Reviews of Servants of the Wankh (1969)
This second book of Adventure Planet series is another entertaining yarn from the inimitable Jack Vance. The first two thirds of the book is a travel story; the last third hinges on the protagonist's efforts to steal a spaceship that will return him to Earth. Servants of the Wankh is not formulaic tripe; this becomes quite obvious early in the book when the love interest pulls out a knife, starts stabbing people, and then throws herself to the sharks.
Like many of Vance's other protagonists, Reith is a cynical hero who faces danger and deception (and at times makes mistakes). He's not particularly likable, but he does get things done.
The planet and societies and mysteries of Tschai are the real stars here. You've got several competing alien races, each convinced of their own innate superiority, and many with evolved-human servants (i.e., thousands of years ago, at least one of the starfaring races must have stopped by earth to "recruit" some domestic servants). The titular Wankh (changed to Wannek is some British versions to avoid an unfortunate connotation) are a powerful, mysterious race who rarely interact directly with the inferior other species (think Vorlons and you won't be far off). Add mysterious aboriginal races, and you've got a very broad canvas for Vance's imagination.