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Literature / The Saga of the Noble Dead

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Series of novels by Barb and JC Hendee. Basically, Vampire Fiction meets High Fantasy meets Dark Fantasy, with some twists along the way. Main protagonist Magiere is a Dhampyr (born of human and vampire) and a supernaturally powerful hunter of the undead, charging exorbitant fees to protect the countryside peasants from all manner of things that should have remained in the grave- or is she?

The truth is, Magiere and her half-elf partner Leesil are con-artists, taking advantage of peoples' gullibility to make a living (he plays the vampire and she dramatically "slays" him). After saving up enough money, they decide to retire to a sleepy port town and open an inn- but a chance encounter with a real vampire sets much larger events in motion, and Magiere winds up having to really become the thing she's pretended to be for years. It gradually becomes apparent, however, that there are much more dangerous things out there than the living dead, and some of them have taken an interest in the protagonists' doings...

The series is divided into arcs, which tell largely self-contained stories while advancing the overall plot. The series is currently complete at 14 books taking place across three arcs.

First Arc:
Thief of Lives
Sister of the Dead
Traitor to the Blood
Rebel Fay
Child of a Dead God

Second Arc:
In Shade and Shadow
Through Stone and Sea
Of Truth and Beasts

Third Arc:
Between Their Worlds
The Dog in the Dark
A Wind in the Night
First and Last Sorcerer
The Night Voice

A number of e-book novellas that are not directly part of the Myth Arc but further flesh out the world have been released, and Barb Hendee is currently releasing The Mist-Torn Witches, a spin-off series set in the same world; this series is much smaller-scale and more episodic in nature, following a pair of sisters who serve as court seers to a prince in Droevinka (Magiere's homeland).

Mist-Torn Witches
The Mist-Torn Witches
Witches in Red
Witches With the Enemy
To Kill a Kettle Witch

A second spin-off by both Hendees, The Dead Seekers, had its first installment released in January 2017.

This series provides examples of:

