholm
Freedom and Necessity (1997) with Emma Bull