Blood Oath by Christopher Farnsworth
CLASSIFICATION: Blood Oath marries political and techno thrills with the supernatural. It’s like 24 meets Jonathan Maberry’s Joe Ledger novels meets Fringe meets Blade.
FORMAT/INFO: Blood Oath is 400 pages long divided over 69 numbered chapters and an Epilogue. Narration is in the third person via several characters, both good and bad, including Nathaniel Cade, Zach Barrows, the President of the United States, Tania, Dr. Johann Konrad Dippel, Helen Holt, etc. Blood Oath is self-contained, but is the first book in a new series that has been contracted for at least two more sequels.
May 18, 2010 marks the North American Hardcover publication of Blood Oath via Putnam Adult. The UK edition will be published July 18, 2010 via Hodder & Stoughton.
ANALYSIS: There’s a lot to like about Christopher Farnsworth’s debut novel, Blood Oath, but for me it all starts with the concept: a vampire oath-bound to serve and protect America and the presidential line against threats from the Other Side, which in this case includes everything from zombies and werewolves to demons, invisible men and aliens. Or as Agent Griffin so eloquently puts it:
There are worse things in this world than al-Qaeda and North Korea, Zach. And they are just waiting for their chance at us. Someone has to be there to hold the line. That’s what we do. We fight every incursion they make. They invade; we repel. Forget the War on Terror, Zach. This is the War on Horror. And you’ve just been drafted.
What’s really cool about this idea is that it’s actually inspired by true events, at least according to Charles Hoy Fort who first wrote about President Andrew Johnson pardoning a vampire in his nonfiction book, Wild Talents, published in 1932. Whether based on fact or fiction, the concept is an interesting one and definitely makes for some entertaining reading.
Of course it helps that the book is well-written. In particular, the prose is crisp and accessible; the pacing is thrilling aided by short chapters and multiple point-of-views; the characters are likable; and the story’s action and plot twists are skillfully executed. Granted, the dialogue and similes/metaphors are sometimes clichéd bordering on cheesy; none of the characters are particularly deep or complex in addition to being mostly stereotypical; and the story is full of recycled ideas; but because the book reads like a movie — and can be just as much fun as watching one — I was able to overlook such shortcomings.
As far as the actual story, Christopher Farnsworth does a nice job of mixing things up. Besides the main subplot involving an extreme Middle East terrorist group, Dr. Johann Konrad Dippel, and Frankenstein-like zombies, the author gives readers a glimpse at Nathaniel Cade’s storied past, including how he became a vampire in 1867, the forging of his blood oath to President Andrew Johnson and future presidents, his history with Konrad Dippel, why he wasn’t able to prevent 9/11, and so on. Mr. Farnsworth also lays down a solid foundation for the rest of the series with a supporting cast that includes Zach Barrows, a love interest for Cade in the vampire Tania, Helen Holt, and Dr. Johann Konrad, and introduces interesting conflicts like the Shadow Company and Cade’s refusal to drink human blood, which is preventing him from reaching his full potential as a vampire. Also, several excerpts at the beginning of most chapters (Cade’s Briefing Book, a transcript of a conversation with Richard M. Nixon, letters to Theodore Roosevelt and Thomas Jefferson, news articles, etc.) add further depth and texture to the novel.
CONCLUSION: Overall, I had a blast with Christopher Farnsworth’s debut novel, Blood Oath. Sure, the book is hardly thought-provoking or original, but then again, it’s not supposed to be. Instead, Farnsworth has taken several familiar ideas like political thrillers and vampires, and combined them. The end result is an addictively fun and entertaining reading experience that has the potential to be very successful. At least, I hope it’s successful, because I can’t wait to join Nathaniel Cade for more adventures.
Click here for more stories by Christopher Farnsworth.
Yep, which is why I'm willing to give a sequel a shot
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