pinterest-7bf66.html Reviews by Peter: Blood for Blood by Ben Wolf

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I have been an avid reader from as early as I can remember. Since becoming a Christian in my early 20s, my passion for reading led to specifically Christian fiction and this has developed into reviewing them on this blog. I love reading debut author's novels or those author's who have not had many reviews thus providing them much needed encouragement 

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Friday, 2 January 2015

Blood for Blood by Ben Wolf

What if a vampire got saved? 

Calandra, an evangelist's daughter, is amazed to watch as Raven, a century-old vampire, develops faith. As Raven ceases to drink blood and becomes more human with each passing day, Calandra cannot deny her growing attraction to him even though she is being courted by another man. 

Raven's newfound salvation is both a relief and a burden, as he encounters multiple vampire taboos and must overcome them. Just when Raven begins to get the hang of his new lifestyle, Calandra is attacked by bandits.

Will Raven revert to his old vampiric ways to save Calandra from certain death? Or will he rely on his faith in God to help him ransom Calandra from a new brand of evil more horrifying than he ever was as a vampire?

The Guru's Review: 

As soon as I saw the cover of this book and read the blurb that I knew this was an exceptional book. I was quite willing to buy this book, but when Wolf promoted it in a mini Facebook competition, I knew I had to enter and was one of the first 10 to enter and yes, won a copy.

It is not very often that I say this is one of the best books I have read, but this is definitely very true of this novel. I was immediately drawn in and totally absorbed into the 18th Century setting and into the lives of the Zambini family and that of Raven Worth. Sometimes I had to stop reading, very reluctantly I might add, to absorb what I had just read and deal with the awe that was beginning to take me over. This is one very well crafted novel. Wolf writes very well, and the plot structure is strong and flows very smoothly without any hiccups.

When I read the blurb for this novel, I instantly thought, "This is one novel that definitely defines what Edgy Speculative Christian fiction is all about."

Edgy due to it being a taboo Christian subject and one that is one associated with the demonic and occult and the majority of Christians are either scared of this area, ignorant of it or are discouraged from knowing about it for fear of being lured into it, or they are frowned upon by their Christian peers if it is discussed, and then there is the attitude that "Do vampires exist?"

Speculative due to the question that Wolf raises, What if a vampire got saved? And it is this that this novel addresses and I believe shows that the Gospel of Christ and His death on the Cross is for all, no exclusions.

Christian due to the the Gospel being presented to Raven and him being transformed into a new creature as mentioned in 2 Corinthians 5:17,

Whoever is a believer in Christ is a new creation. The old way of living has disappeared. A new way of living has come into existence.
Fiction well, we all know what that means!

Wolf has obviously researched vampire lore and mythology and integrated this well into the plot and in bringing Raven to life as a reluctant vampire. In other vampire novels, it is this lore and mythology that forms the basis of the paranormal romance but in this novel, it forms the basis of why Raven is unhappy and wants out of this life that has been unwillingly thrust upon him. Wolf uses this to not only entertain but to add suspense while educating in the life of a vampire. The way he has described vampire lore through the character of Vanessa and Raven accounting his entry into this existence is very fascinating reading on its own and well done by Wolf. Some of this research/lore/mythology can be easily accessed on Wolf's website with his miniseries of You might be a vampire if... which gives concise bites of information including biblical insights as well. I found this an invaluable resource and I encourage every reader to access this.

I loved the way Wolf has used the doctrine of salvation and redemption to minister to Raven's dark existence. Like his treatment of vampire lore, Wolf has done the same to the biblical response to this existence that is diametrically opposed to everything relating to God. The following passages spoken by Luco Zambini, the pastor, explains it very well and is where the book gets its title from, this first conversation being before Raven accepts Jesus,

