The following book review is a special provided to BlackFive readers by Elise Cooper. You can read all of our reviews by clicking on the Books category on the far right sidebar.
James Rollins has collaborated with Rebecca Cantrell in their newly released book, The Blood Gospel. This book is the first in a trilogy about the Sanguines, an order of good vampires. Readers who enjoy thrillers, mysteries, or the Rollins’ Sigma series might be apprehensive about reading this thriller-fantasy. However, give it a chance because it has a captivating story that is fast-paced and interesting.
The plot of the book begins when an earthquake in Masada reveals a tomb buried deep into the mountain. The three main characters: Sergeant Jordan Stone, a military forensic expert; Father Rhun Korza, a Vatican priest; and Dr. Erin Granger, a brilliant but disillusioned archaeologist are asked to investigate a newfound discovery, a subterranean temple holding the crucified body of a mummified girl. The three protagonists escape a brutal attack at Masada and find themselves racing to find a book, The Blood Gospel, rumored to have been written in Christ’s own hand, before it falls into the hands of a horrific enemy.
Rollins told BlackFive.net he came up with the plot at the Los Angeles Museum of Art while viewing Rembrandt’s painting of “The Raising of Lazarus." It struck him “how scared everyone looked, and this started me down a road of reflection about early Catholicism, vampirism, and a story began to unfold. I knew this could be a huge, groundbreaking new mythology, a story so epic in scope that I knew I didn’t want to tackle this alone. Surprisingly writing with Rebecca was fun and refreshing. It was nice to have someone else to lean on. Oddly enough we did not get into arguments because we let the story dictate.”
Rebecca Cantrell who has written a historical series set in 1930s Berlin featuring the main character Hannah Vogel was elicited by Rollins. They told blackfive.net that they met in Hawaii at a Writer’s Retreat. Cantrell was intrigued about the premise and jumped on board. Rollins believes that since each had certain strengths and unique skills they were able to create an enriched story. He wrote the action scenes and brought a thematic approach to try to find the common ground between science/religion, faith/logic, and the believers versus those disillusioned with their faith. Cantrell wrote great characterizations and historical descriptions in the book.
This plot has the reader wondering about certain traditions of Catholicism: Why do Catholic priests wear pectoral crosses? Why are they sworn to celibacy? Why do the Monks hide their countenances under hoods? And why does Catholicism insist that the consecration of wine during Mass results in its transformation to Christ's own blood? Rollins decided to answer some of these questions by having a vampire sect within the Vatican, called the Sanguines, become the protectors of the Church after they pledged not to drink human blood.
Rollins wanted to explore the “what if” regarding how Christ would have dealt with these vampires, “What would he have done to save these people. I used the actual traditions, for example, Sanguines can be out in the day as long as they wear hoods and thought maybe that this is the origin of the Monks wearing hoods. I was able to pair these things up by playing with the trappings of the Catholic faith and the mythology.”
Not only did they draw on mythology they also used past influences. Cantrell shyly admitted that she watches Saturday cartoons, but now has an excuse because of her young child. She believes these viewings have probably had an influence on her subconscious. In the book there was the “silver bullet” used for protection and a scene where Erin was taken prisoner and had a spiked dog collar put on her. What comes to mind is Superman, the Lone Ranger, and a Star Wars scene between Jabba the Hut and Princess Lea.
This novel uses a lot of different settings and historical situations. The characters travel to Jerusalem, Europe, St. Petersburg, and the Vatican City getting clues from Nazi plans, Masada’s history, and the Rasputin character. Cantrell wants her readers to think about the fact that Rasputin, who was killed four times over, could be a vampire. “I wanted to think how vampires could exist in these scenarios.” In the next book she and Rollins will continue to bring into focus historical characters and eras. “A character will be introduced that is more modern because he was turned into a Sanguine during the sixties.”
The Blood Gospel has something for everyone: conspiracy, ancient mystery, action-adventure, and a touch of the Bible. Just as the Rollins’ Sigma series is a thriller with a tinge of science fiction, this novel is also a thriller, but one with a lot of fantasy. Once again Rollins, along with Cantrell, has shown that it is possible to write an intriguing story that can leap over different genres.