Blood Oath by Christopher Farnsworth
Published by Hodder and Stoughton, June 2010
Review by Mark Yon
As we’ve said before in these reviews, those vampires are everywhere at the moment. In public (Meyer’s Twilight series), in secret (Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files), watching over us, (Jennifer Rardin’s CIA agent Jaz Parks), a presence throughout history (Jasper Kent’s Twelve and Thirteen Years Later).
This one fits securely into the latter here. The book’s subtitle (The President’s Vampire) gives it away, and perhaps a little unfairly. Here we have a tale of contemporary guardianship – the fact that unbeknownst to most, a vampire has been part of the American political system for over a hundred years, serving democracy and defending America against opposition from things not usually noticed by your typical American citizen.
To this tale arrives Zach Barrows, up and coming political figure. In circumstances that are a little embarrassing (caught en flagrante with Candace, the President’s daughter) the result is a promotion of sorts, to being the political liaison officer to Nathaniel Cade. Cade is the vampire: blood-oathed for over 130 years to the President.
Much of the book then is spent assisting Cade in dealing with those supernatural issues that appear from time to time. The first of these wrestles with the bad guys that any contemporary thriller needs – jihadist terrorists. Here they are using dead US soldier body parts to create Unmenschsoldaten, undead soldiers adaptable to their bidding. Once Cade and Barrows are on the case… you can probably get the rest.
OK: so my glib summary may give the impression that the book’s a little incredulous. And there are places where my credulity was stretched – the bad guy is a cliché, a near-immortal ‘mad scientist’ on whom the novel Frankenstein was based, for example. But what the book lacks in originality (though there are some nice little twists along the way) it gains in pace and style. There’s a nice series of flashbacks to earlier events in Cade’s lengthy life – his signing of the blood oath that ties him to the president, where he was when 9/11 happened. Refreshingly (for me), there is little romance, (although there is definitely some sex!) though there are hints of one earlier in Cade’s life. There’s a lot you could do here with events that are not contemporary and I could see a series of prequels, if the author felt like it.
Generally this book is well-written, has a definite film/TV style (perhaps not too far-fetched considering that Farnsworth is also a screenwriter) and if you can live with the impracticalities, a solid, fun read. To my mind, it’s a darn sight better than any other contemporary thriller that you might find on the airport shelves, or dare I say it, any vampire romance you might care to suggest. Dracula meets The West Wing (or even 24) – what is there not to like?
Mark Yon, May 2010.