This is the sequel to DHAMPIR, which I had read and enjoyed, albeit with a few quibbles. One of them was that I came to like some of the "evil" vampires that the heroine, Magiere, was out to kill and another was a mysterious benefactor that seemed to be helping but was really manipulating the heroes. So I started this book a bit unsure on how I was going to like it.
Magiere and the half-elf Leesil are trying to live a normal life in Miisko, running their bar, but things aren't as easy as hoped. Their battle with the vampires may have freed the town of them, but it also left the town in deep financial straits as Leesil had burned down a major warehouse that was owned and run by Rachid, one of the vampires. Now, many jobs are lost and things look bad. When an offer comes in from the town of Bela offering Magiere a huge reward to kill what may be another vampire, she reluctantly accepts...hoping to use it to rebuild the warehouse and pay backtaxes.
The mysterious benefactor seems to be at it again, manipulating things but not quite so beneficially? And you get hints of his secret agenda. And Ratboy is back and well and has a new family. Once again, you get to know them pretty well. The authors don't make their characters black or white. The vampires can be vicious as their nature but not unthinking monsters like the heroine is led to believe.
THIEF OF LIVES starts out as good as the Hendees' previous book, but the last half really wows you as you get surprise after surprise: Leesil meets one of his own, and he isn't friendly; we find out more about Welstel; we meet some sages; the heroes try to find out just what vampire killed Count Lanjou's daughter; and even their dog, Chap, offers some surprises! Finally, I'm glad to report the relationship between Magiere and Leesil finally moves forward despite Magiere being afraid to let her feelings show because of her dhampir nature.
Now I'm really intrigued but will have to wait to find out more in the next book. There is no way it's over. The main vampire conflict gets finished, but there is now unfinished business to attend to that involves Leesil's past and also an object of power. A high recommend on this one, and I'm looking forward to the next.--Linda (23 Jan 04)