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Thursday, January 3, 2013

The Blood Gospel by James Rollins and Rebecca Cantrell (Reviewed by Mihir Wanchoo)

Official James Rollins Website 
Official Rebecca Cantrell Website 
Order the book HERE 
Read the first three chapters HERE 
Read Fantasy Book Critic’s review of City Of Screams 

AUTHOR INFORMATION: James Rollins is a pseudonym for Jim Czajkowski and is the New York Times, USA Today and Publishers Weekly bestselling author of seventeen novels including the SIGMA Force series which was optioned for film adaptation by Dino De Laurentis, the Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull novelization, and the Jake Ransom YA books. He also writes fantasy—The Banned and the Banished and The Godslayer Chronicles—under the pen name James Clemens. Besides writing, Jim holds a doctorate in veterinary medicine and is an avid spelunker and certified scuba enthusiast. 

AUTHOR INFORMATION: Rebecca Cantrell was inspired by a faded pink triangle pasted on the wall of Dachau Concentration Camp and time spent in Berlin, Germany in the 1980s to create the Hannah Vogel series. These novels have won the Bruce Alexander and Macavity awards and been nominated for the Barry and RT Reviewers Choice awards; her critically-acclaimed cell phone novel, iDrakula, was nominated for the APPY award and listed on Booklist’s Top 10 Horror Fiction for Youth. She and her husband and son just left Hawaii’s sunny shores for adventures in Berlin.

OFFICIAL BLURB: An earthquake in Masada, Israel, kills hundreds and reveals a tomb buried in the heart of the mountain. A trio of investigators—Sergeant Jordan Stone, a military forensic expert; Father Rhun Korza, a Vatican priest; and Dr. Erin Granger, a brilliant but disillusioned archaeologist—are sent to explore the macabre discovery, a subterranean temple holding the crucified body of a mummified girl.

But a brutal attack at the site sets the three on the run, thrusting them into a race to recover what was once preserved in the tomb's sarcophagus: a book rumored to have been written by Christ's own hand, a tome that is said to hold the secrets to His divinity. The enemy who hounds them is like no other, a force of ancient evil directed by a leader of impossible ambitions and incalculable cunning.

From crumbling tombs to splendorous churches, Erin and her two companions must confront a past that traces back thousands of years, to a time when ungodly beasts hunted the dark spaces of the world, to a moment in history when Christ made a miraculous offer, a pact of salvation for those who were damned for eternity.

Here is a novel that is explosive in its revelation of a secret history. Why do Catholic priests wear pectoral crosses? Why are they sworn to celibacy? Why do the monks hide their countenances under hoods? And why does Catholicism insist that the consecration of wine during Mass results in its transformation to Christ's own blood? The answers to all go back to a secret sect within the Vatican, one whispered as rumor but whose very existence was painted for all to see by Rembrandt himself, a shadowy order known simply as the Sanguines.

In the end, be warned: some books should never be found, never opened—until now...                      

FORMAT/INFO: The Blood Gospel is 496 pages long divided over five numbered Parts and further sub-divided over sixty-six numbered chapters along with a prologue and epilogue and also includes Acknowledgments. Narration is in the third person via various characters, namely Erin Granger, Sergeant Jordan Stone, Father Rhun Korza, Bathory, Tommy and a few other minor POV characters. The Blood Gospel is the first book of the Order Of The Sanguines series.

January 8, 2013 marks the North American Hardcover and e-book publication of The Blood Gospel via William Morrow. The UK edition (see below) will be published on April 11, 2013 via Orion.

ANALYSIS: I’ve been fascinated by this book trilogy when it was first announced back in late 2009/early 2010. There was scant information about it and I had to wait for a while before I could come across more information. I have compiled most of it in this blog post and that was before I spoke with Jim and came to know about what it really entailed. Its safe to say as an idea it’s a fantastic one and I was very curious to see how Jim and Rebecca pooled their skills to execute it.