  • Action Girl: Magiere; she has hints of Dark Action Girl as well despite being the protagonist. Most female elves are also examples.
  • Anti Anti Christ: Magiere
  • Anti-Hero: Magiere and Leesil at first, though they gradually move more towards straight heroism
  • Anti-Villain: The three vampires from the first novel (well, maybe not Ratboy), who may be bloodsucking fiends but avoid killing where possible and just want the same thing the heroine does- to be left alone. They probably wouldn't have fought at all if Welstiel hadn't arranged it as a test for Magiere.
  • Aristocrats Are Evil: Well, not all of them, but some certainly are, and most others who appear are still either arrogant or out of touch with reality.
  • Artifact of Doom: The orb Welstiel's after so he doesn't have to feed anymore; used properly, it could fuel an army of undead indefinitely.
  • Batman Gambit: Il'Samar's Evil Plan is built around Magiere and Welstiel, which actually includes Welstiel's own Batman Gambit to manipulate Magiere into stealing the orb for him. And don't even get started on the elves, who seem to do this sort of thing in their spare time...
  • Badass Normal: Leesil
  • Battle Couple: Magiere and Leesil, eventually.
  • Big Bad: il'Samar, the Night Voice. Creepily, originally known as Beloved to its minions.
    • So far, each arc has also had its own Big Bad- Welstiel in the first arc, Sau'ilahk in the second, and a Big Bad Ensemble of Danvarfij and Sau'ilahk again in the third.
  • Black-and-Grey Morality: The Big Bad is an Eldritch Abomination, but the major forces opposing it aren't exactly squeaky clean themselves, and the heroes just want to be left alone.
  • Black Cloak: Ubad wears one, and Sau'ilahk pretty much is one.
  • Bodyguard Betrayal: Chane towards Welstiel in the climactic battle of Child of a Dead God
  • Broken Bird: Magiere
  • Canine Companion: Chap
  • The Caligula: Warlord Darmouth was always a brutal tyrant, but by the time he shows up in Traitor to the Blood, his rampant paranoia has pretty much driven him completely nuts as well.
  • Castle Full Of Crazy: Li'kän was apparenly once a scholar of some sort, but by the time she and the keep she guarded was found in Child of a Dead God there were incoherent ramblings in multiple dead languages scrawled on half the walls in her own blood.
  • The Chessmaster: Most Aged Father
  • Child by Rape: Magiere's mother did not volunteer for Ubad's little project.
  • The Chosen One: Leesil, who is supposed to kill il'Samar. As of yet, he has no intention of trying to fulfill it, though this is partially due to lack of knowledge on his part.
  • The Con: Leesil would pose as a ghostly undead while Magiere posed as a dhampir vampire hunter. This was before they found out vampires were real and that Magiere actually is a dhampir.
  • Cosmic Keystone: Possibly the five "anchors of existence"
  • Couldn't Find a Pen: Li'kan ran out of paper, and began writing on the walls of her fortress; she ran out of ink, and began writing in her own blood.
  • Covers Always Lie: Largely averted, as each cover shows a scene that takes place in the novel. Played straight in that apart from the first and third, which have appropriately creepy looking Magieres, they show the heroine as looking like an ordinary human woman rather than the spooky half-undead she is.
  • Dark and Troubled Past: Both Magiere and Leesil have them
  • Defrosting Ice Queen: Leesil eventually defrosts Magiere toward the end of Thief of Lives.
  • The Determinator:
    • Magiere. Especially when her Dhampir nature is in effect or she is influenced by the dreams of il'Samar.
    • The Anmaglahk aspire to this, never deviating from an assigned purpose for any reason. Obviously if Anmaglahks were ever assigned conflicting purposes and set on a collision course with one another the results would be disasterous...
  • Dismembering the Body: Vampires are beheaded and burned to prevent their return as just staking and burning them is quickly discovered not to keep 'em down.
  • The Dragon: Chane, at first to Toret and later to Welstiel
  • Driven to Madness: During the Forgotten History, the Eaters of Silence used sorcery to drive the entire population of Baalale Seatt mad.
  • Eat Me: Chap's Spirit is so powerful that any vampire which drinks his blood is destroyed by it. He uses this method to take down attackers in Child of a Dead God and The Dog in the Dark.
  • Eldritch Abomination: il'Samar. It's hard to tell exactly what it is at this point, but it seems to fit this most closely.
  • Enemy to All Living Things: All undead in this universe, who have to feed on the living to survive. Precisely how varies - vampires consume a large amount of energy from one person (usually fatally), while others gradually drain the energy from their environment. Magiere is like this too, but only when her dhampir powers fully activate.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: Welstiel dislikes feeding, considering it demeaning - he uses magic to absorb energy much more quickly and efficiently for himself (though not for the victim). Chane also has standards, but his are the reverse- he's often bothered by his partner's absolute clinical cruelty, even though hot-blooded murder is something he can actively enjoy.
  • Evil Chancellor: Ubad was this to Welstiel and Magiere's father.
  • Evil Mentor: Welstiel was training Magiere to kill vampires so she could fetch an Artifact of Doom for him.
  • Evil Old Folks: Ubad, Most Aged Father.
  • Evil Sorcerer: Ubad. Welstiel and Chane are less extreme examples.
    • Sau'ilahk from the second arc.
    • In this setting, the term "sorcerer" specifically refers to mages who deal with spirits, such as necromancers. It's generally considered the most dangerous kind of magic, though not all sorcerers are capital E evil.
  • The Fair Folk: The Fae definitely seem to oppose il'Samar, but otherwise come across as mysterious, amoral, and not exactly nice, Chap excepted.
