Personally, I am getting sick of all the drippy romantic vampire drivel that's currently being churned out because of the "Twilight" craze.
So it's something of a relief to come across a book like "Blood Oath," which instead focuses on a really cool concept -- what if there were a vampire secret agent who had been serving the US president for the last century-and-a-half? "Blood Oath" at times feels like a paint-by-numbers thriller, but the fast pace, solid prose and inclusion of vampire intrigue make it a fun read.
Zach Burrows is an ambitious, fast-rising young political figure... until he's caught fooling around with the president's teenage daughter. So he's reassigned to a new post: the presidential liaison to Nathaniel Cade, a vampire who is blood-oathed to the president, and who does all sorts of secret missions to destroy supernatural threats to the United States.
Their first mission: jihadist terrorists are shipping dismembered American soldiers into the U.S., intending to create Unmenschsoldat -- undead killing machines, better known as Frankenstein monsters.
So Cade and the reluctant Zach are sent to find the one man who can create those monsters, but are unable to prove anything. Even worse, they have attracted hostile attention from several different areas -- the monstrous Dr. Konrad, a beautiful vampire, and a terrifying Shadow Company which knows no mercy. They're determined to bring down the United States, even the world as we know it... and Cade too.
It doesn't come as a surprise that Christopher Farnsworth is a screenwriter, because "Blood Oath" reads like the novelization of a fast-paced action thriller. It has some well-placed flashbacks, evil terrorists, flashy political conspiracies, and a sort of James Bond vampire (minus the girls) -- even the action-packed opener feels like the teaser to a movie, right before the opening credits.
The biggest flaw in the book is that sometimes it feels a little too by-the-numbers as an action thriller. However, it's also lots of fun -- Farnsworth blasts through a fast-moving plot, and fills the pages with plenty of action, horrific gore and snappy dialogue ("Someone has to protect the meek until they can inherit the Earth"). Compared to all that soppy "Twilight" driven, Farnsworth's prose has a sleek masculine tang that's very refreshing.
He also inserts lots of pseudoscientific/pseudohistorical snippets from classified files, deftly fleshing out the whole idea of a presidential vampire. Plus, he inserts some clever nods to H.P. Lovecraft and Chelsea Quinn Yarbro.
And Cade is very chilly and introverted, but also very capable and intelligent. Despite believing that he's eternally damned, he's also a creature of strong morals and rock-solid beliefs. Farnsworth does an excellent job depicting a man of the mid-1800s who has grown and changed over the centuries, even if he has the quirky habit of using outdated slang. Zach is an annoying little twerp at first, but becomes more likable over time.
"Blood Oath" follows the mold for action thrillers, but adds in plenty of supernatural chills and vampiric problems. Here's hoping for more stories to come.
If you were to blend the thriller stylings of Vince Flynn or David Baldacci, and mash them together with Jim Butcher's Dresden Files, this is probably what you'd get. Fast-paced, engaging and great fun, this was a pleasant surprise, and a book I devoured extremely quickly. I've been studying American politics and the presidency for the past five years, and had a long-standing fascination with vampires and the supernatural. Therefore, the synopsis of "Blood Oath" jumped out at me when I first read it. The premise had the potential to go one of two ways: it could have been a disaster, or it could have been the start of something entertaining and special. Thankfully, it falls most definitely in the second category.
"Blood Oath", for me, stood out for one very important reason: it gets on with things. Other series in this sub-genre have, in my experience, had problems with getting off the ground at a decent pace. Even novels that make up The Dresden Files, perhaps the most successful supernatural-infused series, have a tendency to take an awful long time to get up to speed. Blood Oath certainly did not suffer from this, and I quickly found myself invested in the story and also intrigued by the blended supernatural-real world that Farnsworth has created. He doesn't make the reader sit through pages of exposition to get us settled in - rather, he deploys a very simple and effective literary device (briefing book excerpts at the beginning of most chapters) to give us just enough information to make us comfortable. I felt at home reading about this version of reality as I do with series I've followed for a long time. This, to me, makes Blood Oath stand above a lot of other, established series. It's not fully realised, as there are some gaps left, but one assumes they will be filled as the series progresses.
The `Good Guys' of the piece are interesting and well-rounded. Cade, our vampire hero isn't of the Twilight or Vampire Diaries ilk (although, there is a little bit of angst thrown in for good measure). He is, undoubtedly an "apex predator", but one who is bound to serve the United States. Zach, his young, politically ambitious new liaison offers a nice foil for Cade, not to mention an easy in for explaining the world to the reader. It takes the two some time to get used to each other's working practices, but we see a good working relationship evolve on the page. Zach's sometimes abrasive and snotty character, not to mention his initial disbelief at what's been revealed to him, makes for some amusing moments. For example, when Zach brings up the ubiquitous notion that vampires are masters of human sex appeal, Cade clarifies things:
"Humans are our food. Do you want to have sex with a cow?"
The villains of the novel are delightfully twisted and varied. As already hinted at, Farnsworth has taken the modern premise of Middle Eastern terrorists and twisted it to suit the supernatural-bent of his novels. Not only are there a group of Apocalyptic crazies planning an attack on the US, but Cade and Zach also have to deal with an evil alchemist, and a shadowy agency plagued by personal agendas and staffed by socio- and psychopaths. It makes for a varied, action-packed adventure, as those working for good must not only contend with being caught in the middle of a number of conspiracies, but also being played as a pawn in a couple of them as well.
