I read this book about 1-Dec-2011. I've read this book before. The book is copyright 1988. This note was last modified Sunday, 04-Dec-2011 13:07:10 PST.
This note contains spoilers for the book.
This must be the fourth-written of the Vlad Taltos books.
It's his origin story as an assassin and as a Jhereg area boss, and also how he got to know Aliera and Sethra and Morollan. At the start, he (and those around him) don't really even know if Sethra is real, or mythical. At the end, she's telling Vlad she is in his debt.
We never do know, in any detail, what exactly the Empire needs Aliera for; but Morollan is willing to die for it, and Sethra thinks it's important even if she can't leave Dzur mountain at the moment (we learn later that's often associated with keeping the Jenoine out). And Vlad helps them do it, and when Aliera absolutely insists that Morollan can't sacrifice himself to get her out (as he had planned), Vlad comes up with the solution, at the risk of his life. He and Loiosh (and Aliera) can just walk out, if they choose, at that point. Vlad's choosing to stay, and managing to find a way to bring Morollan out, is a big, big, deal, sufficient to be the basis for the ongoing friendship between the three later one (in-universe timeline).
Vlad's solution is to steal the vial of the blood of a god that he's holding for Kiera. And teleport it via witchcraft (which is impossible) to their location near the Halls of Judgment (where sorcery is blocked from working). And then put it into Morollan, not knowing what that will do. Verra and Aliera and also Kieron talk about it being the blood that controls who can and can't leave there.
This seems to be a very poor return for all the favors Kiera has done him over the years.
Extra spoiler warning! This is arguably THE big spoiler in the entire series at least so far. This note is flagged as having spoilers, but this is an extra special case, and I'm warning you, you probably really don't want to know this out of sequence.
Now, from our perspective as repeat readers of the series who know things only revealed much later, it's clear that Sethra gives Vlad the vial of blood under her Kiera identity precisely so he'll have it to use for this. Which means she anticipates both the need (Morollan going, and Aliera refusing to leave him there), and Vlad's ability to access that blood from far away. Which is quite a feat of prognostication. But then, she's a god-level player. I believe we're told she has been offered godhood and turned it down.
But Vlad doesn't know this, and Kiera has been very good to him, and he likes her, and she's a top thief and sneaker, so if she got really pissed at him she could probably kill him easily enough. So this is quite a leap. Maybe Sethra does something to let him make that choice. And Sethra, of course, doesn't consider him that different from Dragaerans; they're all that different from her, by this point. She does seem to have kept her "humanity" quite intact through all this time and all this power, which is quite an achievement when you think about it.
While we're on this subject, there's a nice moment when Loiosh asks Vlad if they have met Sethra before. Vlad says no, of course not, we'd remember (her being a mythical person and all that; you wouldn't forget). But, as we learn later, they have, of course, since Kiera is Sethra. So Loiosh was detecting something, at least. Also, Steven clearly knew that Kiera was Sethra at least this early.