REVIEW: Rebel Fay

Barb and J.C. Hendee
Rebel Fay (Noble Dead Saga, series 1, book#5)
ROC
ISBN-10: 0451461436
ISBN-13: 978-0451461438
Fantasy
January 2, 2008

Desperate to free his mother from a caste of ruthless elven assassins, Leesil pushes on through the mountains at the height of a harsh winter. Obsession blinds him to reason, and he and his companions — his beloved Magiere, the sage Wynn, and their canine protector, Chap — find their lives at stake under the hardships of the wilderness. Should they survive, they still face the perils of the Elven Territories, a culture of tranquil beauty, savage customs, and deep-rooted hatred and fear of all humankind.

Magiere was created with strange powers by a shadowy, long-forgotten enemy of many names — an enemy whom Leesil was trained from childhood to kill. Unbeknownst to them, Chap brought them together at the command of his kin, the Fay, to forge an alliance that might have the power to stand against the forces of dark magics.

In the place of his birth, Chap must guard his companions from enemies and allies alike, though he is not always certain which is which. And as they uncover the truth, they discover just how close the enemy has always been….

I reviewed the first book here, the second book here, the third here and the fourth one here.

We’re nearing the end of the series now, this being book five of six in the first Noble Dead saga. I have to admit I’m almost ready for it to end at this point. I’ve heard there are fans who didn’t want the series to end at book six, and I find myself wishing I had that same level of enthusiasm at this point. Oh, I’m still enjoying the series. A lot actually, but there was also a bit of a lag in this book (as there was in the last one, Traitor to the Blood), and I find that I worry now that the Final Revelation/Battle won’t live up to all this incessant build up. We shall see.

Dhampir, book one, introduced us to Magiere’s hidden nature, that of a dhampir, half human and half vampire. Thanks to later books, we know she’s actually even much more than that. Book two, Thief of Lives, showed us Magiere and Leesil’s first true beginnings of this adventure as they decide to discover what’s behind the shadows of their respective pasts. Sister of the Dead, book three, shows us a gruesome and horrifying look into Magiere’s birth. Traitor to the Blood, book four, allows foray into what happened to Leesil as a child and why somewhat. What’s been building up is exactly who is behind this almost wild goose chase they’ve been on and why.

My main (and really my only) problem with the series has become that it’s a little too long, and way too repetitive. Rebel Fay is 416 pages long. Most of the more interesting events are happening in the latter third. Some of it will tie back into things that happened at the beginning and in the middle. For the most part, we’re slogging through a good bit of the same search for answers, any answers, from people that clearly have no intention of helping Magiere and Leesil to discover what their true destinies are. There is many, many a time that Leesil or Magiere express disgust at the lack of forthrightness from secondary characters, and hell – this reader agrees. Much effort seems to have been made to make all of it worthwhile by the end, but as a result, I’ve found I’m more than willing to take a break from the series, or at the very least I’m taking the last book much slower.

That all being said, I really did eventually enjoy the book. There are subtle hints throughout that are worth doing the needle in the haystack dance for. We continue to see some very decent character development, and that is probably this book’s saving grace for me. Leesil, Magiere, Wynn and Chap continue to be very interesting characters, ones I’m definitely invested in seeing through all of this.

Leesil is as impatient to learn his purpose as ever, and it’s probably no small blessing that Magiere and Wynn are there to ground him, otherwise I’m betting he’d have gotten himself killed by now. In a lot of ways, because the group has now ventured into the forbidden elven lands, this seems like it would be all about Leesil. In many ways it is; him dealing with the stigma of his half human, half elven heritage, dealing with finding his mother and setting her free and still trying to find a way to protect his companions. I think he could have used a time out session or two, but as time is against him and the others, his impatience and frustration at the lack of answers from the elves is completely understandable.

Magiere seems at first as if she only has her usual problems to deal with, that of being part vampire as well as human (the elves abhor anything to do with humans), but her part in the book becomes one of the more interesting twists. I won’t say any more as a result. If you read the books too, you deserve to discover this tidbit for yourself after slogging through some of what I describe above. Suffice to say that Magiere is much more integral to this particular book than I first thought.

Watching Wynn, the young and impressionable sage from across the sea, grow as a character is like proudly watching your own child grow into an adult. She’s come such a long way since we met her in book two, and she’s one character I’ve never been disappointed in.

“Do not start pacing again,” Wynn said. “If the elves wanted Leesil dead, none of us would have made it this far…nor would Sgäile have gone through so much to guard us. Our bodies would have vanished like any other curious human who came looking for this land.”

How blunt the little scholar had become. A far cry from the soft-spoken sage Magiere had met back in Bela.

“I know,” Magiere said, “It’s just that lately, Leesil has been so—”

“Erratic, pigheaded, idiotic, obsessive—”

“Yes, yes, alright,” Magiere interrupted. A far cry indeed.