The Blood Gospel begins in the past, as is the norm for most James Rollins thrillers and this time it goes back to a historic and brutally infamous event, the Massada massacre! We begin with our current timeline wherein Dr. Erin Granger is excavating some ruins in Caesarea, Israel; she gets alerted to the events that have occurred in Masada, Israel. Tommy is a young man who is facing the last legs of his life as a result of skin cancer, however due to certain strange occurrences. He becomes embroiled in the same events and will soon come to know that life is infinitely more complex than the cancer cells in his body. Jordan Stone is the Special Forces soldier that was introduced in the City Of Screams short story and here we get to know him better.

Rhun Korza is the Vatican priest who is sent to investigate the strange events of Masada wherein he encounters Erin, Jordan and a few others who have their own interests of course. Thus begin the events that form the crux of the plot of the first Blood Gospel volume. This book shares all the characteristic trademarks of James Rollins’ work however there is also the presence of Rebecca Cantrell who lends her excellent characterization skills to create a hybrid product from which it is very hard to discern which part was written by whom.

Getting down to the awesome bits of the book, beginning from its historical points to the current set up. The book’s main plot is a grand mix of plot threads that feature a lot of secrets and rituals of the Catholic Church and the authors give us their reasons for these facts which make for a very interesting read. There’s also the transposition of certain facts onto the story that add to the intrigue factor and of course with all the plot twists, it becomes very hard to put down the book. The book has a very structured feel to it and the pace is also substantial wherein the reader is constantly urged if not forced to turn the page to find out what happens next. There’s also the horror mix to the storyline, which makes perfect sense from the story’s point and is a first for both authors. This book is a very curious mix of thriller, horror and urban fantasy genres and also has a very pulp feel to it.

Another point that I would like to highlight is that the book involves a lot of Christian mythology and deals with some pretty heavy matters of the Catholic faith but this book cannot be classified as Christian fiction. Even though the subject matter deals with religious stuff, the authors have taken care to present it in a very objective manner. I enjoyed this aspect of the story as I found it informative without being obnoxious or even stodgy. The book is also partly dedicated to Anne Rice and after reading the story; I can say it is very appropriate.

One of the things that I wanted to talk about in regards to this book is characterization. In the past SIGMA books; characters could easily be drawn into the good guy/bad guy camp. With this book, I had hopes that this factor would have been bettered with Rebecca’s help and I’m glad to say that there’s definitely an upswing to things. Of course you will not find characters as rich as in A Song Of Ice And Fire but there’s definitely hope for the future Blood Gospel titles. Lastly the only other point that I felt that the book could have done better is developing the background mythology.

CONCLUSION: James Rollins and Rebecca Cantrell deliver a story that is unlike anything they have written individually. The sum of their efforts is definitely more than the equal of their individual parts and becomes a book that will definitely earn them legions of fans. Mixing fascinating mythological aspects with the supernatural and basing it in a contemporary setting, the authors give us a tale that will have the readers salivating for more. Give The Blood Gospel a try to find out why this book will be such a big hit with thriller and urban fantasy fans.


Bob/Sally said...

I'm still trying to decide how to approach my review. It was much heavier in religious elements than I expected, and while I appreciated what they did with vampires, I didn't really feel the sinister threat from the bad guys that I felt was necessary to really bring the story home.

I enjoyed the book, but I'm on the fence as to whether I'll continue on with the series.

Anonymous said...

I will not be reading any of the following novels. For me things just got worse and worse starting with the introduction of Bathory which set off the lightbulb in my head. Bathory is related to the Countess of Blood, a real historical personage in Hungary in the early 17th century whos exploits are mindblowing enough for any horror-loving fan.

I have had enough as I just read that Rasputin obviously did not die in the Russian revolution but survives as a vampire!

Couldn't get any worse for me. If I were G.R.R. Martin I'd be embarrassed to be mentioned anywhere near this book let alone in a review of it.


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