First, I think the book description here does this book a disservice. Because James Rollins is a well known author of action-adventure thriller novels, many potential readers are going to assume that this book is more of the same. The book description tosses out hints, makes implications, and beats around the bush, but never makes it plain that this book has one big difference from Rollins' other books - it's not just an action-adventure novel, it's a supernatural action-adventure novel, complete with vampires, grimwolves, and other supernatural beings. It also offers a completely new interpretation of some aspects of the bible. I think potential readers need to know this in order to make an informed decision about buying this book.
I am a James Rollins fan who had absolutely no idea what I was in for when I selected this book to review. Fortunately, I am also a fan of urban fantasy and the supernatural, so I was pleasantly surprised at what I got. I really enjoyed this book. The action is non-stop and the main characters were all interesting and well-developed. Even the bad guys were interesting and surprisingly sympathetic - yeah, they were evil, but you could kind of see how they ended up that way and feel a little sorry for them.
This book does require you to suspend disbelief at many points, but no more so than many other books of this genre - as long as you're willing to fully accept the fundamental premises upon which the book is based. I rarely found myself falling out of the story to question whether or not anything made sense. The pace of the story pulled me along quickly enough that I generally didn't have any trouble just accepting things and moving on.
I recommend this book to any fans of James Rollins who aren't put off by the idea of a novel populated by supernatural beings of all kinds. Also, fans of urban fantasy and the supernatural will likely enjoy it. I was not bothered or offended by the alternate interpretations of the bible, but then, I'm not particularly religious so I'm probably not the best qualified to speak to that aspect. I'm looking forward to additional books in this series.
on December 20, 2012
It's no secret to readers of my reviews that I'm a huge fan of James Rollins' novels, and have been ever since Subterranean was first published. In the years since, in addition to penning the wildly popular Sigma Force series and several excellent stand alone thrillers, he has written seven fantasy novels under the name James Clemens as well as two young adult adventures. I love that he isn't content to write the same type of story over and over. Not only has he expanded his own literary horizons, he's very much expanded my own.
The Blood Gospel is yet another new direction for Mr. Rollins. Well, two new directions, actually. For the first time, he's sharing authoring responsibilities with Rebecca Cantrell, a writer well-respected for her own historic mystery series. And while The Blood Gospel is as much a fast-paced thriller as anything Mr. Rollins has written to date, it also falls firmly in the territory of a new genre: horror.
The novel opens with a brief prologue set in the past--AD 73 in Masada, Israel--where readers are witness to events leading to the tragedy for which the historic site is known. However, we are also witness to a far more inexplicable drama... After just a few pages, the action shifts to present-day Israel, at the dig of American archaeologist Erin Granger. Her own promising work is interrupted by an earthquake--and is further interrupted when Israeli and American soldiers arrive to escort her to Masada. The quake has unearthed something and her expertise is required. Along on the journey is a mysterious figure. "He was no soldier. He was a priest. He wore black pants, overhung by an ankle-length hooded cassock, along with black leather gloves, dark sunglasses, and the familiar white collar of the Roman Catholic clergy." You've just been introduced to Father Rhun Korza. He's not the first priest to appear in Rollins' fiction, but I'm telling you right now that he's the most interesting.
At Masada, this is what Erin finds:
"A macabre sculpture hung on the wall, like a blasphemous crucifixion. She moved past the corner of the sarcophagus. With each step, a growing horror rose in her.
It wasn't a sculpture.
On the wall hung the desiccated corpse of a small girl, maybe eight years old, dressed in a tattered, stained robe. A handful of blackened arrows pinned her in place, a good yard off the floor. They pierced her chest, neck, shoulder, and thigh."
What can I say? These authors can paint a tableau, and sometimes the details are haunting. I don't know if it was Mr. Rollins or Ms. Cantrell who supplied the detail of the doll, but that is the beauty of collaboration. It's hard to say who did what (I couldn't tell), but hopefully the work is stronger when two talents bring their a-game.
