Most helpful positive review
20 of 20 people found the following review helpful
Fresh, exciting vampire action in a rich, immersive setting
on 27 July 2004
Not so long ago, there was a pervasive sense, even among horror fans, that the vampire genre was dead, that it had been bled dry of all creativity and effectiveness. We now know better, of course. One of the more recent scintillating entries in the vampire genre is Dhampir by Barb & J.C. Hendee. If you're a vampire fan, you will almost certainly enjoy this formidable work of dark fantasy literature. While I wouldn't go so far as to equate it with Buffy the Vampire Slayer, it is exciting both viscerally and intellectually.
Magiere has built quite a reputation as a vampire hunter; she doesn't come cheap, but she always gets her vampire. Of course, her "vampire" is always her trusty half-elven partner Leesil playing the role of the undead fiend. It's a living, but Magiere has grown tired of the game, tired of basically robbing villages of their wealth; it's not as if the superstitious folks across the land actually need protecting since vampires don't exist in the first place. She has just purchased a tavern in the coastal city of Miiska, and she can't wait to get there and start a new life. Then she is attacked one night by a man with supernatural strength and abilities; lucky to survive the fierce fight, she is left troubled by the emotional and physical changes she experienced in the heat of battle. Although she does not realize it at first, a trio of vampires awaits her in Miiska and plots to destroy her, thinking this famous "hunter" is coming to destroy them. She doesn't even know what she is yet, though - not only is she truly a vampire hunter, she is a dhampir. While she is a mortal being, the vampire half of her blood gives her the ability and specialized skills to kill the Noble Undead. Leesin has a secret heritage of his own which makes him an ideal partner for the true hunter, and Leesin's dog Chap also possesses the special capacity to take on the undead. Magiere's undead foes are quite shocked to learn that she can actually harm them with her blade, and their growing realization of her true power and innate calling only furthers the determination of the head vampire Rashed to kill this hunter in order to protect his vampire family.
It's an odd set of vampires: Rashed finds comfort in a mortal life, setting himself up as a businessman and insisting that his kind feed upon but not kill its victims. The female Teesha also finds comfort in the trappings of normal life and is actually quite likable in several ways. Then there is Ratboy, the Pig Pen of the vampire world whose feral tendencies sometimes threaten to reveal the vampire presence to the local populace. The vampires also have an ally in the form of Teesha's husband (who just so happens to be a nearly-headless ghost). Magiere doesn't want to fight vampires, but the fact that she keeps getting attacked by them makes it unavoidable. Her mind is in constant turmoil, trying to cope with the increasingly troubling revelations about her true nature, worrying about Leesil on a number of levels, fighting just to survive each night when the sun goes down, dealing with a sense of guilt for the false life she has led up until now, and yearning for the settled, peaceful life she craves so dearly.
All of the main characters are complex and very human (or nonhuman, as the case may be), even the dog Chap. That makes the fight scenes all the more thrilling, and the Hendees know how to make vampire action exciting, I can assure you. There are a number of skirmishes and knock-down-drag-out-cut-off-the-head fights in these pages, each of them described in vivid detail. The thrill of it all isn't just blood lust either; the multi-layered richness to the vampires' lives and relationships raises them far above the level of simple monsters representing evil incarnate.
You still get your basic vampire mythology here, but some unusual additions to the lore help keep things lively and unpredictable. The fights are a joy to experience, as you get all sorts of killing instruments and murder techniques thrown in (garlic water, for example, when applied liberally to a vampire's skin, bakes it up into a most satisfying charred, smoky mess). The emotional growth of both Magiere and Leesil as the novel progresses offers a strong undercurrent that connects with the reader on a very human level, making these characters ones you really want to meet up with again in the future. The Hendees have created a truly vibrant world ready to open its arms wide to all vampire aficionados. Those who crave vampire-fighting action can sate their needs quite well in the pages of this novel, while those who want to understand the nature and motivations of vampires and their foes are in for a really special treat.