33 A.D. is not the usual type of book I would pick up if I saw it in a bookstore. But, one thing reviewing does do is open you up to new stories and writers. 33 A.D. takes us back to a world where vampires are evil, vile, frightening creatures in a vision that would make Stoker proud.
The setting of the book is the part I found particularly clever and unique. Set in Jerusalem during the time of Jesus Christ, it rewrites the events leading up to Jesus’s crucifixion with an evil, vampiric twist.
33 A.D. is one of those books that makes me regret that I opted out of Religious Studies at school. Because I know that McAfee has without a doubt used some creative licence in his retelling, it does after all include vampires, but I cannot tell you how closely he knitted it to the original. The writing is original, fresh and unique. The concept of the novel cleverly crafted. The plot is a jagged, crooked thing of unexpected events and plenty of gore. Although it did meander on occasion.
The story is told from various character’s point of views, beginning with Ephraim, the vampire converted to religion after an encounter with Jesus. Then we have Theron the vampire assassin, Marcus the Centurion, Taras the Roman soldier and secret assassin, Mary the Jewish merchant’s daughter and Gordian, also a soldier under Marcus’s command. Each of them playing their part and their stories threading through to the end.
What I struggled with the most was this jotted narrative style. It was not immediately clear, perhaps not even until the end, who the hero of the book was. And even then the hero is a complicated character who plays his own part in Jesus’s death. As a reader I very missed the idea of a central hero, some of the characters I liked more than others, but at some time or other in the book I disliked each and everyone one of them. This was a real sticking point in the story for me, I lacked someone to identify with at least at some level and truly route for. I think it would be fair to say I didn’t really care for any of the characters, with perhaps the exception of Taras, which meant the story did fall a little flat at times.
The conclusion is a bloody, deadly affair, so bloody I wasn’t sure if it was going to give a Shakespearean tragedy a run for its money. I had kernels of hope for some of the story lines but McAfee takes things in an entirely different direction to the way I expected.
I don’t think that this is a series I will continue on with. A lot of this is down to personal taste, this is not generally a genre I read often. But that aside, to coin a Bonnie Tyler phrase, ‘I need a hero…’ and 33 A.D. had a bit of an empty void where one should be. But it was an interesting concept, a clever rewrite and it’s nice to read about vampires back in the nightmare arena once in a while.
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