Saturday, April 14, 2007

Traitor to the Blood – review

UK cover

Authors: Barb & J C Hendee

First Published: 2006

Contains spoilers

This is the fourth book of the Hendee’s Noble Dead (the term for vampires in the books) series and, as such, it will be nigh on impossible to review this without giving spoilers to the earlier books.

The Noble Dead series is interesting as it is a fantasy series, and is concerned with Magiere a dhampir, daughter of a human and a vampire. Traditionally dhampirs are the ideal vampire slayers, born to such a task.

In the first book Magiere and her half-elf companion Leesil went from village to village, faking vampire attacks and conning the villagers out of coin for their services in dealing with the undead. At that time Magiere was ignorant of her inheritance. However they were manipulated into facing the truth – and real vampires - by a manipulative vampire named Welstiel, who believes Magiere is the key to his own plans – plans that have only been hinted at so far as he continues to try and push Magiere towards his goal.

As the books progressed we discovered that Leesil was once an enslaved assassin, and is haunted by those things he has had to do and that his dog, Chap, was no ordinary hound. They also ended up with a further companion Wynn, a young scholar.

In this volume Leesil, Wynn, Chap and Magiere travel to the lands of Leesil’s youth, staying hidden from Lord Darmouth – the warlord who enslaved Leesil and his parents - so that they might discover the fate of Leesil’s human father and elvish mother. Leesil had been aware that their lives would be forfeit if he ran away, but he now hopes to discover whether they managed to escape.

Some of the vampire lore in this is very interesting and unusual. Whilst most vampires feed in the standard way, it is the life escaping with the blood and not the blood itself which is important. Welstiel has refined feeding using alchemical means:

“He slipped out his dagger and dipped its point between her lips, collecting a puddle of her blood on its tip. Tilting the blade over the cup, he let one red drop strike the water.

“It thinned and diffused. He began to chant.

“The air shuddered before his eyes. He felt it grow humid and warm in the distortion. The woman’s skin started to shrivel.

“Her body slowly dried to a shrunken husk as her life drained away.”

This causes the water to become filled with concentrated life that he then drinks. It is an interesting and unique idea and the books are full of them.

I really enjoy the series as a whole, and a lot of that comes from the fact that they are well written, with good plots but also because of the fantasy setting. It is nice to move away from the standard gothic and neo-gothic settings of a lot of vampire literature.

This actual volume, whilst well written, I enjoyed perhaps a little less – though I do not know why. Every other volume has grabbed me from the beginning but I found myself interested and yet not enthralled until about half way through. Perhaps it was because, whilst there were vampiric goings on, the book concentrated more on more standard fantasy fare. Don’t get me wrong, I do love a good, non-vampiric fantasy novel, but something didn’t quite gel (as completely as the earlier volumes) for a while.

That said the book is good and, in the series, provides a great deal of character building, around Leesil in particular. Over all, for this volume, 7 out of 10 and a suggestion that if you want some good fantasy writing, with a vampiric twist, do seek out this series – beginning with volume 1, entitled Dhampir, as the characters, plot and situations are built over the series and starting with a later volume may be confusing or, at the very least, would make the series less fulfilling.


Mateo said...

I'm not usually into fantasy series, but with the addition of a vampire story it might be something I can get into it. I'll look into the first book, since it presumably has more vampire content.

Taliesin_ttlg said...

Mateo, there is vampire content in this one - but it takes second place really. The first three are all very vampiric but you really are best starting with the first.

I actually thought you might find this one interesting.