There’s many a time in this book that she has a chance to prove just how useful she is, what with her knowledge of the eleven language and customs. She is as important to the storyline by now as Leesil and Magiere. Once again I find myself unsurprised that she goes on to have her own series after this one.

Chap, the Fay-born, then born again as a hound, makes some hard choices in this book, as you may be able to tell from the title. He does indeed become a rebel, and he must pay the price of defying his own kind. They, too, will have much to answer for as he discovers that Leesil and Magiere aren’t the only ones whose destinies are being manipulated.

Never more than this book has this small band needed one another so much. The elves are on one hand an understandably guarded bunch, yet also the villains in some ways for the cowardly ways they decide to handle Leesil and his friends. We do get to find out exactly why the elves are this way, but it’s a revelation that is at once both admirable as well as disgust-inducing. Fear is a powerful weapon, and its one that curdles everything in this book.

Thankfully Leesil and the others do receive one small break in their troubles. Chane and Welstiel, the two Noble Dead that have been tracking them from the first and second books, cannot enter the elven lands, and we don’t see much of them in Rebel Fay as a result. Instead, Chane and Welstiel take a new course, but one that Magiere and the rest will soon meet up with them again on. Chane becomes even more independent of Welstiel’s oppressive authority, and I have hopes that we will continue to see this in book six. Meanwhile, Welstiel grows ever bitter and unsatisfied with his personal quest, and therefore possibly even more dangerous in terms of the lengths he will go to.

ETA: The worldbuilding continues to seem like an effortless part of the book, this time more so than others maybe since we’ve entered a completely new territory with the elven lands. I felt like they’d entered some kind of Land of the Lost (More Sir Arthur Conan Doyle than Will Ferrell. Thank goodness.), where everything seems bigger, brighter and just more, yet in very mysterious ways that are utterly foreign. At one point we see a huge animal that appears to be some kind of elk or deer, yet it’s larger than life with a voice box to match as it bellows its protests to their prescence in the elven forrest. Tree trunks big big enough to make dwellings within and a strange, horrifying creature that guards a sacred glen – it’s all very surreal, terrifying and beautiful at the same time. And the authors do it as easily as they have with worldbuilding in past books.

Book two remains my favorite of the series so far, but I cannot discount this book. It is definitely necessary to the series despite that repetitive lack of answers that I’ve craved since the start, the repetitiveness of what we already know, too. The new information we get, both eventually from the elves (some of it not necessarily given freely by the elves, either, but rather discovered through alternate means) and from other sources, is good, and worth waiting for by The End. I only wish we’d gotten more – but I’m selfish that way. Now the only question is will book six make all this waiting worthwhile (yes, read the series in order, don’t skip around)? Only time and reading will tell, and if you’re like me and have gotten this far, why wouldn’t we go ahead and find out?

Rating: Four and a Half Scoops

Series 1 order:

  1. Dhampir
  2. Thief of Lives
  3. Sister of the Dead
  4. Traitor to the Blood
  5. Rebel Fay
  6. Child of a Dead God
Series 2 order:
  1. In Shade and Shadow
For more information visit the authors’ site.
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5 comments

  1. Interesting you should like Wynn. She is the one character who did not grow on me. In fact, by the last book in the series, I was seriously thinking that if she was one of my characters, I’d kill her off–though I’ll conceded she was essential to the story. Chap on the other hand…Absolutely love him. Would buy a story told primarily through his eyes in a heartbeat. And as I’ve said before, love the worldbuilding, especially in this book.

  2. I think your critique of this one is spot on although I think I would have disagreed with you on several counts if I had read this back when I first read the novel. Since becoming a reviewer I find myself assessing a novels strengths and weaknesses differently now and find myself nodding my head at the points you make. IMHO the sixth book definitely provides a payoff worth the investment in the series.

    Jory I didn’t like Wynn much in the beginning. I thought she was a bit of a nebbish, but she definitely grew on me and I think she anchors the new series nicely.

  3. Sorry it’s taken me so long to get back here, guys.

    Jory, I had heard that she was not a favorite character of amny series die-hard fans. I was actually prepared to feel the same way. After all, with that many votes against her, I thought maybe something was wrong with her character, a vivid flaw that so many see. I suppose I just….like her lol. I feel like she’s gotten just as good character growth as any of them. As far as the main charcters go, none of them are slacking in that department.

    Chap is interesting, but if I had to choose he would probably be my least favorite! I even like Chane more than him. I mean, I love Chap, I do, but he’d probably be walking the plank if I was forced to make a decision.

    Doug, I was finally able to sit down last night with the sixth book and at 1:00 a.m. I had to force myself to bed. I didn’t want to stop. Good sign. It’s reminding me more of the pace and excitement when they were in Bela in the second book. Definitely feels more like things are moving right off the bat this time.

  4. Pingback: Lurv in Review: 2009 «

  5. Pingback: REVIEW: Child of a Dead God | Lurv a la Mode

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