Friday, December 27, 2013

Book Review: The Blood Gospel

The Blood Gospel

By James Rollins and Rebecca Cantrell

Format: paperback, 479 pgs

Genre: Adventure, paranormal

Series: The Order of the Sanguines Series #1

Recommendation: Of course. A wicked fun adventure.

Synopsis: 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. But 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.

First Sentence:  The dead continued to sing.

My Thoughts and Summary:

So, I am not my mum’s favourite writer.

James Rollins is.

She has all of his books, some of which I’ve purchased for her. She eventually brought me a big stack of them to read. I don’t read fiction as often anymore as it’s difficult, particularly reading within the genres I write, to sit back and enjoy; when I do read fiction now, I like to delve into other genres. The adventure angle and exotic locales of his books did appeal to me.

The Blood Gospel is one part Indiana Jones, one part The Da Vinci Code, with a strong dose of classic Anne Rice but less weeping and brooding. (Now, if you hated The Da Vinci Code, don’t let me scare you off; I hated it too, darlings. But the searching-for-some-religious-artifact-and-secrets thing fits, and this is a book where the research and detail is done right.)

This book leaps right into the action, bringing together several very different characters and putting them toward one goal: to locate The Blood Gospel, a book said to be written by Christ’s own hand. Archaeology, mysterious tombs, hidden Nazi compounds, puzzles and mysteries...

And vampires.

The vampires here run the gamut, by the way: there is a priestly order of them who are ultimately good but can be broody and all-suffering, while there are evil ones who kill everyone and everything in their path. Those who tire of the romance-hero-simply-misunderstood vampires would find enjoyment in this book (yes, there is one broody guy like that, but I didn’t find him irritating; he was badass and fascinating). If you have vampire-fatigue, there is enough other intrigue in the book to hold your interest.

One of the things to keep in mind with the book is the structure of the narrative: within a scene there are often three to four breaks in POV. It’s not headhopping, as the breaks are clearly marked, but for readers used to fewer POV shifts, it might take some getting used to. What it does manage to convey is the feel of a movie; the scenes are swift and brief, following various characters and storylines, not dwelling long enough for the reader to get bored.

That is, I think, the overall feel I continue to get from Mr. Rollins’ works: the literary equivalent of a big summer blockbuster popcorn film. The Blood Gospel is no different: it’s fast-paced and fun, with well-researched exotic locales, and likable characters to root for. The action sequences were exceptionally well done and quite visual. Do you want to be transported from your life for a few hours, visit Israel, Russia, Germany, and Rome, chase down a lost book, figure out some puzzles, all while sitting on your couch with a cup of tea? Here you go. 

As always, research seemed impeccable, and I had a sense that the authors knew what they were talking about. I am less familiar with Ms. Cantrell’s work, although I do have her historical thriller novel A Trace of Smoke on my TBR (also one I bought for Mum that she lent me after reading; she loved it); I do know her Hannah Vogel books are set in Germany around WWII and was not surprised when The Blood Gospel had that area of history seamlessly woven into it.

My favourite character was Bathory, this badass chick who kills someone in her opening scene, cursed and ruthless, with two pet grimwolves she’s deeply bonded to.

She is also (one of) the villain(s). Of course. Obviously, things did not go well for my favourite character.

But that says something right there about the skill of the writing: I did care about all of the point-of-view characters. I wanted them to succeed, even when they were at odds with one another. Granted, mostly I wanted Bathory to succeed all the time because I prefer evil characters. (She’d make a great urban fantasy anti-heroine.) I think Bathory is my spirit animal. But unlike other POV villains in many books, she was never a caricature, twirling her mustache and adjusting her black hat. She was flawed and believable. Likewise, the three protagonists—archaeologist Dr. Erin Granger, military Sergeant Jordan Stone, and vampire priest (no, really) Father Korza—were distinct and well-drawn, believable and providing a nice balance to the book.

This is distinctly an adult novel but with a PG13/14A bent to it: violence, some kissing/sex (not graphic and always tastefully done), very little coarse language, and it would be appropriate for the average mid-to-late teen girl or boy as well as adults. One thing to note is that the book plays with Christian mythology and Biblical references; I already noticed some reviews from readers who had their panties in a twist with this. But the book is fiction, it’s well-researched, and it does what all well-researched good fiction does: it builds on facts and changes things up to fit with the story the authors want to tell. If this might bother you, maybe read sample chapters before diving right in. But Christ is depicted as a necromancer already, so it isn’t that much of a stretch to add vampires into the mix. IMHO YMMV.

Finally, the main plot is wrapped up by the end (thankfully—it's nearly 500 pages and that would be a hell of a lot to read for a cliffhanger), however there is much more to come: more mysteries to be solved, more secrets to uncover. An apocalypse probably on its way.

You know. The usual.


Bitchstress Bechdel Bonus: Does it pass the Bechdel Test? Yes...thinking back, I do believe it did.

Disclaimer: I borrowed this book from my mum and read for my own enjoyment.


  1. I wanna know what's up with the tomb now

  2. Okay, you had me at Indian Jones. :) lol. This sounds like my kind of reading too. Now...time... But I think I need this too.

    1. I think you'd like these books. Again, they're like blockbuster popcorn films, and just a lot of fun. This one seemed like it would be a bit too much with everything thrown in the pot and stirred, but all the elements actually came together quite well.

  3. Okay, this one I want! You hit the nail on the head as to why I hated the Da Vinci Code!! I was, in fact, leery until you said that! :D So want to read a book where the research is done correctly! :)


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