3 out of 4 stars
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The Hand Bringer by Christopher J. Penington is a fast-moving fantasy action novel. Not only does the author combine secret government technology with time travel and vampires, but he also throws in suspense, loyalty, and a bit of romance. This book seems to have it all!
It begins with police officer Peter Hadrian responding to a disturbance where two officers are already down. There, he meets with a formidable opponent he later discovers is a vampire. He and his loyal friend Luke are taken for medical care and end up in a secret government bunker. After much persuasion, Peter and Luke accept that vampires not only are real, but they are a modern-day threat. The two agree to help combat the spread of vampirism by going to the heart of it, Romania.
Along with several scientists, the pair fly to Romania, where they are trained in customs and combat so that they can go back to medieval times. When they go, they are protected by a type of anti-vampirism inoculation to help safeguard them as they endeavor to complete their mission. What is their mission? To kill Vlad Dracula and prevent vampirism from taking hold in the world.
Overall, I enjoyed this story. While reading most of the book, I found it hard to put down. The final quarter or more of the book, though, dragged for me. There are several battles, and they are all described in detail, one after the other. I found myself wishing the plot would hurry and get to the anticipated clash with Dracula.
The characters are likable, although I found them to be a bit stereotypical. Peter has superhero strength and noble intentions. Boriana and Elizabeth remain the courageous, honorable women who suffer for love. Nevertheless, the author is true to his characters, keeping them true to their personalities throughout the book. For instance, Luke always sounds quite cultured when he talks (He reminded me of Val Kilmer’s Doc Holliday in Tombstone.), Peter never abandons his mission, and Boriana loves Peter even when she’s a vampiress. (This isn’t a spoiler. She’s a vampiress when we initially encounter her.)
The Hand Bringer is full of Christian overtones. For instance, a prophet speaks to Peter about redemption through the blood of The Messiah, and the group of soldiers has communion with him. It seems to add little to the story itself, but this recurring theme is hard to miss. However, these scenes aren't evangelistic, and I believe that readers not of the Christian faith would be able to enjoy this book.
Prospective readers should also know that there is a good deal of profanity, but it isn’t overused like in many action novels. There is also some gory violence, as there are many battles. Finally, the book includes sexual situations, including rapes, 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 last quarter of the book. The errors were not numerous, but there were more than ten, and another round of editing should be able to correct the minor punctuation issues. I started to give two stars because of one massive issue: the author never tells us what “Hand Bringer” means. Peter, the Hand Bringer himself, even wonders aloud what it signifies. I kept waiting for it, but I never found it. However, even with that oversight, the book is too enjoyable for a two-star rating.
I recommend The Hand Bringer to people seeking a fun adventure. This book is much longer than an afternoon read, but it is one that will engage readers quickly, and they will want to read over many afternoons. People who don’t like fantasy should stay away from this one. The author combines vampires, time travel, and romance. Fantasy, fantasy, fantasy!
The Hand Bringer
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