Project Wonderful

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Thorin's Review - Blood Oath by Christopher Farnsworth

Title: Blood Oath
Series: The President's Vampire
Author(s): Christopher Farnsworth
Genre: Supernatural Thriller
Publisher: G. P. Putnam's Sons
Received: Received from ...
Release Date: May 18, 2010
Finished: May 1, 2010
Pages: 390
Challenges: None



My Thoughts: In 1867 the President pardoned a vampire. No, for real. Andrew Johnson, elevated to president after Lincoln's assassination, did pardon a sailor who killed two of his crew-mates and claimed to be a vampire. The man spent the rest of his days in a mental institution. Or, as Blood Oath posits, at least that's the cover story.
Blood Oath is the story of how that Vampire, Nathaniel Cade, was actually bound to the will of the President of the United States by a blood oath and became a super-powered secret agent fighting supernatural threats to the U.S. The story picks up as he gets a new liaison, Zach Barrows, a young politico go-getter from the new president's campaign staff who was caught in a "decidedly non-procreative act" with the president's 19-year old daughter; this lifetime assignment is his career exile. Before long they're on the trail of Dr. Frankenstein, a chemist/surgeon/alchemist who has all the dark gravitas of Hellboy's Rasputin, and clashing with a black ops arm of the government that's under even darker cover than Cade. The plot is a potpourri of terrorists, defiled corpses of U.S. soldiers, immortality and the apocalypse.
Blood Oath reads like Buffy the Vampire Slayer meets James Bond (or Supernatural, 24 and Fringe to bring this reference into the new Millennium). It's got a good story, good twists, and Farnsworth makes about half a dozen characters come to life. Backstories and appetizing facts are sprinkled throughout to give everyone depth without slowing anything down. Just a really solid piece of storytelling.
Nothing in the book is necessarily new ground, but it's put together in new ways with a lot of polish (Farnsworth is a career journalist and scriptwriter, and it shows). The vampires, especially Cade, have an undercurrent of inhuman predator just beneath the almost human veneer that gives them more flavor than the parade of cry baby blood-addicts they pass of as vampires all over pop culture. Dr. Frankenstein is one of those characters I usually hate seeing resurrected, but again Farnsworth builds him just right: A creepy, immortal, mad scientist Nazi who's merged genetics and alchemy to horrifying biowarfare effects and is now working with Muslim terrorists. It taps right into your worst fears of what a supernatural terrorist could do. The below-secret government organization helping him drops as many tantalizing hints as an episode of Fringe.
So why not give the book five stars? The writing really moves, it's characters are interesting, the dialog is good and the action is huge. But I couldn't quote you a single line from it, and it didn't leave me thinking of anything. Shannon got the book, I devoured it, I put it down and its done, nothing really stuck with me; it doesn't hit that next level. Blood Oath also suffers from super-creep: Guy X is indestructible and super powerful. Oh, but THESE GUYS are even indestructibler and super powerful. Frankenstein's monsters are just bigger, badder, tougher ... but you don't really get why. It's the sort of thing you dismiss to enjoy the story, but great genre stories don't put quite that much strain on disbelief. Put it this way: If I geek-holed Frankenstein's monsters, taking apart their fake "realism" for argument's sake, the conversation would be over in five seconds: Frankenstein did it. To do a supernatural thriller right, there should be more
meat on the geeky bones. It's not the difference between a good and bad story, but it is the difference between good and great genre fiction.
Having said that, Blood Oath is as good a summer read as you're going to find, and would make one heck of a comic book or movie. It's a good thing Cade was turned after that bad ass vampire hunter Abe Lincoln bit it.
About the Author: Christopher Farnsworth was an investigative and business reporter until he sold a script, THE ACADEMY, to MGM. Blood Oath is his first novel. Find him at, and read more about Blood Oath at


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