If you haven’t read The Blood Gospel, the first novel in the Order of the Sanguines series, please be aware that this review inevitably contains spoilers from that fine novel. Innocent Blood picks up almost immediately from the end of The Blood Gospel and while its story is self-contained its characters are not.
The Warrior of Man (Jordan), the Woman of Learning (Erin) and the Knight of Christ (Father Rhun) have discovered the Blood Gospel but to read it they must find the key to its mysteries, the First Angel. In the second novel in this compelling and enormously entertaining series, our unlikely trio of heroes have to undergo another perilous hunt, the search for the First Angel, while being pursued and undermined at every turn by other forces – the Russian monk, the tragic Elisabeta and the betrayer of Christ. Judas’s own quest, though, is far more terrible. The events of the novel take place over just a few days in late December and, as the anniversary of Christ’s nativity approaches, time is about to run out.
In Innocent Blood, James Rollins and Rebecca Cantrell have achieved the remarkable. They have created a sequel worthy of one of my favourite novels of the year, The Blood Gospel. And in short order, too, for which I’m especially grateful. This is not a type of world in which I’m normally comfortable – vampires, monsters, angels, warrior priests, immortals walk through these pages but while this would normally put me off, Rollins and Cantrell have the ability to ground them in reality. Jordan and Erin, our entirely human heroes, albeit touched by something else, are completely believable characters and their struggle to comprehend this alternative world that they have been pulled into helps the reader to do just the same.
Equally important is the way that the characters, whether good or evil, have been given complex motivations and inspirations. Innocent Blood is a thriller with an emotional punch. Elisabeta and Judas are particularly fascinating individuals. Elisabeta has become a monster but what she has suffered herself is equally monstrous. Thrown into a time of which she has no understanding but more than a little fear, she is indeed cursed. But as the novel continues she begins to glimpse hope and her relationship with the young boy Tommy, another victim who has to endure horrendous pain and turmoil, is extremely touching.
Judas is a victim of his preordained destiny and he can never escape it, driven though he is by a need to end it. He has experienced love with the intriguing Arella but he is incapable of denying his own nature. It’s difficult to hate him. In this novel it is even possible to feel sympathy for Rasputin, however despicable he is proved yet again to be. We learn more in Innocent Blood about the Sanguine priests, most of whom are a peculiarly mix of being both likeable and creepy, but the most fascinating portraits belong to the immortals.
Innocent Blood is a supernatural, mystical thriller that sends shivers down the spine while keeping you hanging on to every word. The action pounds along from start to finish, racing through countries, all wonderfully described. Innocent Blood is beautifully and carefully written, both authors working together perfectly. Its twists are powerful and the atmosphere is extraordinarily rich and consuming. This is storytelling at its best and now one of my very favorite thriller series.