Review: The Cross / Author: Scott G. Mariani / Format: Paperback / Publisher: Avon Books / Release Date: Out now
The Cross is the second in Mariani’s Vampire Federation novels, coming after 2010’s Uprising. Part action adventure, part history-conspiracy thriller, part vampire horror, Uprising established a world where vampires governed themselves and ensured their anonymity amongst humans through the Vampire Federation (VF) - a Spooks-like M15-type agency committed to finding and destroying rogue vampires, with the beautiful but deadly Alex Bishop as its no.1 agent.
When a ‘traditionalist’ vampire uprising, led by the Byron-esque, Gabriel Stone, threatened to wipe out the VF, Bishop joined forces with ex-CID officer-turned vampire hunter Joel Solomon, to track down the ancient Cross of Ardaich, before Stone could use its deadly force against his vampire enemies. Uprising ended with Stone temporarily defeated, the Cross lost, and Alex Bishop forced to take desperate measures in order to save the mortally wounded Solomon.
The Cross takes up its story immediately from where Uprising left off, with the resurrected Stone enlisting psychotic killer-wannabe vampire, Ash, to retrieve the cross, and Jason Solomon once again forced into an uneasy alliance with Alex Bishop, this time to save humanity from the Ubervampyr, a sadistic and primeval race of the undead, for whom Gabriel Stone is merely doing their bidding.
Like Uprising, The Cross is high octane action-packed adventure all the way. Mariani is perhaps better known for his series of Ben Hope history-conspiracy thrillers (The Lost Relic, The Doomsday Prophecy) and he knows how to write gripping suspense and action. The Cross features these aplenty, especially in the final showdown which takes place in the Swiss mountains - as exciting a climax to a novel as you could hope to read.
Gabriel Stone is less of a villain than he was in Uprising (the real bad guys are the genocidal Ubervampyr), but the shifting sympathies between Stone, Bishop and Jason Solomon make for some intriguing developments and engaging subplots. Teenage vampire hunter Dec Maddon returns, along with new girl, Chloe, who set out together to avenge the murder of their loved ones by Stone.
A minor quibble would be that The Cross takes a little long to bring all of these characters and subplots together, but it is only a small fault as Mariani keeps you turning the pages regardless. The Cross suffers a bit as the middle novel in the series, maybe because it does spend a lot of time re-gathering after the events of Uprising and setting up things to come later in the series. By the end, though, Mariani leaves you once again wanting more, and the scene is set for the ultimate showdown with the Ubervampyr.
I, for one, am looking forward to the third Vampire Federation novel from Scott G. Mariani.