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Traitor to the Blood: A Novel of the Noble Dead by Barb  Hendee, J.C. Hendee
Review by Nicki Lynch
Roc Hardcover Hardcover  ISBN/ITEM#: 0451460669
Date: 03 January, 2006 List Price $23.95 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /

One of the most difficult trends in fantasy stories today is the series. It is difficult in that the reader must not only read the books in order, but must find the first book in the series upon discovering the series. Unless a series is very popular, many book stores will either not carry the earlier books or will occasionally have an earlier one in the series, but not the entire series. While most series fantasy novels have the claim of being standalone, they rarely are.

This is the case with Barb and J.C. Hendee's Nobel Dead series. The novels are all part of one epic story (which is why reviews say it is like the Lord of the Rings trilogy) and not standalone at all. Yes, one can get the idea of what is happened in other books, but the characters' angst and relationships as well as their motivations often have a basis in previous books. The impact of what happened in previous books just isn't the same when explained in a few paragraphs.

Traitor to the Blood is the 4th in the Nobel Dead series and the series has slowed down from its previous leisurely pace. The first novel, Dhampir, introduced Magiere and her partner, the half-elf Leesil. The pair had been running a vampire hunter scam in small villages and finally decided to settle down as innkeepers on the money they had made. Unfortunately, Magiere's reputation had preceded her and a trio of dangerous vampires decided to find out if this so called dhampir was as good as reputed. To Magiere's surprise, she actually was a dhampir and dispatches the vampires.

In the second novel, Thief of Lives, Magiere and Leesil have purchased a tavern and are settling into a quiet life when vampire activity in the country's capital, Bela, is reported. Even though Magiere and Leesil resist the idea of vampire hunting, they end up going to the capital to do just that. While there they make the acquaintance of a young sage, Wynn, who turns out to be quite a help. They also discover that Leesil's dog, Chap is not just a dog, but part fey, part flesh, born for the mission to bring Magiere and Leesil together for purpose known only to his people. Magiere and Leesil meet up with a nobleman, Welstiel Massing, who might be an ally in not only fighting vampires, called Noble Dead, but also knows the secret of Magiere's past. Unfortunately, he is also one of the Noble Dead and seems to want Magiere for this own reasons. Wynn also has an encounter with a nobleman, Chane, who is very taken with the sage. Wynn finds him a wonderful companion, until she discovers he is one of the Noble Dead.

Once Magiere and Leesil dispatch the vampires, with the help of Wynn and Chap, Magiere decides she needs to find out about what her abilities are as well as her heritage. Thus begins the quest in the third book of the series, Sister of the Dead.

Accompanied by Wynn and Chap, Magiere and Leesil travel the perilous road to the village of Chemestúk, where Magiere was born and raised. Unknown to them, they are followed by two vampires, Welstiel, who is trying to influence where they are going, and Chane, who is still in love with Wynn and hopes to get her to change her mind about him. In learning about her mother and why she was created to kill vampires, Magiere discovers Welstiel is her half-brother. She also discovers the evil mage that helped create her has cursed the land. After destroying him, Magiere now has another quest to fulfill - to find what happened to Leesil's parents.

In the current book, Traitor to the Blood, the four travelers go to Leesil's home in the Warlands, where his parents - human father, elf mother - served Lord Darmouth as spies and assassins. The strain in the relationships between the four is beginning to show. Magiere is still not happy with the sage Wynn traveling with them. Wynn is becoming wary of Chap after experiencing some of his fey nature when he rescued her from a dark spell she used in Sister of the Dead to save Magiere. Leesil is suffering flashbacks of his deeds as an assassin and what he did to escape from the city, not knowing if his parents managed to escape from the city or suffered the fate of traitors. Even Chap is suffering doubts about what the fey's purpose is.

Settling in the inn run by a friend of Leesil's father, the spy Byrd, the four discover that there is a plot afoot to assassinate Lord Darmouth, which will spread the war he has been waging to more than just the neighboring provinces. However, they may have a more serious problem on their hands, vampire activity has been reported in the city. After the mistress of a favored noble has been attacked, Lord Darmouth is informed that a dhampir is in the city.

The vampire attacks are no coincident, as Welstiel is still following them and is still accompanied by Chane, whom he brought back after Magiere beheaded him. Chane is no longer the quiet intellectual, but a violent husk looking only to get revenge on Magiere for his killing.

Leesil must face his past as well as try to find out if his parents are still alive, while Magiere copes with finding and killing the vampire.

Traitor to the Blood, while presenting more intrigue than other books in the series, seems to be much slower, burdened with having to catch the reader up on the past three books, as well as replaying key experiences several times. Magiere, Leesil, and Wynn are becoming strangers to each other and less interesting. In earlier books, Leesil and Wynn would supply parts of Magiere's puzzle based on their experiences while in this book, Leesil is isolated from them. Even Chap seems to have lost his connection with Leesil.

If you've read the first four Noble Dead books, Traitor to the Blood is a must read. If you've never read the earlier books in the series, this is not the book to start with.

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