Author: Steven Brust
Series: Vlad Taltos #4
When a routine collection goes afoul, Vladimir Taltos finds himself employed by Dragaerans rather than killing them. He isn’t sure what to make of Morrolan or Sethra. They’re paying well, and aren’t totally insufferable, but they’re also asking for the impossible. A living soul lies imprisoned in a staff, and it will take extraordinary feats of might and magic to bring it back to life.
Interwoven in the present tale is the story of how Vlad grew up and became the assassin he is today. I know I came at these in the wrong order but I’m amused at how I keep reading the story backwards, since this may be listed as book 4 but it’s chronologically before Yendi (book 2). Still, this fills in some gaps I was curious about, like Vlad’s references to the Path of the Dead, and how he and Morrolan became such good friends. Because it is odd (and amusing) that the Dragaeran-hating Vlad can count at least three among his small selection of friends.
It’s also fun to see Vlad’s personality getting the better of his common sense, particularly once he’s in the realm of the dead and taking out his bad temper on souls, companions, and gods alike. He’s unable to stop being himself even when he’s dealing with beings much more powerful than he is. And he’s got a twisty way of navigating obstacles that makes him a lot of fun to follow.
This wouldn’t be a bad place to start the series, actually, given the context. Like the others I’ve read in this series, it’s short (especially compared to the average fantasy paperback today, since this is only 181 pages), fast-paced, and enjoyable. I rate this book Recommended.