I prefer this to the Dresden Files for one very key reason: pacing. Butcher's novels are very well structured and realised, but of the four I've read, it felt like each one took forever to get going. This is certainly not the case with Blood Oath, which I picked up late one night, expecting to read a couple chapters before going to sleep. Instead, I read a quarter of the novel before biology won and I had to go to sleep. I finished the rest of the book the next day.
If I had one complaint (minor as it is), it is that the author could have done a better job of Cade's vampire-origin story. It's well done, but a bit vague. Maybe I've just got used to Anne Rice's long origin-tales, so I always feel that shorter, punchier versions seem a bit rushed and not quite as satisfying (for example, what else has he been used for, since Andrew Johnson bound him to the US?). Nevertheless, it's not central to the story - there are plenty of references to events that have happened before this novel's timeline, so it's clear that Farnsworth is gearing up for a large series (and the opportunities do seem near-endless). Aside from that, I don't think I have a single complaint or issue with the novel.
This novel should appeal to a broad swathe of the reading public. If you like Supernatural and other shows of that ilk, this should certainly appeal. If you're a fan of anything vampire or supernatural-related, this will appeal. It should also appeal to fans of thriller authors like Vince Flynn, David Baldacci, and Brad Thor, who are maybe finding the US-vs-Middle Eastern extremists meme a little tired and ragged around the edges. Farnsworth does a great job throughout weaving the Other Side (supernatural) into American history, offering up some interesting and original explanations for some key and tangential events of US history.
This was an absolute pleasure to read: it's fun, intriguing, has huge potential, and is written with the skill of a long-time thriller bestseller (despite it being his debut). The author's prose is fluid and fast-paced, aiding a well-structured plot. This is a compelling and compulsively readable novel, in which everything just works extremely well. The infrequent, yet well-placed, insubordinate humour also helps a great deal. I can't wait for the second instalment in the series, "The President's Vampire", which will be released in the next couple of months on both sides of the Atlantic.
For Fans of: Jim Butcher, David Wellington, Matt Forbeck, Simon R. Green, Justin Gustainis, Supernatural, Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Underworld movies
Like partners in a mis-matched buddy cop movie, the relationship between Barrows and Cade is at the heart of this novel. Barrows starts the novel blissfully ignorant of the supernatural forces that exist in the world. After an unexpected promotion, the truth is revealed and his world view is completely turned on its head. Initially, Barrows is all cocky attitude and very sure of himself, glad to say that doesn't last very long. Cade by contrast is aloof, and considers humans to be little more than cattle, exactly what you'd expect from a long lived vampire I suppose. The events this pair go through start to bring about a mutual respect and by the novel's end there are hints of a bromance developing. There is still some antagonism as well though, can't have things too easy. That would make for a boring read wouldn't it?
What about the other characters then? Well, there is the villain of the piece, Dr Johann Konrad. It seems entirely appropriate that in a novel that features such a delightfully outlandish plot you also get a delightfully outlandish villain. Konrad is all snarky comments and pithy one liners, but as the plot unfolds you start to get glimpses of just how truly insane he actually is. (Seriously the dude is bonkers). His drive is remorseless and he will use anyone in any way he sees fit if it will further his cause. His actions get progressively darker and darker. The fact that he does all this with such obvious glee really is a bonus. Naturally all this madness made him the standout character in the novel for me.
Interspersed throughout the main narrative there are a handful of flashbacks that provide the reader with some insight into Cade's origins. He has been around for a long time and the author plays around with this by including details of Cade's involvement in various historical events. These little reveals are a nice touch the give an air of authenticity to proceedings. I should stress however that these flashbacks do still leave plenty of gaps in Cade's backstory. There is still mystery surrounding his character, always essential when it comes to bloodsuckers I'm sure you'll agree.
It feels like Farnsworth has blended together the elements from many popular television shows-True Blood, 24 and The West Wing spring to mind. He has taken them all and extracted all the best bits into a single action packed romp. From a literary point of view, if you've read and enjoyed the Vampire Federation novels by Scott G Mariani then I am sure you'll get a kick out of this.
Vampires, werewolves, reanimated terrorists, the White House and a sociopath with medical training Blood Oath certainly doesn't skimp when it comes to covering all bases. Every time I pick up a vampire novel I'm looking for that unique hook. I don't want to feel as though what I'm reading is just a re-tread of a story I've read before. I'm glad to say that the story delivers on its initial promise and is a great read. Now don't get me wrong, I'll accept that the premise is undeniably silly but you know what? I really couldn't care less, its bucket loads of fun. For me Blood Oath is the literary equivalent of the Resident Evil or Fast and Furious films, a guilty pleasure that I'll keep coming back to again and again. With that in mind the good news is that there are a couple of sequels already published. I reckon I'll be reading the next of those, The President's Vampire, really soon.
I was lucky that a friend in the US sent me an advance copy, and I am both glad and grateful that she did.
Cocky young White House staffer is given a rather unusual job. The White House has the use of a vampire who is used to defend the US from non human threats. The vampire is tied to the President by oath and is used as a secret weapon and his existence is known to very few.
An unusual take on the many vampire books that are about, part vamp story, part thriller and it is a lot of fun. It has excellent pace and the perfect blend of humour, thrills and menace. Yes, there may be elements that are not original but the concept is a good one and it works rather well, it almost is a guilty pleasure - as you churn through the pages you know you shouldn't be enjoying it, but you are! Even when our heroes(?) come up against a bunch of rather stock in trade bad guys, you don't really mind because you are having so much fun reading this.
Given this was the author's first book, this was impressive and he can only get better! It also looks possible that there are more adventures in store for these guys and that is very good news indeed.