I'm not going into any detail about the plot of this novel. What I can tell you is that the third primary character is an American soldier named Jordan Stone. The novel is the first of the new "Order of the Sanguines" series. These three diverse characters find themselves on an urgent quest for an artifact called the Blood Gospel. "It is the Gospel. Written by Christ's own hand. In his own blood."
So, let's talk about religion. You may have heard, it's a hot-button topic for some. I'll be VERY curious to see the popular response to this novel. Me, I'm a secular Jew. I'm not going to lie. This got kind of New Testament for me. BUT this is not--emphatically-- Christian fiction. I wouldn't call it excessive, but there's foul language within the text. Even more noteworthy, there's some fairly steamy erotic content. (Well done, too!) So, this is NOT Christian fiction, but it has a fair amount of religion, some of which might be considered blasphemous by certain segments. Rollins tries to look at faith from different angles. At one point, Erin asks, "Why me?" and is told:
"I have followed your work, Dr. Granger. You are skeptical of religion, but steeped in biblical knowledge. As a result, you see things that nonreligious scholars could miss. Likewise, you question things that religious scholars might not. It was that rare combination that made you perfectly suited to bring the Gospel back to the world."
Suffice it to say, there is significant opposition to our heroes' quest. Some of it is worldly and some of it is otherworldly. There's a big word that I'm not saying, but it won't take you long to discover the supernatural elements to the tale. Readers have seen a lot of this in recent years, but James Rollins is putting his own twist on the familiar.
Mr. Rollins and Ms. Cantrell are off to a strong start with this series. This book introduces some truly intriguing characters with complex backgrounds and motivations. And it features a plot that surprised me at every turn. More importantly, there's a complete story arc to Book One, with a conclusion. That's not to say that there aren't bigger picture questions left unanswered for future books--and one flat-out jaw-dropper in the final chapter. (Seriously, DO NOT PEEK.) You've gotta love the jaw-dropper! Um, when is Book Two out?
Fans of James Rollins have come to know him for action and adventure, a blend of military action, fancy technology, and historical events motivating adventures. You will find much of this in his newest novel, but the author tackles a different genre from his usual fare. I really enjoyed it.
Dr. Erin Granger, an architect on a dig in Israel, is pulled away from the students she is overseeing after a strange earthquake affects Masada, the rocky fortress where the Romans laid siege to Hebrews almost two thousand years ago. She is teamed up with a small force of U.S. military, including Sgt. Jordan Stone, and this group is accompanied by Father Rhun Korza, a mysterious monk. At Masada, this group finds a mystery and comes under attack from strange and supernatural forces. The survivors, Granger, Stone, and Korza, are caught up in a centuries old hunt for the "Blood Gospel," a legendary Christian artifact. But they must race against their supernatural foes, who don't play by any of the same rules........
This was a fun ride, and anyone who liked Rollins' early pre-Sigma Force books will not only enjoy the action, but a return of Rollins' creative monster side, as mutant critters and odd evolution have been an early staple for the author. (I always particularly enjoyed the strangely evolved piranha from Amazonia, but that's for another review....)
To be honest, it's a challenge to write this spoiler-free, because the people who don't like this book apparently don't like it for the supernatural aspect, or the role the Catholic church plays in the adventure. Everyone is entitled to their opinion, but I've never read a James Rollins novel because I thought any part of it was real.... I read them for the high-speed adventure. And that is in this book, start to finish.
For me, this book was very hard to put down, and I look forward to Rollins' future efforts!
on February 1, 2013
This is a very poor attempt by Rollins to start a new series. If you are a fan of the plethora of vampire romance novels that are all the rage (and hopefully becoming passe)you may find this series of interest. It is easy to tell which sections Rollins wrote and which sections his coauthor wrote. It is very sluggish in parts and only builds up to a medium pace - very unlike his Sigma series. I kept hoping that the book would pick up to no avail. As this is a series, the ending was written to entice the reader to move on to the next one when it comes out. I will not be one of those people.
