Book Review: Red, White, and Blood by Christopher Farnsworth

How do you feel about the Boogie Man? No, we’re not talking about someone “shaking their groove thing” and we’re not talking about something you might get on your finger after some proboscoid exploration. We’re talking about the actual Boogie Man (or bogeyman or boogeyman or boogieman) – the original monster under the bed.

At my house, the Boogie Man received such attention by my youngest child that we had to invent a “Monster Alarm” (like a burglar alarm) that we would “arm” when we went to bed so no monsters could get her in the middle of the night. And during my own childhood I can remember a morbid fascination with monsters in the dark that has survived to the present day.

Perhaps that’s why I’ve really enjoyed Christopher Farnsworth‘s series about a vampire working for the President of the United States. With The President’s Vampire and Blood Oath Farnsworth introduced Nathaniel Cade, a vampire who was pardoned by President Andrew Johnson after a brutal set of murders on a whaling ship. He was then bound by Voodoo by a blood oath to serve and protect the President of the United States. Cade is a monster, but he protects the interests of the Presidents from the other monsters who also live there. Monsters of both literary and mythological origins.

The fact that Farnsworth has now brought Cade face to face with the Boogie Man is twisted enough to be genius. But that he can combine the Boogie Man with a political battle for the White House rife with commentary about the current political climate in the US makes it that much better. The first book grabbed my attention a few years ago, but the second one, though I enjoyed it, didn’t grab me as much. And Red, White, and Blood is now my favorite in the series.

When you consider all the foes Cade has faced in the first two books, from vampires and a real-life Dr. Frankenstein to the more mundane enemies, it’s amazing to think that he’s faced the Boogie Man before. He’s had other names, of course… The Zodiac Killer. BTK. The Ax Man of New Orleans. But as many times as Cade has faced and beaten him, he keeps coming back.

Now the Boogie Man is back and determined to end Cade once and for all. But more than that, he’s working with someone else this time. Helen Holt. A woman who has somehow stayed alive despite Cade’s efforts. A woman who wants Cade gone, but also wants to see power shift and new blood in the White House.

Can Cade defeat the Boogie Man once and for all? You’ll have to read Red, White, and Blood to find out.

For more about Nathaniel Cade and author Christopher Farnsworth, be sure to check out his website and follow him on Twitter!

This article first appeared at BlogCritics.org here.

–Fitz

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Book Review: The Watchtower by Lee Carroll

Hi all…

About a year ago I entered the world of Garet James, a jewelry designer living in New York City, in the book Black Swan Rising. Garet’s artistic abilities and a family history she knew nothing about collide violently when she meets and is given a beautiful silver box by a strange shopkeeper. From the moment she opens that box, her life is never the same.

Black Swan Rising kicked off Garet’s story by writers Carol Goodman (Arcadia Falls, The Night Villa) and her husband – poet and hedge fund manager Lee Slonimsky – writing under the pseudonym of Lee Carroll. And with its Shakespearean faeries, evil sorcerer, and mysterious vampire, I was hooked. The book was well written and sucked me in immediately. (You can read my review here.)

Unfortunately, I found their follow-up The Watchtower to be extremely difficult to get into and a struggle to read.

Once again, we’re thrust into the world of Garet James, but this time we find her in Paris chasing after the potential love of her life Will Hughes the vampire. Hughes is trying to find a way to become mortal again after 400 years of immortality so he can be with Garet. When he journeys to Paris in search of the hidden path to the Summer Country, the magical realm of the faeries, Garet follows after him.

From the beginning of the book, the reader is set upon two separate roads. The first follows Garet as she navigates the obstacles in the modern world between her and finding Will. The second follows Will in the past as as young poet who fell in love with Marguerite, Garet’s ancestor. And quite honestly, though I enjoyed Garet’s journey as she meets several new faeries and mortals touched in lasting ways by their magic, I really didn’t care to follow young Will Hughes at all. He was a spoiled brat with no patience who is selfishly seeking to spend time with an immortal lover. The alternating chapters between Garet and Will made me dread any time I ended a chapter with Garet…

However, even as I struggled to get through the book to the end, the amazing back story mixing faerie lore and alchemy was fascinating. The alchemist/sorcerer John Dee is a right evil bastard and I knew any time he was in the picture something bad would occur. Learning how Will Hughes became a vampire in a double-cross by the malicious Dee was fun to discover. And meeting the various fae Garet (and Will) encountered along the journey was intriguing – from the 17th century botanist transformed into a tree by the fae to the octopus librarian, each had a history that gracefully weaved past and present together while educating the reader on a bit of faerie history.

