Just when you think you had seen and heard enough of vampires, along comes an intelligent work of fiction that at its core tells the story of an age-old battle between two vamphyrric sects --- the Sanguines and the Strigoi.
The best way to approach any James Rollins novel is to open it up and let the cleverly plotted and well-researched tale wash over you. Couple that with the gothic and atmospheric writing of Rebecca Cantrell, and you have the potential for a true blockbuster of a story.
THE BLOOD GOSPEL, the first in a proposed series of The Order of the Sanguines books, is a winner from start to finish. It poses and answers many questions about religion and the nature of priests: Why do Catholic priests wear pectoral crosses? Why are they sworn to celibacy? Why does Catholicism insist that the consecration of wine during Mass results in the transformation to Christ’s own blood? The answers provided by Rollins and Cantrell are sure to astound you.
"Breathtaking battles collide with history in stunning fashion as the pursuit of the book that should not be found drives everyone involved to levels of violence that will shock and amaze."
An earthquake in Masada kills hundreds of people, but in its wake reveals a tomb hidden for centuries. A trio of individuals is joined together --- perhaps by fate --- to investigate: military forensics specialist Jordan Stone; Rhun Korza, a Vatican priest; and archaeologist Dr. Erin Granger. Together they find the mummified body of a young girl who has been crucified with silver.
When the trio are brutally attacked by a strange and inhumanly powerful band of outsiders, they realize how close they are to discovering the long-lost Blood Gospel. Allegedly, dozens of Gospels never found their way to what we know today as being the Gospel. This includes Gospels written by Judas, Mary and even Jesus Himself. What makes Christ’s Gospel so compelling is the rumor that it was written in His own blood. During the attack, Father Korza reveals his true intentions, as well as a skillfully hidden pair of fangs. Surviving that attack only poses more questions. Specifically, Stone and Granger want to know why the little girl was crucified in such an odd way and why their colleague looks like a vampire.
Father Korza’s tale relates a saga that will cause even the stoutest believers to rethink what they know about their faith. Father Korza is from an ancient order called The Sanguines, who are defenders of Christ and the literal ritual that found him sharing his blood as part of a Mass ritual. The enemies of the Sanguines are the deadly pack of vampires known as the Strigoi. Each group seeks to possess The Blood Gospel for their own reasons and unleash the secrets it is purported to hold.
What follows is a rollercoaster ride of a novel that finds the trio moving among Russia, Italy and the Middle East and encountering trouble around every corner. Their pursuit of The Blood Gospel puts them in touch with some very deadly individuals, both living and undead. Included in this group is the infamous Russian known as Rasputin, still existing and just as dangerous as ever. Breathtaking battles collide with history in stunning fashion as the pursuit of the book that should not be found drives everyone involved to levels of violence that will shock and amaze.
THE BLOOD GOSPEL marks the start of a unique series that will be essential reading for fans of historical fiction, horror and thrillers.
Reviewed by Ray Palen on January 10, 2013