Eric Wilson’s second installment in the Jerusalem’s Undead Trilogy – Haunt of Jackals picks up where the first novel — Field of Blood — left off. For an introduction to the premise of the series, you'll want to start by reading the first review (and book) before digging into the second. Early readers of the series will appreciate the expository background that is woven into the first part of the novel to refresh memories of major characters and plot points.
Building upon the carefully laid foundation of Field of Blood Wilson pumps up the action elements of the series with face-to-face conflict with Collectors, and more actively nefarious collection schemes by the undead. A missing character from the first novel is brought into the story line as others fade into the background while keeping Gina and her newly adopted Romanian son, Pavel, in the forefront.
The pacing varies as Wilson intersperses vampire supremacy struggles with hand-to-hand combat and scenes of bittersweet domestic bliss while Gina struggles to raise her charge in a Nistarim protection program setting. Some mysteries are revealed, while others have only hinted at unfolding.
Gina’s tough yet wounded persona would make Angelina Jolie a great choice for a lead role in a film based on the series. I rarely associate book characters with actors, but my mental match of the two is unmistakable. I’m thinking — but only on the surface level – Lara Croft in Tomb Raider, a tough nut with a brittle shell that’s been caused by emotional disappointments and hurts from the past. However, Gina’s maternal instincts, her attempts to hack out the root of bitterness in her life and her subsequent spiritual growth in this novel add a depth of character that Lara could only wish for.
Continuing to draw upon the powerful symbology inherent in the life-blood, Wilson delicately explores the themes of freedom in Christ, redemption, and a score of other insights drawn from scripture and understatedly woven throughout the text. Though more distinctly Christian than the first novel, many of the insights and parallels will only be seen by those actively engaged in a Christian walk. Those who aren’t will still find the series an intriguing read with an aura of what will be interpreted as spiritual mysticism without a deeper understanding of the parable-like threads throughout.
If you read Field of Blood and were disappointed with the slow start, I’d recommend giving Haunt of Jackals a try. As the story begins to blossom, sprouting from the roots established in the first novel, readers are able to get a glimpse of the larger vision Wilson’s work is seeking to establish. With that in mind, I’m looking forward to Valley of Bones, releasing in April of next year. I’m not sure where this is all going to end, but I’m looking forward to the ride.