Reading level: Young Adult
Hardcover: 480 pages
Publisher: Simon Pulse (September 7, 2010)
Purchase: Amazon| Indiebound|Barnes & Noble | Book Depository
Read an excerpt: Chapter 1.
The ultimate battle. The ultimate love.For the past two years, Jenn has lived and trained at Spain's Sacred Heart Academy Against the Cursed Ones. She is among the few who have pledged to defend humanity or die trying. But the vampires are gaining power, and the battle has only just begun.
Forced to return home after death takes a member of her family, Jenn discovers that San Francisco is now a vampire strong-hold. As a lone hunter apart from her team, Jenn is isolated—and at risk. She craves the company of her fighting partner, Antonio: his protection, his reassurance, his touch. But a relationship with Antonio comes with its own dangers, and the more they share of themselves, the more Jenn stands to lose.
Then Jenn is betrayed by one who was once bound to protect her, causing her to doubt all she had held as true. To survive, Jenn must find the courage to trust herself—and her heart.
Vampires are everywhere. While their leader Solomon might smile on television, shake a few hands and spout propaganda about vampires requiring only the blood of animals, Jenn Leitner knows the truth. She's among the few brave souls who refuse to sit back and let the Cursed Ones destroy the world. Jenn belongs to Spain's Sacred Heart Academy, a place that churns out vampire hunters as fast as they can train them. The life expectancy for a hunter is short—if you can survive long enough to make it through training then you are considered extremely lucky. As part of an elite vampire hunting group, her team is comprised of individuals with varying strengths and abilities. Together they must overcome background differences, motivations and prejudices to come together as a team. In one goal they are united- rid the world of the Cursed Ones or die trying.
After being betrayed by someone she always trusted, Jenn questions everything she’s every known to be true. Will she be able to find the strength to face the obstacles in her path? What about her love for Antonio, the hunter dedicated to the cause who just happens to be of a "cursed" nature? Will she even live long enough to have a future?
"….This life, this entire world, was a crucible. It was the crusade of their times, and they were the knights, the warriors.
But last time you fought, you lost, he reminded himself, remembering the night he became a vampire. You lost everything.
“Yes,” Jenn said, taking a deep breath. “I can do that.”
Not everything, then, he thought.
Then she reached to kiss him on the lips, and he let himself have that. Soft, warm, she loved him, a monstrous abomination, a Cursed One. This might be all they ever had, this moment, this kiss, this love. So he gave in to it, aware that his fangs were lengthening, that by now his eyes were glowing. Hunger, want, and desire waged their own war inside him. And then he won again, prevailing as he finished the kiss and took her hand.”—page 415 ARC version
I first became acquainted with the plot of CRUSADE upon reading the short story in the vampire anthology, THE ETERNAL KISS: 13 TALES OF BLOOD AND DESIRE. If you haven't read this story, entitled Passing, and you've started CRUSADE anyways, you don't have to worry about being lost. But, I would highly recommend reading it anyways --it really is a fantastic short story and provides a good amount of background for CRUSADE.
All the vampire hunters had interesting and well-drawn out personalities. In fact, I could see future spin-offs centering around each of the characters-Jamie, Holgar, Eriko, Skye and Antonio. Skye, with her witchcraft and dark secrets fascinated me the most. Holgar, the fierce hunter with supernatural tendencies, was a close second. Antonio, the ex-priest turned vampire was utterly fascinating and at times, heart-breaking in the way his conflicting desires weighed upon his conscience. As a vampire hunting his own kind, I was immediately drawn to his character and found myself looking forward to any and all scenes involving him.
One of my favorite aspects of this series was that for each character, we got to learn about their lives before the Academy; the heart-wrenching circumstances that led each to show up at Sacred Heart's doorstep. These glimpses were interspersed throughout the narrative, all at opportune moments following intense action. I thought they allowed for the reader to stop and catch their breath, something which I appreciated. I also loved the random journal entries from Jenn's diaries. Combined with the flashbacks, these entries made interesting little additions to the book.
Being sent back to the States, far away from her team, I could feel Jenn’s trepidation upon returning home. The tension in the air was as thick as the San Franciscan smog. When Jenn was betrayed and found herself in a deadly situation with no backup, I was practically jumping out of my skin. In the beginning, she doubted her strength, training and resourcefulness. But she really grew into her own throughout the course of the narrative, and it made me proud of her. Her love for her sister Heather really endeared her character to me as well.
With non-stop action, CRUSADE is sure to make your heart race while you battle alongside the hunters as they take on some truly frightening vampires. I look forward to the next installment in this thrilling series and highly recommend CRUSADE to both adult and teen readers who enjoy scary, action-packed vampire books.
Nancy Holder has published sixty books and more than two hundred short stories. She has received four Bram Stoker awards for fiction from the Horror Writers Association, and her books have been translated into more than two dozen languages. She has written or cowritten twenty Buffy and Angel projects. Her books from Simon Pulse include the New York Times bestselling series Wicked and the novel The Rose Bride. A graduate of the University of California at San Diego, Nancy is currently a writing teacher at the school. She lives in San Diego with her daughter, Belle, and their growing assortment of pets. Visit her at nancyholder.com.
Debbie ViguiÉ holds a degree in creative writing from UC Davis. Her Simon Pulse books include the New York Times bestselling Wicked series and the Once upon a Time novels VIOLET EYES, SCARLET MOON and MIDNIGHT PEARLS. She lives in Florida with her husband Scott. Visit her at debbieviguie.com.