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No Moon To Pray To Paperback – July 21, 2017
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Because it came recommended by a friend of the author's, I felt duty-bound to read it. I had imagined having to slog through turgid prose, particularly since this was author Jerry Guern's first book. Instead of a slog, I quickly found myself drawn into the author's world. I was amazed by the author's ability to move the story along with crisp prose and interesting characters. At the end, I was surprised by the reversal of character roles, which gestured at redemption in a way that I had never seen before.
The story is set a decade after the 4th Crusade, the misbegotten Crusade re-routed by the Venetians into an attack on Constantinople. Father Michael is the member of an order that is dedicated to eradicating vampires from Christendom. Vampires are real and they are both a physical and a spiritual threat. They are recognized as a spiritual threat because they can offer immortality at the cost of the vampire's soul, which may be an attractive option to many.
Father Michael is waylaid by a band of vampires and rescued by the knight Enik. Enik is a heroic figure who is serving a self-imposed penance for his role in the 4th Crusade. During the rescue, Father Michael discloses that he has an unusual supernatural ability to harm vampires with his mind. The ancient and disfigured vampire named "Klaus" recognizes Michael's ability as that exercised by the legendary founder of Michael's order, a converted pagan named Ottonius, who had captured and tortured him, but who had represented that he had the tunic of Christ, which could cure vampires.
After that set-up, the story moves into high action-adventure mode as Michael and Enik defend Enik's castle from the assembled undead and their living minions. While Michael and Enik hunt for the nest of vampires, Klaus sets in motion his own plot involving the head of Michael's order. What follows is an intricate dance of alliances and betrayals as fortunes shift.
I do not want to give away the story, so I will speak ambiguously. I was impressed by the resolution of the story and elevation of Klaus into what promises to be a positive character in future installments. I am also concerned about Father Michael's fate, which is hanging in limbo.
One of the nice features of this book, in my opinion, is the adherence to traditional vampire tropes and the essential Christian subtext of the story. Crucifixes and sacramentals work because Christ's death had consequences for the world. Some of the longer-lived characters acknowledge the importance of Christ. Enik is clearly a Christian knight. This is all a nice change of pace from the modern trope of keeping vampire lore intact except for that "religious stuff," as if that "religious stuff" was a supernatural bridge too far.
Although this book is obviously the bridgehead for a series, it is not merely the first part of a larger book. I don't like the tendency of some recent writers to arbitrarily end their book when their word count reaches one-third of the total. Guern finishes off the main parts of this story but leaves threads open for future development.
This is a fine and engaging book that kept my interest. It is all the more impressive for being the author's first published book.
Right from the first few pages, I was hooked. I had to know more and where the author was going with this story. Normally a prologue is not particularly riveting despite it setting the background to the novel or giving some basic details that will be relevant to the plot later on. In this novel, the prologue is the hook that becomes embedded in your curiosity to read more and want to know more. Another characteristic of this prologue is its striking beauty. It is a touching account of Jesus carrying the Cross to Golgotha. It nearly had me in tears. Despite this beauty, Guern introduces an evil character who offers Jesus a proposal that is similar to the one offered by Satan when Jesus was in the wilderness. I loved Jesus reply to this character and how even then, He stated His purpose in continuing on with His mission to be the propitiation for man's sin. This has an effect on this tempting character that I did not realise the importance of until much later. I had to pause after this prologue as I wanted to reflect on this account. It could definitely be a short story on its own. It showcases the talent of this author.
If anything, this prologue shows that this author wrote this novel to adhere to biblical principles. It either gives a glimpse of what the relationship the author has with Jesus or that he intends to base this novel on biblical principles showing this spiritual side of vampirism. Or both. And this despite it being from a Catholic background and very much a Catholic flavour. I found this interesting and refreshing as most Catholic flavoured novels promote more Catholicism than the doctrines or principles of the Bible or Catholicism's relative, Christianity. My apologies here as I come from a Catholic upbringing and my disillusionment with this denomination shows in my conversion to Christianity since. That is why I say this novel is refreshing and pleasantly surprising from an author I presume is Catholic. Or he is not but has just convincingly written this novel reflecting the Catholic bent that is based on the Catholic church's attitude to the time of the Crusades to these demonic entities and their methods of removal.
From the first chapter when we are introduced to the main protagonist, Father Michael of Galen, and the exorcism he performs, the hook becomes further embedded in the reader's curiosity. Now the reader must know who is this priest and why he is so special. As you progress in the novel and the plot unravels, you become more intrigued about the passion and motive that drives this man to eradicate this vermin he considers vampires to be. You start to wonder where his special abilities or powers come from. Are these endowed from God or another source? Is Michael human, angelic, demonic or some other entity? Despite this mystery, you find yourself on his side and cheering him on in his quest to eradicate Christendom of the vampiric curse.
