Sunday, January 15, 2012

Review: Crusade by Nancy Holder and Debbie Viguié

For the past two years, Jenn has lived and trained at Spain’s Sacred Heart Academy Against the Cursed Ones. She is among the few who have pledged to defend humanity or die trying. But the vampires are gaining power, and the battle has only just begun.
Forced to return home after death takes a member of her family, Jenn discovers that San Francisco is now a vampire strong-hold. As a lone hunter apart from her team, Jenn is isolated — and at risk. Even worse, Jenn is betrayed by one who was once bound to protect her, causing her to doubt all she had held as true. To survive, Jenn must find the courage to trust herself — and her heart.

Crusade was a book that originally ended up on my TBR list because of the cover. It was so full of promises of dark action and adventure that I immediately wanted to know what it was about. The blurb made me even more curious and when a copy landed in my mailbox last year I knew I'd get to it sooner rather than later. It didn't disappoint - the characters, the writing, the suspence and the action kept the story going and me glued to the book for a full two days. The premise of vampires revealing their existence to the world, forming alliances with humans under false pretenses and then taking over was new to me and the idea of teens from all over the world learning to fight them at specialized academies seemed like a pretty cool counterweight and I liked the way it was executed.
Crusade packs an interesting cast of characters and in a series of flashbacks tells a bit about them. There's a witch, a werewolf, a devout Catholic vampire, an IRA fighter, a wannabe samurai, a priest who's got more secrets than all of them put together and those are the good guys. Holder and Viguié are very gradual with the revelations and by the time the novel ends it's clear that we don't know the half of it. That's actually one of the things that dampened my enthusiasm - you usually expect that by the end of the last chapter there'd be a resolution of sorts but here at the end of the book things are just getting started. Not a bad thing for a series of course, but I guess I expected more of an "ending" than a minor lull in action.
I'm not usually a fan of extensive flashbacks because they tend to slow down the action but here they were actually very effective at making the characters more real. Through their past we get a better sense of who they are which is great because they are secretive with each other and without these insights they'd be a lot more one-dimensional, which is never a good thing.
Another thing I didn't particularly enjoy was the angsty vampire and the much-heard/seen/read "I love her so much but we can't be together because I'm no good". Come on people, there are only so many ways this sort of thing can be spun and seems like they've all been done. And here's another thought - why not make the girl the dangerous one, the one who has to hold back? Why is it always the guy?
I liked the writing and the way things developed. The dialogue flowed well, every character had a unique voice and there was just enough suspence to keep me guessing as to the identity of the possible traitor in the midst of the Hunters. I think I know where things are heading but then again the authors have planted enough false clues to keep things interesting.
It was refreshing to see vampires as the bad guys and here they are very bad guys. Cunning, cruel, crafty and murderous. Sunlight and holy water hurt them and a stake through the heart is a sure way to get rid of one. (I can hear the Twilight haters cheering.) There's also black magic, warewolves allied with the vampires and humans ready to betray their own kind so this book is pretty juicy and it sets up the scene well for an even jucier sequel, which by the way is already out so look for Damned if you like this first book in the series. I sure will be looking it up at the library.

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