  • Fake Danger Gambit: Magiere and Leesil were a pair of con artists who stage fake vampire hunts; he plays the vampire and she dramatically "slays" him, to scam people out of money.
  • Fake–Real Turn: Magiere and Leesil had a good scam going until they accidentally blunder into the lair of an actual vampire clan and have to become hunters for real.
  • Fantastic Racism: The elves distrust humans and look down on them a great deal. This is because their leader, Most Aged Father, was present at the creation of the first vampires from human stock, and views all humans as potential undead.
  • Fish People: The Dunidae, "Deep Ones"
  • The Fog of Ages: Pawl a'Seatt is a vampire so old that he has forgotten most of the details of his early life.
  • Freudian Excuse: Several.
    • Chane's experiences with his abusive father fueled misanthropy that turned into full blown homicidal psychosis after becoming a vampire.
    • Magiere got the idea for conning villagers because of how her own village hated and feared her for her obviously supernatural nature unusual appearance.
    • Most Aged Father is a paranoid Knight Templar as a result of witnessing the creation of the first vampires.
  • Full-Frontal Assault: Li'kan fights naked in the ice-bound castle. Being a vampire, the cold doesn't bother her.
  • Functional Magic: Anybody can learn Rule Magic; vampires and some others have Inherent Gift, and elven magic seems somewhere in between.
    • In general, magic is divided into three spheres- thaumaturgy (deals with the physical, used for crafting artifacts), conjury (used for summoning elemental forces and spirits) and sorcery (dealing with the mind and spirit). The schools are not mutually exclusive, and can be combined to produce more dramatic effects (necromancy, for example, is a blend of conjury and sorcery).
  • Genre Shift: The first book resembles Buffy the Vampire Slayer IN MEDIEVAL TRANSYLVANIA! The second has elements of this, but starts introducing the overall High Fantasy plotline. This plotline becomes dominant from there on out.
  • Go Mad from the Isolation: The vampire Li'kän is apparently the last guardian of an artifact that can sustain an army of undead indefinitely. By the time Magiere and co. find the keep she had been alone so long she had almost forgotten what speech was.
  • God in Human Form: Technically, Chap is a Fae in Canine Form, but the basic idea is the same.
  • Grand Theft Me: Chap uses his power as a Fay to take over the body of a human in The Dog in the Dark.
  • Half-Human Hybrid: Both protagonists, though Magiere was created by magic, while Leesil was born normally. Additionally, the second arc has Prince Frey, who is part Deep One.
  • The Heart: Wynn, who specifically describes herself as Magiere's conscience.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Sgaile makes one.
  • Hidden Agenda Villain: Welstiel is this for several books, with his scheme only gradually being revealed. The Fae seem to be becoming this as well- they were always mysterious, but the last several books have started moving them into the territory of the downright dangerous.
  • Interspecies Romance: Leesil's parents & Leesil himself with Magiere.
  • Jackass Genie: Il'samar seems to have these tendencies; Sau'ilahk, one of its most loyal servants, was a vain man who was jealous of the vampires because they could keep their youth and beauty eternally, and he requested that it make him immortal as well. It did so by turning him into a wraith- a creature that is literally The Faceless.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Magiere.
  • Sugar-and-Ice Personality: Magiere, though she also has elements of Tsundere.
  • Luke, I Am Your Father: Welstiel, Magiere's occasional mentor and ultimate nemesis, is actually her brother.
  • Magic Knight: Chane.
  • The Man Behind the Curtain: Most Aged Father, who true to his title is a withered old elf who's barely moved in centuries. Don't think for a moment he isn't dangerous, though- he's got impressive magical powers, formidable intellect, and a secret organization of fanatically devoted followers on his side, and he doesn't hesitate to use all three.
  • The Man Behind the Man: Il'samar is behind Welstiel and Ubad both.
  • Meaningful Rename: All elves do these at their coming of age based on a vision quest. The most notable in the series, though, was to Aoishenis-Ahare (Most Aged Father) from Sorkhafare.
  • Morality Pet: Wynn ultimately takes on this role to Chane, though at first without her knowledge
  • Mutual Kill: Sgaile and Hkuan'duv
  • My Hovercraft Is Full of Eels: Leesil's attempts at speaking Elvish. At one point, his attempt to ask an elf for directions comes out as an insult against the elf's mother.
  • Mysterious Protector: Welstiel appears and disappears seemingly at random, gives Magiere information and aid as she needs it but in a subversion, is probably the most dangerous human scale villain in the series
  • No One Could Survive That!: So you burn and maim the local vampires then wreck their coffins before burning their lair and the warehouse above it to ashes. Not bad for first timers, but not nearly good enough.
    • Magiere defies this trope during her final confrontation with Welstiel. When he starts toppling into a ravine she drags him back so she can cut his head off.
  • Obfuscating Stupidity: Chap and later Shade initially hide the true extent of their intelligence
  • Omnicidal Maniac: Il'samar, apparently- there are only so many goals for which "create an army of undead that will wipe out everything in its path before devouring itself" is an effective strategy, after all.
  • Our Dragons Are Different: They are called gi'uyllae, "all-eaters", and are descended from the Fay.
  • Our Dwarves Are All the Same
  • Our Elves Are Different: They are long lived and highly advanced, but they're also arrogant, manipulative Well Intentioned Extremists. Not all of them are bad, but the human characters generally have no problem with calling those who are on their transgressions.