"I believe God has a plan for your life, I believe he wants to save you and-"
"I don't have a soul to save....You forget that I am not mortal. My soul is gone."
"Actually, you're immortal because you're cursed. You forfeited your soul when you turned, and you received immortality. Either way, your're still bound to the covenant you made with sin.....You may not have chosen to become a vampire, but we've all sinned. We're all cursed, Raven. There's only way to break that curse....It's by the blood of Jesus Christ."
And in another with Luco after he accepts Christ,
"...Calandra's right, Your're heading in the right direction."
"I feel like I somehow need to make up for the wrong I've done as a vampire."
Luco shook his head. "Jesus died for your sins. His blood covered your transgressions. He atoned for your sins so you wouldn't have to."
"His blood," Raven repeated. "I still find that ironic that His blood is supposed to keep me from drinking everyone else's.
"Blood for blood, Raven," Luco said. "His blood is the substitute for all of ours, yours included. Blood for blood."
"But it didn't cost me anything. I'm cursed, damned, and immortal, and somehow God can just fix all of that with no consequences on my end? it sounds too good to be true."
"Don't misunderstand the Gospel. If you think this ought to cost you something, then you've got the right idea. When you claim Jesus as your Saviour, He claims you for Himself. the caveat in Christianity is that you aren't actually getting your life and your soul back. You're handing them over to Jesus. There's that element of sacrifice you're looking for."
"I don't feel like I've sacrificed anything that I wasn't already eager to get rid of though," Raven said.
"Don't worry about that. In time, you'll see differently. We all do."
Another conversation that Wolf had Raven understand was in response to Raven not having a soul. As Raven explains,
"I don't have a soul to save....You forget that I am not mortal. My soul is gone."
Luco states, "Actually, you're immortal because you're cursed. You forfeited your soul when you turned, and you received immortality."
When Raven accepts Jesus, Luco explains,
Now you go out and walk in your new faith, starting by not feeding tonight... You're being sanctified, Raven. Your life is changing. God is restoring your soul, one piece at a time.
Luco then encourages Raven to find comfort in the reality of Psalm 23, especially verse 3,
He restores my soul; He leads me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.
And this is what Raven allows God to do so from then on till the riveting, fast paced ending, we see that God has indeed restored his soul.

This is just some of the correctly applied biblical theology used by Wolf to minister to Raven before and after he accepts Jesus. This is one area where this novel shines.

Apart from Wolf wielding of the Word of God very appropriately, he is also a master of character development. All of these are very real and relational. No two dimensional characters in this novel. You will love Luco and see him as a great example of being the Shepherd that Jesus is 
(Yahweh Roi, in the Hebrew), as evidenced in him accepting Raven without any condemnation or judgement and mentoring him in his new found life as a new creation in Christ. 

Then we have Garrett, who is bitter and twisted from his past dealings with vampires and does not see Raven and his sort as redeemable and forgiven beings but as forever damned to hell and he sets out to prove this, and in doing so he loses his faith in God, his fiance, Calandra, and becomes the epitome of deception, deceit, hatred and selfishness. Quite the Pharisee is Garrett.

Raven himself is portrayed as a tortured victim of the curse of vampirism and is genuine is his quest to be free. He is one very likeable character and is very remorseful concerning the lives he has ruined and killed in order to survive as a vampire.

Calandra is one very obedient, young woman, typical of the era of the 1800s, but also as one very determined and feisty character, she is committed to the Lord and is very accepting of Raven despite her attraction to him.

The other characters of note that are developed well are Harry, the outlaw and thief. This man is very scheming and cunning and the reader picks up these vibes and instantly dislikes him and his cohorts.

Marshall is also developed well and once the reader finds out his hidden agenda, his motivation behind all that he does in connection with Luco and Raven is fully explained. This is one twist I did not see coming.

Another major twist that was totally unexpected was right at the end concerning another character and it really did change the whole setting of the plot to that point. It was very clever and I believe Wolf could do a sequel very effectively here.

With all these elements Wolf has constructed a novel that is very real and all absorbing, and while being in this mode, it occurred to me that this novel shows how we judge the level or degree of sin in another's life. How many times have we taken the Garrett attitude and treated someone, Christian or non Christian, abominably because we disliked their type of sin more than other types of sin while forgetting that Jesus died for all and every type of sin however it manifests in our lives? Luco seems to have the right attitude here to accept and love all of mankind and their sin as exemplified in the form of Raven. This novel also shows how Christians judge and treat those who are different or are far removed in lifestyle, behaviour and attitude form us. Again Luco shows the way here. He is quite the Shepherd as God is. Is this why I and many other readers like him so much? We are instructed by Paul to imitate him (Paul) as he imitates Christ. I guess this is one reason I love Luco, and also Raven as I guess there is a little (or more) of him being very different in all of us (only we know what those differences are) that we desperately would like to have the understanding and acceptance from our fellow Christians. Again, another area where this novel and Wolf shine.

If a Christian wanted to find out about vampires and the Christian response, then this novel would be one of the best places to start.

I would be one very happy reader if Wolf was to continue this story either from what I have hinted at previously or with the plot line and character introduced in the Epilogue. I am going to discuss this with the author.

I am sad with a degree of separation anxiety that this novel had to end but elated at such a wonderful last few chapters that Wolf so brilliantly constructed and tied up all the elements in this masterfully created novel.

Highly Recommended.

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