Set in the strange, dystopian postwar future of November 2112, this book features a colorful, perplexing cast of characters. Much of the action centers on the evil, enslaved Cardinal Verselli and his maniacal assistant, the Benedictine monk Brother Igor, who commit heinous crimes under cover of darkness in order to satisfy their vampiric needs. Verselli, who was transformed into a vampire by the ancient goddess Dragona’ra, keeps order in his Vatican realm by sending all those who might betray his infernal secrets to an asylum on the outskirts of Rome, where they’re lobotomized. Dragona’ra, like numerous higher-ups of the papal city-state, is engaged in organized crime and drug dealing, but she’s also motivated by a deeper urge to preserve and expand her empire, which she believes is threatened. When her magic staffs are stolen, she travels directly to the Vatican, where she takes revenge by torturing and killing the incumbent Pope John Paul IV. A small group of people on the side of good—some human, some supernatural—must travel from Italy to China and back to circumvent the forces of evil, who have planted a symbolic, vampiric blackthorn tree in front of St. Peter’s Basilica. This unrelentingly outlandish, gory novel moves quickly, incorporating aspects of the horror, spy-thriller, sci-fi and fantasy genres while also invoking elements of Roman Catholicism. It manages to be successful in all the genres it adopts, but it sometimes pushes the limits of believability. Similarly, the plot sometimes loses momentum amid its tangle of subplots and characters. That said, the overall story is often vibrant, disturbing and entertaining.
A complex, fast-paced tale of crime, faith and fantasy set in a world in which “[t]he Lord maketh darkness, just as He maketh the light.”