  • Our Goblins Are Different: Furry, bestial humanoids used as pack animals by the forces of il'Samar during the war.
  • Our Vampires Are Different: They're fairly standard bloodsucking undead who fall dormant during the day, though they have Psychic Powers (precisely what this does varies from vamp to vamp), create others of their kind by draining mortals extremely quickly, and were created by the Big Bad to cleanse the world of mortal life. There are also "ordinary" vampires, who fit the more intelligent and sophisticated modern stereotypes, as compared to "ferals", which are more like the shambling animalistic corpses of medieval legend.
  • Overly Long Name: Most elves have these. Translated into English, they tend to become Meaningful Names as well.
  • Parental Abandonment: Magiere's mother died giving birth to her and her father died in the act of siring her as a key compoment of the ritual that made her conception even possible. Leesil's parents sacrificed their own lives to save their teenaged son from Darmouth's hunters but his mother is actually still alive.
  • Pet the Dog: The only things Chane cares about apart from killing are scholarship and Wynn, and he's wiling to risk himself to protect her. Otherwise, he has no redeeming qualities. By the end of Child of a Dead God, though, he appears to recognize this and seems genuinely depressed about it, which may or may not count as a redeeming quality in and of itself, depending on how charitable one is.
  • Post-Climax Confrontation: Between the heroes and the Anmaglahk in Child of a Dead God, which happens several chapters after Magiere's climactic duel with Welstiel.
  • Power Incontinence: In one book, Wynn uses a spell to give herself mantic sight- the ability to see residual traces of magical energy. Problem is, this turns out to be rather hard to turn off, and has lingering effects throughout the series. Magiere also sometimes has problems controlling her dhampir side.
  • Punctuation Shaker: Most elvish names have at least one apostrophe in them. Considering how hard elvish is to pronounce, though, it's possible that they represent a sound the Latin alphabet has no letter for.
  • Professional Killer: Leesil used to be an assassin, as were both his parents. There turns out to be a whole Elven caste of these, but they don't just kill people...
  • Psycho for Hire: Chane
  • Red Right Hand: The fact that Magiere has chalk-white skin no matter how much sun she gets is a pretty solid indicator that she isn't human. The fact that her eyes turn jet black and she grows fangs when angry clinches the deal. She's not actually evil, but as a result of these traits has been treated like she is by the superstitious all her life.
  • Retired Monster: In the second arc, Chane is still evil, but has dialed it down to more "ordinary" vampire levels- this has next to nothing to do with guilt or remorse, and a lot more to do with the fact that he's the Token Evil Teammate now, and if he goes too overboard, Wynn (the only mortal he respects) won't tolerate his presence any longer. As of the end of Of Truth and Beasts he seems to have had an epiphany- only time will tell if it sticks.
  • Rite of Passage: All elves undergo one to receive their true name
  • Screw You, Elves!: Magiere and especially Leesil aren't afraid to call the elves out on their... issues. The elves usually ignore it, but that doesn't stop the two from doing it.
  • Shoot the Hostage: Done with a thrown stiletto rather than a gun in The Dog in the Dark.
  • Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism: Near the middle, leaning somewhat towards cynical. There are definitely good people out there, and The Power of Love is a real force, at least for love as strong as Magiere and Leesil's, but the world itself isn't a happy place, and most of the major factions can be... unpleasant if rubbed wrong.
  • The Smart Guy: Wynn
  • Smug Snake: Ratboy, aka Toret, morphs into this in the second book when he tries to set himself up as the leader of his own coven of vampires, rather than a lackey. It doesn't work out all that well for him.
  • Squishy Wizard: Played straight with Wynn, Most Aged Father, and Ubad. Averted with the vampire spellcasters.
  • Starter Villain: Rashed and Teesha in Dhampir.
  • Superpowered Evil Side: Magiere's dhampir nature.
  • Troubled, but Cute: Leesil, who puts on an air of roguish charm but drinks constantly so he won't have to think about all the people Darmouth made him kill.
  • Vampires Are Sex Gods: some are, anyway. You'd have to have some ''very'' strange fetishes to go for Ratboy or especially the ferals, though.
  • Vampire Bites Suck: Chane and some vampires just tear into their victims throats.
  • Vampire Hunter: Magiere and Leesil fake being vampire hunters before actually becoming hunters of the undead.
  • Villainous Breakdown: Welstiel goes into one for pretty much all of the sixth book, after realizing that all along he'd been just an expendable pawn to il'Samar.
  • The Voiceless: Chap, who despite being a fully sentient Fae has the body and vocal chords of a dog and therefore can't make intelligible speech. He's usually able to find a way to express himself, though.
  • Voluntary Shapeshifting: Some of the Mondyalitko people can transform into cats at will
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist: Most Aged Father, possibly the Fae
  • White Magician Girl: Wynn again, who is a very weak fighter but has a variety of useful support magic. In the first arc this is mostly limited to sensing and identifying supernatural influences; in the second, she gets a literal staff that projects beams of sunlight, which in a setting full of undead, is a very handy weapon to have.
  • You Killed My Father: Leesil to Lord Darmouth, Hedi Progae to Leesil
  • Your Soul Is Mine!: Ubad is surrounded by an entourage of souls, implied to be the souls of people he's killed, which add power to his magic.

Alternative Title(s): Saga Of The Noble Dead