Review by Stephen Theaker
Nathaniel Cade is a vampire, bound by voodoo since 1867 to serve the President and his officers, to “support and defend the nation and its citizens against all enemies, foreign and domestic”. A lost extract from the Nixon tapes establishes that the curse leaves Cade to decide for himself who are the enemies of the United States – good news for Woodward and Bernstein! And if the President himself was an enemy of the United States? We may find out in future novels. In this one Cade faces both types of enemy: while terrorists steal body parts from soldiers’ corpses and send them to the US for purposes unknown, shadowy conspirators take the opportunity to strike at Cade and his colleagues.
In this kitchen-sink cosmos almost everything fantastical is real, especially the stuff from the movies – vampires, werewolves, Frankenstein monsters, zombies, etc – though there’s a scientific basis to it all, we’re told. Early chapters are highly reminiscent of the first Hellboy film, even down to the callow POV agent. Zach Barrows, a self-described “useless douche-nozzle”, thinks his new assignment’s a punishment for naughtiness with the President’s daughter, but by the end he’s earned his place in the book – and by Cade’s side.
The narrative takes the over-traditional Highlander approach – passages in the present, intercut occasionally with relevant episodes from the past – but with 70 chapters that average under six pages it can’t help being punchy. The opening left me expecting a Clancy or McNab style military thriller, but the bulk is much more like 24, with crooked agents, conspiracies, power struggles, big shocks and chains of responsibility that lead all the way to the top. It’s a lot of nonsense, but it’s often very exciting. Farnsworth takes a canny approach to his finale, gambling upon a small number of very tough enemies where many writers would have gone for a horde, making for an tense, tactical battle that really tests his heroes.
Blood Oath: The President’s Vampire, Christopher Farnsworth, Hodder & Stoughton, tpb, 398pp.