Bottom line - if you are a fan of the Sigma series and like the pace of those books, save yourself the time of purchasing and/or reading this book.
on January 16, 2013
Wow! This book totally blew me away!
I've always been a James Rollins fan, since the day I discovered him (ie needed a book for a LONG cross-country drive in a moving van, randomly picked up Map of Bones paperback off the shelf at Target and BAM! LOVE!). He's got great characters, stories spanning centuries and continents, and the fate of the world in the hands of a small group of heroes.
I think my favorite part about this book is that James Rollins really stepped out of his "norm" for his adults books. It's not fantasy, like he writes under his other pen name James Clemens, and it's not historical-adventure-techno-secret agent-thriller like his Sigma series and standalones. It's so much more than that. It's like the genius of those with a whole new supernatural element mixed in.
For his first ever written collaboration, it seems like a partnership made in Heaven. Rebecca Cantrell and Rollins' writings mesh so well together, you'd never recognize that this was book was written by two authors.
The story is masterful -- a "save the world" epic, driven by prophecy, religion, and honor. The characters are likeable, believable, and relatable -- even those who are more than human. Cantrell and Rollins have created a fantastical new world of adventure and populated it with a wide array of new heroes and villains -- and it will suck you in and leave you breathless as you jump from continent to continent.
You'll not want to put this book down until you get to the last page. And when you do get to the last page, REJOICE! It's going to be a SERIES! :)
on January 13, 2013
James Rollins/Rebecca Cantrell have taken the subject of vampires to which i personally have little interest in and wrote a really good read that held my interest from start to finish. Very unexpected twists along the way with one of the most surprising endings you will not see coming! Very impressive read i highly recommend you read this for yourself. I will be reading more of this Series.
on January 16, 2013
This book is excellent. I completely recommend it to all readers who love stories with twists and turns....It did leave, however, a lot of questions un answered...so there has to be another book in this story line. I loved it. I have been reading James Rollins for a few years now and have ALL his books. I never read Rebecca Cantrell..but I will be very soon.
James Rollins is best known for his military adventure "Sigma Force" novels, full of testosterone and big guns. Rebecca Cantrell is best known for her Hannah Vogel novels set in 1930's Berlin. The two have teamed up to write BLOOD GOSPEL, billed as a "bold new adventure." It's certainly an adventure - I'm just not convinced it's either "bold" or "new."
The story centers on three primary characters, who set off on a Middle Eastern quest to find a sacred book, supposedly a gospel written in Christ's own hand. Dr. Erin Granger is a gorgeous archeologist - think Indiana Jones without the whip and hat. Sgt. Jordan Stone is a chiseled Adonis with plenty of firepower and an eye for lovely Erin. And mysterious Father Rhun Korza is sort of a "super-priest" - he's super strong, super fast, and super attracted to and repulsed by Erin, all at the same time. So what we've got here is a mash-up between DaVINCI CODE and the Indiana Jones movies. So far, so good. I wouldn't call it original, but it could certainly sell.
But there's a problem . . . because Rollins and Cantrell have decided to throw in a third element, hoping to solidify their hoped-for best seller status. I hesitated a bit before plunging ahead and revealing this third element. In a way, it could be considered a spoiler (since there's no mention of this aspect of the novel in the promotional materials). But I decided it's important for readers to know what they're buying before they buy it. If you are dead-set against any form of spoiler in your review, please skip to the concluding paragraph.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
OK, if you're still with me, here goes: at its core, this is a vampire novel. We're talking about good old down-to-earth vampires, complete with dripping fangs, sensitivity to both sunlight and silver, and an unquenchable lust for blood. Rollins & Cantrell first use the word "vampire" about ¼ of the way through the novel, but there are plenty of hints before that. Father Korza is called a "Sanguinist," from the Latin word "sanguineus," meaning blood. He's also strangely cloaked to avoid contact with sunlight, and he seems able to lift massive sarcophagus lids without undo exertion. He's also able to jump down into a deep crevasse without rappelling gear. That's because he's a vampire - but he's a special kind of vampire, blessed by the Roman Catholic Church. Yes, that's right - Rhun Korza is one of an army of vampires in the service of Jesus Christ. He has pledged not to drink human blood, and in return he is blessed with a continuing supply of sanctified wine, which he explains becomes the literal blood of Christ through transubstantiation. And his purpose in life is to track down the bad vampires who are wreaking havoc on the world and trying to steal the blessed Blood Gospel before the Church can get its hands on it.
