Christopher Farnsworth’s Blood Oath is a fast-paced and supernaturally-charged action horror-thriller that introduces us to government vampire Nathaniel Cade, and his ongoing duty to protect the people and interests of the United States. There are powerful forces of evil at work around the globe, and it’s Cade’s duty to take care of things too dangerous, or secret, for mere mortals to become embroiled in.
The book opens in a remote, ex-East European Bloc state where we’re soon introduced to Cade and his powers. We’re also given a hint of even greater things afoot, but not full disclosure, at this junction. As throughout the book, secrets lurk at the periphery. Some of these are revealed gradually, others remain buried in enigma.
Following our sharp Cade introduction there’s a quick move to Washington DC and the start of this story proper. From this early point in the book, at times as you’re introduced to other main characters, I did find that elements of the story in Blood Oath to be quite similar to those covered in the first Hellboy movie.
The whole powerful, disgruntled supernatural entity at the beck and call of the government was very familiar, likewise a caring, loyal handler with terminal cancer. Add a newbie government employee ‘wet-behind-the-ears’ assigned to watch over the all-powerful one for good measure and that sealed it. From the very start I found these to be a little close to the Del Toro movie adaptation for comfort.
As the book moved on it did take on much more of its own life, its own power and identity, but I honestly did have to shake off the idea that this wasn’t an adaptation of another work in those first hundred pages or so.
The question of writing skill isn’t at question here. Christopher Farnsworth writes strong copy that pulls you into the goings on of his detailed yet fast-paced creation. He is one of those rare authors gifted with the ability to make the reader turn those pages to find out what happens next.
Whilst I found from the start the main characters were quite clichéd, his body of assorted bad guys, and associate sub-characters creeping around were very interesting, and did make up for issues I had had elsewhere.
The main story itself is not atypical from your usual creature- feature. It deals with a Frankenstein-type surgeon and his intentions to create, or assist with the creation of, a super-powered reanimated army. It reads much better than my description of the plot, honestly.
As is the case with many books that are to be the first of any ‘series’ of novels, there is a potential to sacrifice portions of the story in order to set the pace for the greater series. However, in particular, any questions that the reader might have about Cade are well handled, via very brief, almost encyclopaedic, entries at the start of most chapters.
These are insightful, and free the author from bogging the reader down in unnecessary conversational detail purely to bring us up to speed. Nothing is worse than page upon page of pointless diatribe just to explain why a character can do certain things, and Farnworth nicely avoids piling such upon the reader.
The a-to-b paths the characters follow are fairly mysterious, and there’s a strong element of the traditional thriller about this book which is decently executed. Supernatural bad-guys are given fair redefinition, and this interaction with the greater-plot of the book works well.
Whilst Christopher Farnsworth’s book does veer early on toward what I found to be over-familiar territory, there’s no denying it’s an entertaining read. Thus I would recommend Blood Oath to the horror, supernatural-thriller, and not forgetting vampire-lit fans looking for a decent chunk of words with which to pass the time.