Perhaps three and a half stars~Initial thoughts: good, but not one of his best. The novel is more like four vignettes; a short story by Devera, a story about an elaborate distraction and con done during the days when Vlad was engaged with Cawti, an incident involving the Jenoine that involves Khaavren, Cawit, Daro and Norathar and another story that is more "current," when he meets Khaavren. The characters are well done as always, but the tiassa as object remains a mystery. Otherwise, Tiassa could very well refer to the Tiassa people, specifically Khaavren. I liked the stories, they were certainly true to the overall Taltos stories and fit well with other storylines. All four were told in different voices; the Devera section was more like a diary, the the Vlad story was told in typical early Taltos style, the third more like later Vlad or the Phoenix Guard style. The Paarfi voice made a reappearance for the last story, which was a little odd. I was expecting more of a cohesive novel similar to others in the Cycle series, but this was almost more of a "filler" book, or a short story book than a true installment in the Vlad chronicles. I look forward to the next. It seems like Brust has had some challenges of late that include a return to Minnesota; I wish him well with many more stories.It was fun to see a picture of the cycle in it's entirety; I confess the pictures of some of the animals were nothing like the mental images I had.