Blood Oath’s Nathaniel Cade is a far cry from your Twilight vampire

blood oath

Blood Oath by Christopher Farnsworth

Nathaniel Cade is no ordinary vampire. Called to service by President Andrew Jackson in the late 1800s, Cade has been protecting the Oval Office from supernatural threats ever since.

When rising political hot shot,Zach Barrows, is assigned as the vampire agent’s new handler, the two are thrown into a plot to stop Dr. Johann Konrad (also known as Baron von Frankenstein – yes, that Frankenstein) from creating an army of unstoppable monsters. But as they race against the clock, they discover the monster army is only the beginning. A far more sinister government plot is afoot – one that involves officials at the highest levels – and their target is the President of the United States.

With the vampire craze well underway – Twilight, The Vampire Diaries, etc. – it’s no surprise to find a vampire employed by the U.S. goverment. Farnsworth’s book is enjoyable enough, although the plot could use a bit more fleshing out every now and then. And, his love scene read like a teenaged-boy’s fantasy.

Other than that, though, Blood Oath was solid and entertaining.

The Iron Wyrm Affair

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The Iron Wyrm Affair by Lilith Saintcrow

Steampunk is in its prime, and there’s no shortage of books to satisfy whatever steampunk flavor you crave. From werewolves to vampires to flying dirigibles and the undead… it’s all out there for the savvy reader.

However, The Iron Wyrm Affair takes steam in a new direction, combining detailed mystical elements with the familiar, yet still impressive, logic-propelled machines that color most steampunk novels. 

The premise of The Iron Wyrm Affair is this: Emma Bannon, forensic sorceress to the Queen, has been tasked with protecting unregistered mentath Archibald Clare, all the while trying to deduce who is out to control or destroy Britannia’s reign. Aided by her shield Mikal – who may or may not be trying to kill her – Bannon must battle unsavory sorcerers, magnificent mecha, wyrms and flesh-feeding gryphons. And if she can avoid destroying another expensive gown in the process – all the better!

What sets this book apart from so many others that litter the steampunk genre is its exquisite attention to detail and the lovingly-crafted world which pays homage to Holmes’ London. Oftentimes, steam authors gloss over world building in order to focus on character development or to drive the pace of the storyline. But not Saintcrow. Her Londinium is a labor of love, each section of the city expertly detailed and given life as Bannon and Company wind their way through its streets, tracking down another piece of the mystery.

Saintcrow fully develops the magic mythos that plays an integral role in her story, and by doing so, creates a storyline that is not only compelling, but also believable. Magic isn’t an afterthought in this story. It is a major propellant, and as such, the reader must focus and absorb the magical foundation as it’s carefully laid. It’s refreshing to read a story in which the author not only encourages, but requires, critical thinking from their reader.

While many steampunk stories feature leads who inevitably fall in love with one another, the lack of romance between Bannon and Clare is a welcome change. With no sexual tension between Bannon and Clare, the reader observes a true respect and mutual admiration develop between these two without any underlying motive.

All in all, the story adopts a steady pace that never once feels sluggish or rushed, and by the end, solid relationships have formed between the cast of characters and an excellent adventure comes to a close.

I look forward to reading the next adventure of Bannon and Clare, and I suggest you move their first case to the top of your reading list.

Anansi Boys

Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman

It’s safe to say Neil Gaiman will be remembered as a literary tour-de-force long after we are all gone. His crowning achievement – the Sandman graphic novels – secured him a place in literary history as soon as people began reading them.

It should come as no surprise that Gaiman once again revisits the mythos that consistently peppered the Sandman novels and American Gods. By now, Gaiman has credibly established a universe where ancient gods still walk among modern man, spreading their wisdom and, more often than not, wreaking mischief upon unsuspecting mankind.

The premise of Anansi Boys is this: When Charlie Nancy’s father named something, it stuck. Like the nickname Fat Charlie. Even though Fat Charlie is now a grown man, living in London and engaged, he’s still saddled with embarrassing moniker.

When his father drops dead on a karaoke bar stage, Fat Charlie has the unsettling feeling he’s still not free of the older man’s influence, and he’s correct. Nancy’s boring, staid life suddenly transforms into a bubbling maelstrom with trips across the Atlantic, the surprising appearance of a brother he never knew he had, and – perhaps the most startling revelation of all – the realization that Mr. Nancy wasn’t simply an embarrassing father. No, he was Anansi, the trickster, spider god of rebellion, and he had an annoying habit of not staying dead.

Gaiman masterfully weaves ancient mythology with subtle pathos, knowing almost every reader will easily identify with Fat Charlie’s dysfunctional family. Indeed, it’s nearly impossible to not sympathize with Charlie’s confusion when his mischievous brother appears, his sights seemingly set on ruining Charlie’s life all in the name of teaching Charlie to have a little fun.

A colorful cast of characters, including a cantankerous future mother-in-law, a shyster boss who’s been fleecing his clients for years, a group of decrepit, grouchy witches and a slew of ancient gods make this story incredibly satisfying. Blending gods with man is never easy, but Gaiman makes it look effortless.

One might say Anansi Boys is a coming-of-age story for Fat Charlie, because the man who appears on the first page of the story is nothing like the man left standing on the last, and I was glad for that.