Ultimately I didn’t enjoy The Watchtower as much as Black Swan Rising, but I look forward to seeing where the writing duo takes Will and Garet next. No spoilers here, but there was nice twist at the end that should make the next book quite entertaining if done well. Hopefully we’ll stay in a single timeline and not alternate between the characters next time. You can check out both Black Swan Rising and The Watchtower on bookstore shelves today!

This article first appeared at BlogCritics.org here.

–Fitz

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Movie Review: Priest

Hi there!

The Summer 2011 movie season has started even though Spring in Colorado has been one of mixed wind, snow, rain, and sun so far. Thor was fun, and I was hoping Priest with Paul Bettany, Karl Urban, and Maggie Q might continue the trend. Let’s just say I almost walked out after 25 minutes and wish I had so I could have used that time more wisely.

Let’s set the stage before I rip this film up however.

Priest is set in a dystopian, post-apocalyptic world where vampires and humankind have always battled for supremacy. People moved to cities with high walls to protect them, but we were losing badly. That is until the Church started finding people with extraordinary abilities who were fast enough to actually battle vampires effectively. This small band of brothers and sisters eventually got them under control. Rather than destroying the vampires however, they decided to put them on reservations and keep them locked up for eternity.

The Priest referred to in the title of the film (Bettany) gets a message from the outpost where his brother is living with his wife and daughter saying that his niece had been kidnapped by the vampires, her mother killed, and Priest’s brother slowly dying. Could he help? Sure, but it would mean turning his back on the Church and going against orders. Sometimes a little disobedience is required, and Priest goes off to save his niece. The Church isn’t happy and sends out four more priests after him, including the Priestess (Maggie Q, TV’s Nikita). And Priest discovers that it’s an old friend who’s taken his niece (Urban, Red, Lord of the Rings trilogy)…

I’ll stop there because I wouldn’t want to spoil the story. Not that you don’t already know all of that from the trailers, but hey.

So what went wrong with this film?

It starts off with an animated sequence that tells a bit of the backstory of the war, the priests, and so on. It has to be the bloodiest animation I’ve seen in quite a while, but it was fine. Suitably dark with a bit of narration to tell us what we need to know. But it quickly became evident that the soundtrack by Christopher Young was going to be a loud, less well written homage to the Conan soundtrack by Basil Poleadoris. That annoyed me throughout the film.

Once we actually meet Priest, it becomes readily apparent that Bettany decided this character wasn’t going to have any emotions at all. Even Urban’s “Black Hat” character only really has one good scene and it appears in the trailers where he’s directing mayhem Joker-style. Christopher Plummer puts in an appearance as Monsignor Orelas, a humorless control freak with little redeeming value.

Honestly the only character remotely likable was Maggie Q’s Priestess. She had the most emotional range of any of the characters and hardly received much screen time for her trouble.

And the vampires themselves were kind of interesting. Eyeless with four legs and big fangs ready to rip a person to shreds. They looked a bit slimy, but hey – they live underground and in the dark. You’d probably be slimy too.

Let me tick off the other things that bugged me. The story is transparent and railroaded. The cinematography has two modes – washed out and white in the desert or salt flats or dark, whether dark outside or underground. When it’s washed out, it’s really washed out. And when it’s dark, it’s dark. The wirework was uninteresting, even as Priest and Black Hat duel on the top of a speeding train. The 3D effects were largely uninteresting and did nothing to advance the plot (such as it was)…

Ultimately I really think the vampires should have won. I highly recommend you avoid Priest and skip it even when it comes out on DVD unless you’re really bored. Let’s hope that the rest of the movie season improves.

I just wish I’d walked out when the first inclination hit. [sigh]

–Fitz

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