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Crusade  - Nancy Holder, Debbie Viguié I received this book as part of an ARC tour from Star Book Tours. I had actually forgotten that I had requested it, and when it showed up on my doorstep, I was a little surprised. But opening it up, I can see why I would request it - it looks like it would be awesome. Dark and gritty and bloody, just like a vampire book should be.

In in many of those aspects, this book delivered wonderfully. The vampires were vicious and cruel and bloodthirsty, and there wasn't a sparkle to be seen. The fights were pretty intense, and the action was written well and was exciting. I also liked the political facets of the story, and how they corresponded with other wars from our past. History repeats itself, just with a new bad guy each time around. If these are the things that you're looking for, you will enjoy this book, and probably the series.

I was hoping for a little more, and so I admit that I am a bit disappointed with this one. I think that this book had great potential, but I think that it got lost on the way.

First, the characters didn't feel authentic to me. Almost all of them were very stereotypical and one dimensional to me, with few exceptions. Holgar was one exception. I loved his character throughout the story until the last 50 pages or so, until he seemed to change before our eyes into someone suddenly dark and secretive - most likely a lead-in to the next book in the series. The same with Father Juan. We're supposed to ask: Who are they really?

The rest of the characters didn't do much for me. Jenn was at her most interesting when she was on her own. With the others, she was bland and boring. The group dynamic quickly got on my nerves with all of the in-fighting and I kept thinking that they would be better off if they went their separate ways and each had a book to follow their adventures alone. Maybe then we'd get to see more of their character and the focus would help them to come alive. I doubt that will happen though.

Then there is the writing itself, which was inconsistent. I know that the edition I read was an uncorrected edition, so I'm not talking about the grammatical errors or spelling errors, but the writing itself. For example, in the midst of running for her life from a pack of vampires who want nothing more than to kill her, and trying to rescue her sister from still more vampires, we have this:

"The sun was setting; she could feel it as surely as she felt the pounding of her own heart.
The heart that beat for Antonio."

It then goes on to talk about how afraid she was that she would never see him or her sister again. And then back to Jenn trying to save her own life so that she could try to save her sister. It just seemed incredibly out of place to insert a line about her heart beating for someone else when she is literally running for her life. I know that in times of stress and fear, we think about those we love, but the line itself is strange and awkward to me, like it was inserted to create a relationship link to him.

Not to mention the chapter headers that contain Jenn's diary entries. These are written in such flowery and formal language that it doesn't mesh with the self-conscious and unsure 17 year old "Just Jenn" from the rest of the story.

And then finally, my biggest issue with the book is the way that religion and faith is handled. This book could be considered a Good vs Evil story, and so it stands to reason that a certain amount of religious comparisons could be made. That isn't really my complaint, although it does get quite preachy at times.

My complaint is that in this mixed cast, we have several different religions and belief systems interacting with each other, but no matter which belief system a character lived by, they approached it in a Christian-oriented way, or otherwise acted in Christian ways that did not fit with their own beliefs. I felt like, since it seemed that it was a deliberate choice to have so many different personalities and faiths, they should have rung more true, rather than all centering around what is referred to more than once in the book as the "One True Faith".

For instance, we have a Wiccan "White Witch", who practices magicks and worships the Goddess and the moon and nature, etc. But then, in a moment of uncertainty, she considers going to a Catholic priest to give her absolution, rather than relying on her own beliefs. This is just one of the examples of this from the book, and there are quite a few. This, more than anything else, made this book less than enjoyable for me. I couldn't help but wonder: Why go to such an effort to include the variety of religions and faiths if the characters do not act according to them?

I think that if handled differently, this book could have been a very enjoyable one for me. I think that people should believe what works for them, but this just felt like the message we were supposed to take away is "You can believe whatever you like, but in the end, it's all the same thing, you'll see."

Overall, I thought that this book was OK. I think that people who are just looking for an exciting read will really enjoy it, especially those who are fans of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.