[Review] BLOOD RIDERS by Michael Spradlin

Michael Spradlin

Cover Copy: The Western Territories, 1880. For four years, Civil War veteran and former U.S. Cavalry Captain Jonas P. Hollister has been rotting in a prison cell at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. His crime: lying about the loss of eleven soldiers under his command . . . who he claims were slaughtered by a band of nonhuman, blood-drinking demons.

But now a famous visitor, the detective Allan Pinkerton, has arrived with an order for Hollister’s release. The brutal murder of a group of Colorado miners in a fashion frighteningly similar to the deaths of Hollister’s men has leant new credence to his wild tale. And suddenly Jonas Hollister finds himself on a quest both dangerous and dark—joining forces with Pinkerton, the gunsmith Oliver Winchester, an ex-fellow prisoner, a woman of mystery, and a foreigner named Abraham Van Helsing, who knows many things about the monsters of the night—and riding hell for leather toward an epic confrontation . . . with the undead.

My Thoughts: When I heard BLOOD RIDERS was a western with vampires, I had to check it out.

At first BLOOD RIDERS reminded me of Firefly. The main character Jonas Hollister is a man with morals and similar in ways to Malcolm Reynolds. And like Mal, Jonas is having to fight otherworldly flesh-eating creatures.

In the opening scene, Jonas Hollister leads a team of eleven men to check out a camp that was reportedly attacked by blood devils. What they find makes Hollister’s skin crawl. Very little blood. Bodies lying face down in the dirt. Goods and valuables still in place. This was not the work of the usual suspects. Then Hollister and his men are attacked by the bodies that aren’t so dead after all. Fortunately, the sun is on the rise, forcing the vamps to retreat, but the only one to survive is Hollister. He tells his tale, but is deemed a liar and thrown into jail at Leavenworth.

At first Hollister tries to get his story heard and he sends out letters. But no one is listening. Until four years later when Alan Pinkerton shows up because the same attack has happened again. They want Hollister to track and kill this band of vampires. And Hollister, although not fully vindicated, is willing to do it.

Meanwhile a mysterious woman, Shaniah, is tracking this band of vampires, but she’s also a vampire herself. Through her we learn a rogue group of her kind traveled to North America and are intent on wiping out the human race. She’s tracking them intending to stop them. She crosses paths with Hollister and realizes he’s also tracking them, so she decides to follow Hollister. Then she learns Hollister’s side-kick Chee can sense her presence and poses a threat to her plans.

Up until this point Shaniah is an excellent character: strong woman, on a path of justice, supposedly a great ruler of her people. But then she does some stupid things– leaves bodies where they can be found and decides Chee is a threat and must be eliminated. Why do strong female characters have to do stupid things?

This book had me hooked– really had me– right up until Van Helsing and Winchester showed up and the steampunk toys came out. While there was a certain coolness factor in all this, I thought the story of Hollister, his side-kick Chee and the mystery woman could have stood on its own. The distraction of famous names and steampunk toys wasn’t enough to keep me from reading, though. They don’t stick around for the full novel.

The steampunk toys include a modified steam engine and steam-powered weapons specifically designed for dealing with the vampires. They fire water and wood-filled bullets. The BFG in BLOOD RIDERS is a steam-powered, 4-barreled shotgun, nicknamed Ass Kicker. Cool toys. Good defenses against vampires.

BLOOD RIDERS is unusual in it’s collision of elements, making it perfect for anyone looking to try something different but not too weird. The characters are heroes you will root for as they fight some villains you will hate.

BLOOD RIDERS is a well-written romp through the Old West with some new twists that will keep you turning the pages to see what happens next.

I think it makes for some good methadone for Firefly addicts, too.

Rating: A-
Publisher: HarperCollins, Sept. 2012
Acquired: Edelweiss

Get It: Amazon CA | Amazon US | Chapters | Goodreads