By Steven Brust.
This is one of the more interesting Vlad books. It's early on on his timeline. After a bagman of his steals from hi and goes running off, Vlad goes in search of him. He finds out that it was all a setup by two very powerful Dragaerans-- Morrolan the Dragon Lord and Sethra Lavode, big shot vampire-- because they want to recruit him for a job. Morrolan's dead cousin Aliera's soul has been imprisoned in a staff for a long-ass time, and Morrolan and Sethra have given up on nicer ways to get the staff from the guy who stolen it. Now they want Vlad to steal it. So he does, but then it turns out they want him for a further job...going down the Paths of the Dead to actually retrieve a body for Aliera. They figure that since Vlad is an Easterner, he should be allowed in and out without having to die/stay there forever. Morrolan, on the other hand... probably not so much. But they head off anyway, and the boys have an encounter with the demon goddess Verra, who Vlad got raised to worship. It's...interesting... And then there's the conundrum of "how do all three of us get out?"
The tale of going to the Paths of the Dead is interspersed with Vlad's retelling of his early days growing up, hanging out with his grandfather, and embarking on his career as a professional assassin. I'm...still not sure why the two are intertwined so thoroughly, other than the parts involving Kiera because that actually pays off in the later story.
I did like how all of the folks in this story came together. Even though Vlad isn't inclined to like most Dragaerians, he finds himself rather liking Morrolan and Aliera, and is surprised at the sympathy he has for them and how he actually wants to help them all out. I also like how it's foreshadowed about the past-life connections between people.
So, four stars for this one. One of the better stories in this series, I think.