I’m pretty sure I pulled this off a list at the HWA website (it’s down at the moment so I can’t check right now) The Blood Gospel is a supernatural tinged thriller from NYT bestelling author James Rollins and Rebecca Cantrell (an up and coming author best known for her Hannah Vogel noir series). It should be warned that this book leans heavily on Biblical knowledge and some previous knowledge of Catholicism; particularly the belief in transubstantiation. The novel opens with a flashback to the siege of Masada (around 73 CE) delving straight into the novel’s more fantastic elements with a scene straight out of The Exorcist (though not nearly as terrifying). Fast forward several thousand years to present day when an earthquake in Masada reveals a strange tomb. The sudden appearance of the tomb brings together the novel’s three heroes the mysterious priest Father Rhun Korza, the smart archaeologist Dr. Erin Granger (she escaped from a radical Christian sect in her youth and holds tight to her skepticism about all things religious as a result), and the brave Sergeant Jordan Stone (who works in military forensics).
What unfolds of over the course of the novel is a historical mystery and globe-trotting adventure full of strange and horrific creatures. The Blood Gospel isn’t a heavy read by any means, this is a light, action packed thriller with a strong thread of the supernatural horror running throughout. I’d hesitate to call this a horror novel though as the novel’s primary focus isn’t fear but action. The Blood Gospel as about as much horror as The Underworld series of films is. By and large The Blood Gospel is a taught novel tuned to catapult you through the plot. The novel’s only major stumbling block involves a young man who survives the opening earthquake, though with some rather strange side effects. This plot thread isn’t wholly developed here and doesn’t really offer any major benefit to the novel. The Blood Gospel is the first in a series and I have no doubt we’ll get deeper into this part of the story but it just felt a little out of place here. While the characters aren’t wholly original and fall into specific archetypes (amusingly enough this is touched upon in the plot) the author’s still manage to infuse them with a sense of individuality that leads to at least the beginnings of emotional attachment. For fans of action and the supernatural The Blood Gospel is a must-read.
I’ve been pretty cagey about the supernatural elements of The Blood Gospel. The last bit below the jump might spoil that some so read on if you don’t really care.
While reading the The Blood Gospel I was struck by how it takes on the notion of vampires in a way that is almost completely opposite of Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan’s The Strain (I’ve only read the first novel so I can’t say this will continue). Whereas The Strain focuses on the notion of vampires as something akin to an epidemic and the science that applies to that The Blood Gospel examines, and expands, the religious elements that are often seen hand in hand with vampire stories. Both expand upon the vampire myth in interesting ways and are likely to appeal to different types of readers. I like both for different reasons (though The Strain leans on its horror tropes far more than The Blood Gospel) and think both mark excellent takes on the vampire genre. I’m definitely looking forward to seeing where the Order of Sanguinnes series take us.