This is the first written Vlad Taltos-book and the fourth in the current in the internal chronological order. After reading the previous ones I have to admit that this is the one to start the series with. It’s full of background information which isn’t told either extensively or at all about Vlad, his job and family, the world, the Great Weapons, and everything.

The book is short, quick to read, fast paced, and full of plot twists and witty banter. Vlad owns his own small sector of the city of Adrilankha as a crime boss and an occasional assassin. One of his superiors in the hierarchy of his House, the Jhereg, approaches him with an offer of huge amounts of gold if Vlad would dispose of a certain Dragaeran. The trouble is that there’s a very strict time limit which would seriously cramp Vlad’s style. However, the money is too good and so our hero takes the job. Mellar, the guy Vlad’s been hired to kill, has managed to steal the treasury of the House of Jhereg. If that knowledge to out the Jhereg would be in serious trouble in the future and so Vlad has to work fast and silently.

Soon enough Vlad finds out that Mellar is in the Castle Black. The owner of the castle is Morrolan e’Drien who takes the protection of his guests very seriously. He’s also a friend of Vlad’s. In fact, if Vlad, or any other Jhereg for that matter, would try to take out Mellar in the castle, it would probably lead to a devastating war between Morrolan’s House of the Dragon and the Jheregs. However, Vlad’s superior are ready to risk that in order to nail Mellar so Vlad has to be very, very sneaky and very quick.

Dragaera is a complex society. While there aren’t much sexism in it (except in the Jhereg House where the sexes have been divided into male assassin/thieves and female sorceresses), there are certainly more than enough conflicts between the seventeen Houses, nobility and the peasants, Dragaerans and the humans, and of course between individuals. The Dragaerans are the equivalent of elves in many worlds: bigger, stronger, far more long-lived, far better at using sorcery than humans. That’s why the Dragaerans rule most of the known world and think of humans as barely sentient creatures.

The society is also very high magic: people teleport and are routinely brought back to life unless their brain has been destroyed or they don’t have enough money. Instead of cell phones people use psionic contact.

Brust’s style is quite sparse and more concentrated on dialogue than description. However, he’s not quite as sparse here as in the later books.