I'll admit, I've had enough of vampires. Had I known this was a vampire novel before I agreed to read and review it, I would have chosen another book. I found myself groaning every few pages, as more and more ridiculous things happened (which I won't reveal here). The whole idea that the Catholic Church is in league with "good" vampires - and that many of the historical and biblical tragedies in the world were really the work of "evil" vampires - requires more suspension of disbelief than I possess. I have no particular fondness for the Catholic Church, but my guess is great sections of this novel will be offensive to Catholics and non-Catholics alike.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
END OF SPOILERS: Bottom line, BLOOD GOSPEL is a ridiculous novel that tries to be all things to all people. It's nothing at all like Rollins's earlier books; I've never read a Rebecca Cantrell novel, so I can't comment on whether it's representative of hers. There's plenty of Indiana Jones-style action, lots of DaVINCI CODE biblical hogwash, a healthy dose of rather tame romantic silliness (the "melting into each other" type), and . . . well, it's ultimately a really lame horror novel. Enough said.
on January 8, 2013
WOW!! James Rollins really stepped outside of his comfort zone with 'Blood Gospel'! I didn't get caught up in the wave of 'Twilight' readers or movies. So, I haven't really read many "vampire" books. Though.. one does NOT walk away thinking "vampires" when finished with 'Blood Gospel'!!
I really like the terminology they introduced in the story. It separates out Rollins/Cantrell's superbly written tale.. into a genre of it's own! I truly TRULY enjoyed reading "Blood Gospel" from the first page to the very last word!
The HISTORY!! James Rollins is one of the rare authors that researches every aspect of his story and makes it as accurate as possible! That's where Rollins gets me every single time! From the siege at Masada to modern day Rome! The story dates back to Christ raising Lazarus from the dead.
SPOILER ALERT -
I absolutely loved the part about Rasputin. It had me googling to check and see if Rasputin's body had ever been recovered or not! The story is written so well.. that it will have you looking over your shoulder when the sun goes down!
I didn't notice a change in writing style.. so, I have no idea which parts were written by Rollins or Cantrell. The story flows so well.. that you don't notice a change in writing style! A HUGE plus!
I'm sorry I'm not very eloquent with words.. but.. in my own way.. I'm trying to tap out.. I LOVED THIS BOOK! I was fortunate enough to get an advance copy to read! 'Blood Gospel" is the MUST read thriller novel for 2013!!
on January 13, 2013
I am a big Rollins fan and would have purchased this book regardless of the topic but this book is definitely one of my favorites. Other reviewers have mentioned the supernatural angle and the vampires so I won't go into chart any further except to say that I am pretty much one the whole vampire/zombie apocalypse type books and despaired of reading anything new or inventive in that genre. Well thanks to Mr. Rollins, I do see something quite different here and it was very welcome. I enjoyed his main characters immensely, finding them believable and fleshed out. I thought there was a good flow between action scenes and the more sedate scenes of character development. The story grew beautifully from the dig at Masada to every event thereafter. The idea of the Blood Gospel was fascinating.. and for me, an original "relic" amongst all the historical adventure novels coming our way. I really enjoyed this book and can highly (and have been!) recommend it to fans of the action adventure/ historical quest/ prophecy type books.