“Blood for Blood,” or “See! Christians can be Vampires, too!” (4/5 stars)

You read that right: a Christian vampire. Well, that’s just unique enough to pick up.

Oh, and it’s on sale through Halloween, which is perfect when you think about it.

TITLE: Blood for Blood
AUTHOR: Ben Wolf
GENRE: Christian, Fantasy

STORY
The aptly-named Raven Worth has been a vampire for 80 years, drinking human blood, avoiding sunlight, and waiting for his eternal damnation. But then one night in the 1800s, Raven comes across a family of Christians leading a tent revival. When he hears the about the God who “restoreth my soul,” (not to mention the minister’s pretty daughter), he decides to give it a try.

Strangely, Raven begins to see change. Crosses frighten him less, garlic doesn’t burn, and his thirst for blood dims by the day. Could it be God hasn’t forgotten him after all?

But life still has its problems. He’s no closer to the minister’s daughter who’s stolen his heart, mostly because of her vicious, jealous beau who constantly threatens to plunge a stake in his heart. And with a murderous band of outlaws prowling the night, Raven wonders just how much of his vampiric strength he can live without.

Immortality or eternity?

WHAT WORKED
Everybody knows Raven is a vampire. There’s no hidden burden, no stalling for time until the big reveal, no mysterious pretty boy. Everybody just goes, “Yep, there’s a vampire.” Some fear him, some accept him, some disbelieve, but there’s no playing games. Can I just tell you what a breath of fresh air that is?

Actually, the whole book is like a pleasant breeze. It has that X-factor that makes it enjoyable. Even beyond all the artistic ups and downs, the mere act of reading this book is enjoyable. Simple, but not empty. Brief, but not short. An easy read, but not a brain drain.

The story is a clever take on Psalm 23 with God literally restoring Raven’s soul piece by piece, and tackling bizarre rhetorical questions not usually seen in Christian fiction, or in novels in general. Can vampires go to Heaven?

Author Ben Wolf takes old materials and gives them new life, even outside the Christian themes. At the three-quarter mark, we see a new spin on the “liar revealed” and “boyfriend-walks-in-on-guy-kissing-his-girl” tropes, making them entirely new, and entirely unrepeatable. Plus, there’s a plot twist near the end that I honest-to-goodness did not see coming. In fact, I thought it was the other guy…

The characters work, the vampire lore makes sense, the preaching is totally natural (gasp!), the action sequences are exciting, the tension is…well, tense, and the technical details are tight. Translation: it’s a good story that’s well written.

WHAT DIDN’T WORK
The pacing stumbled from time to time. At some points we jump surprising lengths of time with only a summary of the changes happening. While this isn’t too bad on its own, the problem comes when one character later mentions how he and Raven would talk about this and that, but we don’t see much interaction at all, so it loses impact at a critical moment.

There’s also a point when Raven tells his story in flashbacks which go on just a hair too long, and while they’re still well-written and interesting, they don’t really contribute much to the overall story.

FINAL VERDICT: 4/5 Stars–Buy this book.
Blood For Blood is still an enjoyable read. It’s a fresh take on the vampire myth and a fresh topic in Christian fiction. But the best part is that it’s not just a neat concept, it’s a good book. The execution is solid and the writer doesn’t nix the artistry for a message. Perhaps the best praise I can give it is that it’s been a long time since I had a Christian novel I couldn’t put down.

And don’t think I didn’t catch that “Ron Chaney” joke at the end.

MATURE CONTENT/TRIGGER WARNINGS
Sexuality: 6/10–Sexy vampire seduction. Also, some criminals try to rape a girl and while nothing happens, it’s pretty intense.
Violence: 8/10–A fair amount of blood, lots of bones breaking in supernatural fights, but nothing gratuitous.
Language: 1/10–Very mild.
Substances: 1/10–References to drinking.
Mature Content: 3/10–Musings on death, Hell, and the occult.

IT’S ON SALE!
The Kindle version of Blood for Blood is on sale through October 31st, 2016 for just 99 cents.
Click here to find the Kindle version. If you don’t have a Kindle, you can download the app for free on any device.
If you like traditional books, click here to find the print copy.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
I had the pleasure of meeting Ben Wolf in person at the Realm Makers Christian Speculative Fiction conference (oh yeah, it exists). In addition to writing spec fic books and the hilariously-titled children’s book I’d Punch a Lion in His Eye for You, Wolf also works as an editor and the founder of the Splickety flash fiction magazine (featuring yours truly). He apparently ghost writes, speaks, and teaches, too. Sheesh, guy…

I learned all this from his website, benwolf.com. Subscribe to his newsletter and get free stuff!

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