Haunt of Jackals – A Review, CSFF Blog Tour, Day 3

Haunt of Jackals (Thomas Nelson), the October CSFF Blog Tour feature by Eric Wilson, is the perfect book to discuss as we approach Halloween, especially since it is a part of the Jerusalem Undead Trilogy.

Undead. That concept alone speaks volumes, and to be honest, it should have been enough to ward me off. But no. I decided it was time I see what this vampire story stuff was all about, especially since Eric Wilson, as a Christian, approached the subject from a spiritual-warfare angle, clearly in opposition to the current fad of “good vampires.”

Of course, vampires are imaginary creatures, but the idea that one person gains life by taking from another is hard to justify as something other than evil. As near as I can tell, the “good vampires” are those who deny their desires, which seems consistent with our current cultural bent toward finding strength within.

No, Eric’s vampires (called Collectors) are actually demons inhabiting the bodies of their previously dead hosts. I suspect the set-up is made clear in book one, Field of Blood. Not having read that, I admit the murkiness I found regarding these creatures and those fighting against them was probably my problem. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

The Story. At the heart of the Undead trilogy is Gina Lazarescu, a half mortal. She can die, but also can be resuscitated within three days if He Who Knows How can reach her in time.

The story opens with Gina struggling against a Collector who had kidnapped her. She escapes, and the rest of the book revolves around her efforts to defeat or evade or hide from the Collectors as they plot and plan against her and a group of good Undead assigned to protect Mankind.

Strengths. Eric is good writer. In essence, I came into the middle of the story, and yet I could follow the flow. I thought the “What Came Before” section was helpful.

Certainly his villains were appropriately villainous. His protagonists, Gina and her dad Cal, were both appropriately flawed but also likable because of their self-sacrificial desire to protect others.

The theme seemed clear—the blood of Christ saves. This message was delivered in the context of the story and didn’t seem at all forced or delivered by the author to the reader.

Weaknesses. ***May contain some spoilers***

My main problem with this book was point of view. Besides shifting constantly, which is something I don’t like, a large portion of the story was from the perspective of several of the Collectors … to the point that I found myself as much hoping for Erota to unite with Natira and defeat Megiste as I was that Gina and Cal would overcome the Collectors.

At the same time, I had a hard time worrying about Gina, a half-mortal, and Cal, an immortal. They could get hurt, but the stakes didn’t seem sufficiently high because they didn’t seem seriously at risk. The highest tension came when Dov, the mortal teen, or Kenny, the mortal pre-teen were threatened. In the latter instance, however, Gina’s initial sympathy for the attacker weakened my concern.

I also had some issues with the writing, though I tend to think I would have overlooked these if I had a more positive reaction to the story. For example, Gina escaped from Romania and apparently Cal planted the story that she had died. This seemed like a workable device, but lo and behold, the same ploy showed up at the climax, though shown in depth, giving this critical portion of the story a “been there” feel.

And then there was the darkness, the gore. Frankly, I didn’t like being in the heads of the Collectors. I didn’t like seeing them attack their victims or seeing the blood spurt and splash.

I had to think about this a lot because I have some really dark sections in my second book. I wondered what made me think those were okay, even necessary, but these scenes in Haunt were distasteful. I finally decided the point of view issue was central.

One other thing troubled me—the use of Biblical history. Judas’s blood has some power for evil evidently, Jesus’s blood is an actual physical entity, a dagger used for good is made of the bronze serpent-turned-idol, the demons are the same ones Jesus sent into the swine, and so on. As I see it, these twists in the Biblical account weaken Scripture rather than strengthening the fictional narrative. It drags history into the realm of speculation in a way I don’t care for when it comes to the God-breathed record of events.

Recommendation. I don’t know enough about the vampire genre to know if readers who enjoy Ann Rice’s vampire stories would like Haunt of Jackals or not. I’m confident Twilight fans would not care for this book. For me not being a vampire-story fan, this book did not change my opinion. Undoubtedly there is a niche audience who will like the spills and thrills. For them, I recommend Haunt.

Don’t forget to check out the other blog articles discussing the book (a list of these is posted at the end of my Day 2 article).

Published in: on October 21, 2009 at 12:13 pm  Comments (9)  
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