Saturday, February 4, 2017

The Dead Seekers by Barb Hendee

THE DEAD SEEKERS was just the book I needed to get me through this flu - it's light, escapist fantasy with creative world-building, but simplistic enough that I didn't need to expend too much brain power on what was going on.

DEAD SEEKERS is set in a world that appears to be based off Eastern Europe. Mari is a member of the Mondyalitko (seems to be based off the Romany), but has been on her own since an otherworldly being murdered her parents. She assumes the being was a member of the undead, and since Tris Vishal is the one man around capable of controlling them, she assumes it was his doing. That's why she's determined to kill the man known as The Dead's Man.

When Mari meets Tris, however, he isn't what she expected. Far from the shadowy man of villainy she imagined him as, Tris is closer to being a Ghostbuster and travels around from village to village, offering his services to banish ghosts for a nominal fee.

THE DEAD SEEKERS kind of has a weird format, because Mari and Tris solve several "cases" that are interconnected but are also distinct: there's the ghost of a girl who appears to have starved to death in a matter of hours; the ghost of a man who is determined to have vengeance; and the shadowy specter who murdered Mari's parents, and has ties to Tris, as well. It kind of reminds me of the "arc" storylines that anime shows like Jigoku Shoujo, Vampire Princess Miyu, and Higurashi no Naku Koro Ni have, where you have like question and answer arcs that provide answers to some questions even as they raise more questions that will be answered later on.

I didn't really like Mari's character much. She falls into a character template I really don't like: the impulsive, over-aggressive female character. She's so determined to prove that she's capable that she (stupidly) runs headlong into overt danger. Tris's character was more interesting. I liked the origin of his abilities, and thought his tragic backstory was well done. His mentor, Heil, was also an interesting character, and I was sad that we didn't get to see more of him in this book.

What kept me from rating THE DEAD SEEKERS higher is that a lot of the dialogue felt very wooden. There was enough action that I was never bored, and I liked the idea of a world where ghosts freely roam the earth, but at the same time, I felt like it would have been so much better with characters who were better "fleshed out" (pun slightly intentional).

THE DEAD SEEKERS is also slow to start, but in my opinion worth the wait.

I'm actually more interested in her first "Noble Dead" series, specifically the first, DHAMPIR. Are each of her Noble Dead sagas focused on a different type of "dead" creature? If so, that's an incredibly cool idea, and I want in. I'm not sure I'd shell out $8 since I don't really have a feel for her style yet, but if that book goes on sale in the Kindle Store then heck yes, count me in.

I'm always happy to find new fantasy novels written by female authors, and The Dead Seekers series (so far) is a creative and interesting one that manages to stand out in a thoroughly turned-over genre. I'd be willing to give this author another try, and see if she becomes an auto-buy for me. ;)

Thanks to Netgalley/the publisher for the review copy!

3 to 3.5 out of 5 stars

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