Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Review – “In Shade and Shadow” by Barb & J.C. Hendee

After escaping the castle of ancient vampires with Magiere and Leesil, Wynn Hygeorht has returned to Calm Seatt, home of the Guild of Sagecraft, bearing texts supposedly penned by vampires from the time of the Forgotten History and the Great War. Her superiors seize both the ancient texts and her personal journals, dismissing her tales of the undead as delusional fancies.

But the guild's scholars have not dismissed the texts. Without Wynn's consent, they begin sending the texts out to scriptoriums for copying. Then one night several pages disappear — and the two sages charged with conveying these pages are murdered. Suspicious of the Guild, separated from the only friends she fully trusts, and convinced the Noble Dead are responsible for the killings, Wynn embarks on a quest to uncover the secrets of the texts, unaware of her allies from unexpected quarters....
In Shade and Shadow is the first book in a new spin-off fantasy series that features Wynne (a sage) and Chane (a Noble Dead) who were secondary characters in the original six book Noble Dead series. Wynne has parted ways with Magiere, Leesil and Chap who are off disposing of the Orb. Chane has secretly followed Wynne across the sea to her homeland.

In Shade and Shadow is a departure from the high adventure of the first series and presents us with more of a detective/murder mystery atmosphere. From the cloistered environment of the Guild castle Wynn seeks answers to many questions. Are there Noble Dead in Calm Seatt? Why has she been marginalized by the Guild? What are the secrets contained in the scrolls brought back from her journey with Magiere and Leesil? Who is stealing the translations and murdering her fellow sages?

I was very much reminded of Umberto Eco’s historical whodunnit The Name of the Rose as I read In Shade and Shadow as both deal with scholarly characters, aspects of semiotics and a sinister murder mystery. Being cast into the role of outsider, Wynn is forced to primarily rely only on herself, her mentor and her hard-won experience to affect events which she is certain are all centred on the Noble Dead and the returning rise of ancient evil forces. Step by step, Wynn unravels the clues, leveraging her unique knowledge to research and nudge others to do her bidding.

The world of the Noble Dead series created by the Hendee’s is rich and textured, and In Shade and Shadow continues to add layers to the tapestry and delve into the mysteries of the vampires. Wynn’s personality evolves considerably from the original quiet, unassertive sage into a more empowered and driven character. Wynn acquires her own fae wolf as a companion and before the conclusion, it is obvious that Chane also wishes to be reunited with Wynne. Together they form an even more unlikely group then her original group of adventurers.

For readers of the earlier series, don’t expect the same energy-laden level of adventure. In Shade and Shadow takes a more studied approach in keeping with the nature of the new cast of characters. That is not a bad thing, merely different. However, I suspect things will ramp up in subsequent books as Wynn departs the Guild castle and the city in search of more answers with her newly acquired companions.

I found the book quite engaging, although I must admit I missed the dynamics of Magiere and Leesil somewhat. In Shade and Shadow does a creditable job of introducing many of the highlights of the back story from the previous series making it accessible to new readers. However given the opportunity, I would highly recommend reading the books from the first series as there has been a significant amount of world-building over the course of six books and it is not to be missed. Vampires in urban fantasy are a common theme, in regular fantasy not so much and the Noble Dead series is not to be missed. Readers of Anne Bishop’s Black Jewels books should also like this. Recommended.

Penguin Group (USA)
Published: January 2009
ISBN #: 9780451462503
Format: Hardcover
Pages: 400

Noble Dead Series 1:

  1. Dhampir (2003)
  2. Thief of Lives (2004)
  3. Sister of the Dead (2005)
  4. Traitor to the Blood (2006)
  5. Rebel Fay (2007)
  6. Child of a Dead God (2008)

Noble Dead Series 2:

  1. In Shade and Shadow (2009)
  2. Through Stone and Sea (scheduled for 2010)
  3. Of Truth & Beasts (working title - 2011)


  1. I have yet to get started on this series, though I have the first 5 books in my TBR pile. Thanks for another great review!

    I've nominted your blog for an award at

    Have a great day!

    Judi - Sidhe Vicious

  2. Hey Judi wow thanks for the nomination, those are fab words, eh.
    You must have an incredible TBR pile if you have an entire series waiting to be read :)

  3. Oh, this is such a thoughtful and in-depth review. Thank you.

    You're quite asute as well . . . when J.C. and I pitched the idea for this book to our publisher we said, "Think Name of the Rose set around a guild of sagecraft."

    Good spot!

  4. Thank you for dropping by Barb and the kind words. And wow thanks for confirming the "Name of the Rose" observation. But now we have to wait another year for the next. Sigh.

  5. I just received a review copy of this book and was on the fence as to whether or not I would read it next...and, thanks to your excellent review, I certainly shall! Thanks again for the great rec.

  6. Your welcome Thea. If you don't review it for your blog, let me know what you think.


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