Guern introduces Michael's past in a flash back format that also serves to provide many backgrounds to the plot arcs. These include those of the Crusades, especially the almost failed Fourth Crusade, the motives and attitudes of the Church to these Crusades, the other protagonist, Enik, his background in the Crusades and becoming a Knight. Interspersed in this are the secretive order that Michael belongs to and his mentor, Father Rannulf and their torturous relationship. At times, I found these flash backs a bit tedious and very detailed but if you persist, you not only see more evidence of the more than competent story telling ability of this author but you also see that in the long run all these details come together and form a unique and solid background to the world building Guern creates so masterfully. And it is this that is one of the wonders of this novel and of this author.
You hit the ground running with this novel. The pace may slow somewhat during these flashback and background building scenes, but these, despite their sometimes tedious nature, still manage to keep you interested and focussed as you know the author is going to return you to the present where Michael and Enik are desperately trying to fight the nest of vampires in Enik's home town on Marse. It is here in this plot arc that we discover more of Michal's past and its connection with one vampire in particular who is highlighted as the main antagonist. Despite him being a vampire, I found myself extremely curious as to his background, his motives to know more about Michael, his past and his motive for wanting to kill him and his cohort. You definitely realise that there is a deeper plot/story arc that this vampire is involved in and as the novel progresses, this becomes a platform for every other plot arcs to be brought into alignment contributing to a most unexpected but satisfying conclusion.
But even then, just when you think Guern has tied up all the loose ends, you realise that one major plot and character arc is left unsatisfactorily unresolved. Then you start to consider that after this novel being so masterfully constructed, why would the author leave you in the dark on such an issue. Your final thought on this? This has to be addressed in a sequel! Not only that, but there are also other plot arcs that relate to Michael and his connection to one notorious Cardinal Graziani. I can say that the way this novel ends and its plot arcs are going to make for another suspenseful and action packed sequel, that will expand more on the events and world building created by this talented author.
What I found interesting apart from everything else in this novel, is Guern's take on the origin of vampires, the two vampire types, and how some who are turned can attain some form of control over this curse. This is explored in much more detail through the vampire antagonist I mentioned previously. This all ties in very well with the mission of the secret order that Michael belongs to and its mission. Then there is an ability that they possess that I have not found in any other vampire novel. They use this to their advantage in trying to defeat Michael and Enik until Michael shows them how to counteract this. A very clever ability to add to the vampire characteristics that we have come to know from the many novels in this genre.
I have a soft spot for Enik. Guern has given him a very interesting and detailed past. He is one very committed believer in Christ and single handedly saves the Fourth Crusade which prepares the way for a Fifth. I admire him more than I do Michael. Despite Michael showing a strong commitment to the Catholic Church and his secret order, and a knowledge of God and Jesus and comes across as being a believer, it is Enik who is the real Christian character in this novel. His speech to his fellow Crusaders when Graziani has admitted defeat of this Crusade is very sincere and appears to be inspired by God. He shows repentance for his less than admirable motive to further the Crusade under Graziani's manipulation and even upon discharge from the Crusades, he returns with very Christian like behaviour in being a Lord to the peasants in his care in Marse. He finds new found strength as he takes on being a Knight again but this time with a stronger and deeper relationship with Christ and a very specific role in ridding Christendom of the vampire curse. I imagine Guern developing Enik further in future instalments and I look forward to this immensely.
There is one issue that I am looking forward to seeing the author address. I cannot give away too much here as spoilers but I know it will either be addressed fully in the next instalment or developed further and continued in a possible third. In its unexplained status in this novel, I find it is the only thing that appears to conflict with the biblical/Christian principles the author has laid out. I am very curious to see the author's explanation. Such is what can happen with a novel's construction and author's strategy in constructing a novel and planning for further sequels.
I mentioned previously how this novel ends with a satisfying and unexpected ending. I loved it. It also sets the stage for further development of the biblical aspects of this novel. The theme of this ending is in line with a few other vampire novels written by Christian authors who have the same end result. In this novel, however, the journey to this result is different to the others but is no less satisfying, just a different slant of the theology of it.
This is one very satisfying world that this author draws you into. His writing style is engaging and addictive. It is very appropriate to the style and flavour of the world building that depicts the 12 Century of the Crusades.
I look forward to the continuing saga of this series. It definitely appears that this author has so much more to say about what he has established so far.
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I stayed up late because I didn’t want to stop reading. The story sucks you in and just goes goes goes.Read more