3 out of 4 stars
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The author of The Hand Bringer, Christopher J. Penington, cleverly utilizes his extensive background in military and police work, to weave a gripping and fast-paced Sci-fi action novel with endless twists in its plot. The story explored totally unrelated topics like vampirism, secret government facility, genetic engineering, time travel and 15th century Romania and combined them expertly into an unexpected tale that captivates the reader until the end.
Peter Hadrian, the protagonist, is a police officer who’s mourning the death of his wife and his mysteriously missing son when he is called to a local disturbance. Upon reaching the spot, he finds two slain police officers on his way to the scene of the crime. The perpetrator surprisingly turns out to be a blood-crazed vampire who apparently recognizes Peter immediately and addresses him as “the Hand Bringer” before attacking him. Peter ends up killing him after a fight, but not before being bitten and injured pretty badly himself. He and his friend Luke, a fellow police officer who showed up soon afterward, are diverted on the way to a hospital and taken to a facility at Fort Hood, Texas, belonging to a secret government agency named ASA (Apocalypse Suppression Administration) headquarters.
With ASA’s genetic re-engineering, Hadrian is converted into the perfect weaponless warrior and is now stronger than ever. He soon learns he has been assigned to an elite team of five members that will be trained to travel back in time and combat the spread of vampirism (by a viral microorganism named seenjite) in 15th century Romania before this ancient dreadful disease threatens to destroy the modern world.
Their prime target is revealed to be the prominent Prince of Romania, Vlad Dracula, as the overwhelming evidences suggested that vampirism started with him in the year 1476. Peter agrees to help with the plan, but only after striking a deal with ASA that he also gets to travel back to the date and time when his son disappeared and save him. They agreed on doing that after the completion of the mission.
The reader obtains a historical overview of how hard life was in medieval Romania. The historical exploration looks into the politics of the period, how local people lived, superstitions of the time and warfare. These subjects combine to create a unique and very interesting narrative. The characters in the story are likable, although I found them to be a bit stereotypical and two-dimensional. I enjoyed the friendly banter of the male leads. Themes of war, death, spirituality, friendship and love were adequately explored as the story progressed. Penington’s writing is smart and intriguing with a flair for sarcasm and wit. Having a tight storyline helps in bringing this novel to life.
Despite the seriousness of the themes in this book, it is surprisingly humorous. All things considered, I enjoyed the story and found it hard to put down. The battle scenes are all described in so much detail that I found myself wishing the plot would rush to the anticipated clash with Dracula.
The Hand Bringer has an underlying theme of Christianity, which I believe is there just to add some mystery into the storyline. This is achieved in a way that I think is inoffensive. However, readers who think they might get offended need to be aware of its existence.
Interested readers should also know that there is a good deal of profanity and gory violence, especially in the battle scenes. Finally, the book includes sexual encounters, including rape, but they are not graphically described.
I rate this book 3 out of 4 stars. I am taking a star for both errors and the repetitive nature of the latter third of the book. The errors were few and another round of editing should be able to correct the minor punctuation issues. I recommend this intriguing story to fans of science fiction, vampire lore, historical legends, and romance novels. Profanity, torture, murder, and some sex (although not very explicit) are seen in the book which renders it unsuitable for young readers. This engaging science fiction novel will have readers wonder what happens next. Even with his massive strength; will Peter eventually eradicate vampirism? Considering the time paradox, is it indeed possible? Throughout the novel, these questions are resolved gradually.
The Hand Bringer
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