About a year and a half ago, I read a book called “Dhampir”, written by Barb and J.C. Hendee. I first read the book because the main character in the series I’m trying to get published is a dhampir, and obviously the same goes for “dhampir”. Overall, I found Dhampir to be on the upper end of decent and I gave it a cautionary recommendation. After a year where the only proper vampire book I read is an unofficial sequel to Dracula though, I needed to read something else. It was about time to give Barb and J.C. Hendee’s second “Saga of the Nobel Dead” book a chance.
Like the first book, Thief of Lives stars Magiere, a dhampir who knows little about her past and just wants to live a normal life. In the first book, she bought a Tavern and ran it with her half-elf friend, Leesil, but they happened to set up in a town plagued by a trio of vampires. While they defeated these vampires, it cost the town in both lives and buildings. In order to help the town financially recover and rebuild, they travel to the capital city of Bela to solve another vampire problem.
Right away, this book is more entertaining than the first. The pacing is quicker and it doesn’t take all that long for Magiere and Leesil to reach Bela. Their pasts are also explored more, while still leaving plenty of room for mystery in future books. Also, it’s worth noting that I never found it hard to follow this book even though it’s been a year and a half since I read the first. Whether it’s because this book is good at explaining its connections to Dhampir or I just have a good memory with fiction, I’m not sure, but it’s worth noting.
Like Dhampir, Thief of Lives is written in third person perspective, and it switches between viewpoints from both sides of the conflict. The villains are just as complex as the heroes, and the main villain, Toret, is split between his desire for revenge and his survival instincts. Chane is caught somewhere in the middle. While he’s bound to Toret (who turned him into a vampire), he’s trying to break free. The relations between the vampires and third party characters only deepen the conflict further.
It’s this aspect that really makes this series work up to this point. Apart from Toret and a mystery figure, there isn’t really a villain in this book. Or at the least, Toret doesn’t see himself as a villain. The same thing happened in the first book, where the vampires were more victims of circumstance than actual villains. Another thing that really works is that the core story is very much self-contained, yet there’s already a deep connection between book 1 and 2 with clear build-up to book 3.
There are only two complaints I have with this book. One, the writing team rarely just use the word “said”. They often use either alternate words or adverbs. It’s generally better to use the word “said”. It’s supposed to be an invisible word that tells you everything you need to know. But this complaint isn’t enough to get in my way of enjoying an otherwise well-written book. Two, it feels a little anti-climactic. The characters hardly face any trouble at all taking down Toret and his followers. One particular villain’s death is nothing short of pathetic, although admittedly that’s part of the point with this villain.
Thief of Lives isn’t great, but it’s a good vampire book. It’s more of a fantasy title than it is horror, but there’s the occasional touch of that too. The action is fun, the inter character relationships can be fascinating and the mystery behind Magiere and Leesil’s pasts is fascinating. After reading the first book I said I might read this. After reading and enjoying Thief of Lives, I’m likely to read book 3 sometime in the next few months. The next book I’ll be reading is between Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows and a book recommended by a friend, Throne of Glass.