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Thursday, October 28, 2010

Review - Blood Oath

When I read the blurb for Blood Oath, I thought it was a fresh idea and fit nicely for a Halloween read under the Suspense/Thriller category.  It was a bit more than I anticipated as you will see in the review.  With no further introduction, meet the President's special agent - his vampire.

Author:  Christopher Farnsworth

Copyright:  May 2010 (Putnam Adult) 400 pgs

Series:  1st in President's Vampire

Sensuality:  Adult content and language

Mystery Sub-genre:  Paranormal Suspense/Thriller

Main Character:  Zach Barrows, newly appointed "handler" of the president's vampire, Nathaniel Cade.

Setting:  Modern day, Primarily Washington DC

Obtained Through:  Library Thing

The story is told from the point of view of Zach Barrows, a very ambitious White House staffer who doesn't appreciate being stuck in the shadows with the President's vampire.  He has been working himself into the ground hoping for a more visible and "important" position.  Zack is a kiss-up of the first degree, slick.  The real story is about Nathaniel Cade who has been bound by voodoo magic to the President of the U.S. ever since President Andrew Johnson.
Cade specializes in those enemies who are of a supernatural nature that only he can battle.  Zach gets his first real taste of what Cade has been battling when they realize that a former Nazi doctor has perfected piecing human parts together and creating a super-soldier for some Iraq extremists.  These super-soldiers are unstoppable (a cross between Frankenstein's monster and a zombie).

This story is gritty, not campy.  Summary of story elements: standard strong brooding hero, veteran older agent, young know-it-all new agent, typical Muslim bad guy, crazed Nazi doctor, obligatory sex scene, "f" bombs, car chase, and an impressive explosion.  But, I appreciated how the vampire is delved into with a more scientific mind as to what it would take for them to exist.  These tidbits were at the beginning of each chapter as snippets from "nightmare pet" manual or doctor's notes.  

Cade seems a bit more realistic for a vampire.  For instance, the whole "vampire is alluring" bit is dismissed when Cade says "Do you play with your food?".  This cuts through so much of the romanticizing and myth-icising around what Bram Stoker's original monster was supposed to be - evil.  The reader gets glimpses of a more complex Cade occasionally such as how he made a choice not to drink human blood ever again but he feels no compassion for humans.  He has found a way to vent his violent tendencies through his job and may even take a little pride in his prowess.

The characters of Zack and Cade grow on you in the novel.  Zack manages to grow-up a bit and Cade has more layers yet to peel back.  But otherwise I didn't think the rest of the characters will stand out in my mind.  Of course, with a Thriller novel characters aren't meant to be the primary focus, rather it is all about the action.  Time is taken on Cade's back-story which slowed the action in places but added to the idea of Cade as a real possibility.

It may have vampires, but the real monster is the former Nazi doctor creating these zombie-ish creatures. Dr. Johann Konrad is evil personified (supposedly the inspiration for Frankenstein) with absolutely no glimmer of human emotion nor compassion.  So several of the scenes with Dr. Konrad exhibit more violent content - be warned readers.  This character is developed as a total psychopath with no real humanity in him.  Dr. Konrad could easily be a cardboard cutout but instead manages to be truly frightening. 

It is a thriller novel through and through.  There is an urgent need to find out about and stop the zombie-like creatures because they represent a clear danger to the nation - and even the White House.  I thought Blood Oath took the over-done vampire and somehow managed to bring a fresh perspective to it.  The plot was enough to keep me reading.  But the true strength is how Frankenstein and Vampires have been given modernized makeovers in this work. 

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