Science fiction and fantasy                                            

Traitor to the Blood

by Barb and J. C. Hendee


The fourth book in the Noble Dead saga is a journey into the past for Leesil, as the half-elf returns to the country of his birth. In the prologue we learn more about his troubled life as the slave of Lord Darmouth, forced to work as an assassin in order to safeguard his own family.

In previous books readers were given a sense of Leesil's guilt over his former life, and his feelings of having betrayed his parents by leaving them to flee the province. Now he returns to find out more about their fate, on the strength of a suggestion that his mother is still alive.

Magiere would rather Leesil left the past well alone, but if she can't dissuade him then she will fight to protect him. The province of Lord Darmouth is war-torn and poverty stricken, and Darmouth rules it with an iron fist. Darmouth sees traitors everywhere, and his favourite trick is to ensure loyalty by holding people's families hostage so that they have to obey him. He's pretty much a caricature of a paranoid, evil dictator.

However the situation isn't as simple as one tyrant who needs to be overthrown in order to free his people. Although some people may be plotting against Darmouth, his removal will leave a power vacuum that could plunge the province into civil war. That would worsen an already bad situation for the desperate people of the region.

Magiere, Leesil and Chap are still accompanied by the scholar, Wynn. But Wynn is furious with Magiere because of the way she dealt with a certain vampire at the end of the last book. There's a sense of mistrust amongst their small group, and almost everyone else they meet has secrets and hidden motives that could get them into trouble. They stay with a man called Byrd, known to be a spy for Darmouth yet also a firm friend of Leesil's father, although they don't trust him at all. In a land where the wrong words spoken to the wrong person can lead to an execution, people aren't in the habit of saying what they really think.

To further complicate matters Magiere is followed by two vampires who have designs on her future, although one wants to keep her alive and the other to kill her. She's barely aware that Welstiel is attempting to manipulate her every move. Much more is at stake than Leesil's quest for closure on his past, and his desire for revenge.

Traitor to the Blood is highly enjoyable thanks to the level of intrigue and the complexity of the relationships between all the characters. The romance between Magiere and Leesil has never been a very overt or explicit part of the narrative, yet it's more powerful for its subtle intensity. It's not the Hendee's style to reveal all of their characters' bedroom activities. Instead people demonstrate their feelings by the lengths they will go in order to protect each other. So in spite of the reserved way the authors deal with this subject, the love stories that emerge are stirring and poignant.

With Traitor to the Blood the Noble Dead series continues to improve, combining an insightful look at trust and guilt with the vigour and excitement of a dhampir adventure.

Book Details

Year: 2006

Categories: Books


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4 star rating

Review © Ros Jackson

More about Barb and J C Hendee