An earthquake in Masada, Israel, kills hundreds and reveals a tomb buried in the heart of the mountain. A trio of investigators—Sergeant Jordan Stone, a military forensic expert; Father Rhun Korza, a Vatican priest; and Dr. Erin Granger, a brilliant but disillusioned archaeologist—are sent to explore the macabre discovery, a subterranean temple holding the crucified body of a mummified girl.
But a brutal attack at the site sets the three on the run, thrusting them into a race to recover what was once preserved in the tomb’s sarcophagus: a book rumored to have been written by Christ’s own hand, a tome that is said to hold the secrets to His divinity. But the enemy who hounds them is like no other, a force of ancient evil directed by a leader of impossible ambitions and incalculable cunning.
From crumbling tombs to splendorous churches, Erin and her two companions must confront a past that traces back thousands of years, to a time when ungodly beasts hunted the dark spaces of the world, to a moment in history when Christ made a miraculous offer, a pact of salvation for those who were damned for eternity.
Here is a novel that is explosive in its revelation of a secret history. 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? The answers to all go back to a secret sect within the Vatican, one whispered as rumor but whose very existence was painted for all to see by Rembrandt himself, a shadowy order known simply as the Sanguines.
In the end, be warned: some books should never be found, never opened—until now. (goodreads.com)
I have a weird affection for these kinds of books where religion is the basis for some world-altering catastrophe of some sort. Having not grown up with religion at all, not only do I have an interest of it from an educational point of view but THE BLOOD GOSPEL mixes it in with archeology, another love of mine, and vampires and other supernatural creatures. Religion in fiction like this allows me to approach it in a safe manner, without judgment, without the book asking me questions. It just is. And the approach is more scientific, in this case through the eyes of Erin, the Woman of Learning in this book. Religion has a factual basis in history and she’s uncovering it. I like peering over her shoulder.
I also like seeing the religious side of things through the eyes of a devout vampire, Rhun, who did some incredibly bad things in his life that he’s still paying for. Maybe because I’m doing it with a story of mine, but I like the idea that even these seemingly evil creatures aren’t outside the scope of a religion’s god. There is still light for them despite the fact that they thrive in darkness. I like how Cantrell and Rollins explored this and even made a line between the evil of the evil and the redeemed of the evil.
The biggest draw for me, though, was the archeological aspect of the story, digging around in the desert mountains of Israel unearthing historical facts that lent itself to biblical fiction. It gave my logical mind peace in that it wasn’t just faith driving everyone around to do the things they were doing. There was something concrete, something solid, for them to grab on to. Erin struggled with this a lot. Her character had abandoned faith when she was a teenager and she dove headfirst into the scientific. It even impeded her as she, Rhun, and Jordan worked their way around the world trying to find the gospel. Despite the supernatural she’d seen it was still a problem for her to give herself over to any kind of faith.
All three of the main characters were incredibly compelling, even Jordan who, for the most part, was along for the ride. I was never bored in the story when it hopped between these three characters’ points of view. Between the action, vampires, archeology, taking the fiction out of the bible, I was engaged at nearly every turn.
The only part where I kind of started rolling my eyes a little was when it switched over to Bathory’s point of view. She was the true antagonist of the story driven by a centuries-old rage that’d been passed down her family for four hundred years. That’s where I felt the story was the thinnest, simply because her motivation was barely there. She was driven by some unseen force that left a physical mark on her, playing on her connection to Rhun, but it’s completely indirect. He affected her family four hundred years prior and Bathory’s still holding a grudge. Everything else was so strong. That was the weakest part for me.
It all came full circle, though. Where THE BLOOD GOSPEL ended definitely has me itching to read the next in the series. Lucky for me I have it waiting on my shelf.