Rating (out of 5): 3.5 stars
Nancy Holder and Debbie Viguié’s portrayal of vampires, or Cursed Ones, in their new series opener Crusade feels eerily accurate. Do I know what it would be like if vampires made themselves known? Of course not. This isn’t the same take one finds in Charlaine Harris’ Southern Vampire Mysteries (also called the Sookie Stackhouse novels and basis for HBO’s True Blood).
The vampires in Cursed have come out saying they love humans and only eat animals. They’ve won over the government. But, of course, they are liars. The Cursed Ones feed only on human blood and enjoy treating them as playthings and slaves. Many cities and governments bend their will to the vampires, changing laws to make it near impossible to stop them. They know what is happening, but now pretend to not know the truth.
The way Holder and Viguié lay out this new world, with each new atrocity, is ghastly in its realism. Each new revelation adds a layer to the world and a nudge in your mind that “that’s totally how it would go down.”
Not everyone in this new world is hiding their heads in the sand, though. Academies have cropped up — most in Europe — to train people to fight the Cursed Ones. Those who survive and graduate are called hunters, one of those graduates is made the Hunter (with a capital H) and given an elixer to heighten speed and strength. The school in Spain is the only one that takes students from outside its country. So, when Jenn flees America — where the government quickly opened its arms to the vampires — she heads straight to its doors. She and her team of hunters are about as different as you could imagine, and there is a quite a bit of in-fighting. The hunters are forced to figure out a way to fight the vampires without tearing themselves apart, and so far it isn’t going so well.
Interestingly, Holder and Viguié elected not to make our main heroine the Hunter and defacto leader of the group. A different move and one I really liked. It adds a level of insecurity that many will be able to relate to and her mega crush on team member and only reformed vampire in existence Antonio is written to perfection. There are so many things that fight to keep these two apart. I’m excited to see how the authors will maintain that tension throughout the series (and for a big fat happily-ever-after at the very end).
The only downside here, really, is all the world building takes time. Yes, that’s true of most first novels in a series. Having read this duo’s Wicked series, I knew sticking with it was worth it, but be aware the plot doesn’t really kick into high gear until about halfway through the novel. I would also note there are a lot of characters in this book and as the pacing speeds up it can get a bit confusing, but the core remains the same. I focused on them and knew the new people were part of a certain group.
Overall, Crusade offers a thought-provoking take on vampires and new slayers we not only can root for but also care about. There’s a slow start, but the second half is engaging and the ending leaves one thinking about what may come next.