Thursday, May 04, 2006

Review: "Traitor to the Blood" by Barb and J.C. Hendee

I've got several of the Noble Dead books by Barb and J.C. Hendee in the box of books I plan to read some day. They've always looked interesting to me, but I've always seemed to get them at a time where I was just tired of vampire books.

When the latest in the series, and their hardcover debut, "Traitor to the Blood" ($23.95, Roc) arrived, I decided it was time to give them a shot.

The story centers around vampire hunter Magiere, who is a dhampir or half-vampire, and half-elf Leesil, who spent his early years as a captive assassin to Lord Darmouth. Traveling with them is a scribe named Wynn and an odd dog named Chap, that is really one of the fey. They're being tracked by Chane, a vampire that Magiere thinks she's killed, and Welstiel, who resurrected Chane and hopes to use Magiere to help him overcome his need for blood.

They arrive in Venjetz, Darmouth's city, to help Leesil come to grips with his past and discover what happened to his parents when he fled Darmouth's service. Through Welstiel's manipulations, Magiere finds herself in service to Darmouth as a vampire hunter, while Leesil has connected with a friend of his parents, Byrd, an innkeeper working with a resistance movement seeking to assassinate Darmouth and free the people. Of course, in the Warlands, things are not quite that simple.

I'm picking the story up in the fourth book of the series, and to be honest, I did feel at times that I'd understand the story a little better if I had been familiar with the first three books. On the other hand, the authors do a fine job of filling in the necessary details to make sure that readers picking the book up for the first time aren't lost and can enjoy the story.

Based on comments I've read, the previous three books offered a lot of action and battle with vampires, but this story is more of a fantasy in which one of the main characters just happens to be half-vampire. It deals much more with political maneuverings and intrigue than with stakings and beheadings, and there are some nice twists and turns to the story.

"Traitor to the Blood" holds appeal for both the fantasy fan and the vampire novel fan, whether or not you've been introduced to the characters before. It's a solid, enjoyable novel, and I'll be digging the past books in the series out and moving them to the top of the to-be-read stack.

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