Fiction Fun: 'A Bloody Habit' and 'The Eighth Arrow'

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There’s joy in a pile of books with no end in sight, at least if you’re an inveterate reader with a high affliction of optimism. I read, not so long ago, that there are more books published on any given Tuesday than most of us can read in a year.

That being the case, I can’t help but share two novels that held me in their grip. When I wasn’t curled up with them, I was plotting to get back to them.

I realize this makes me sound like an addict. To this I respond as I respond to all such accusations: At least I don’t smoke anymore. 😉

A Bloody Habit, by Eleanor Bourg Nicholson (Ignatius Press)

The cover caught my eye, ’tis true. And then I couldn’t help but be transfixed by the title. And the blurbs. And this gem in the author bio: “Eleanor Bourg Nicholson … yearns to correct Count Dracula’s strategic errors.”

I mean … how could I not attack this book with all the vigor and enthusiasm that my fiction-loving self holds dear?

Granted, I haven’t read Dracula, and I know that I don’t know the full story. Even so — EVEN SO — this book is a masterpiece. Joseph Pearce said that it’s “a cross between Dracula and The Exorcist,” and having read neither (though now that’s on my to-do, trust me), I can only say that’s great.

What I have read is the first in the Twilight series and a load of other popular fiction (along with some not-so-popular indie stuff that’s just as good if not better).

I can tell you this: You’ll laugh. You’ll gasp. You’ll be unsure what to do next except turn the page and keep on reading.

A Bloody Habit is set in 19th century London, and the main character is reading Dracula as the story unfolds. There’s this great Dominican priest involved, a lot of head-scratching incidents, and more than one unanswered question.

Here’s the official description of it:

It is 1900, the dawn of a new century. Even as the old Queen’s health fails, Victorian Britain stands monumental and strong upon a mountain of technological, scientific, and intellectual progress. For John Kemp, a straight-forward, unimaginative London lawyer, life seems reassuringly predictable yet forward-leaning, that is, until a foray into the recently published sensationalist novel Dracula, united with a chance meeting with an eccentric Dominican friar, catapults him into a bizarre, violent, and unsettling series of events.

As London is transfixed with terror at a bloody trail of murder and destruction, Kemp finds himself in its midst, besieged on all sides: in his friendships, as those close to him fall prey to vicious assault by an unknown assassin; in his deep attraction to an unconventional American heiress; and in his own professional respectability, for who can trust a lawyer who sees things which, by all sane reason, cannot exist? Can his mundane, sensible life — and his skeptical mind — withstand vampires? Can this everyday Englishman survive his encounter with perhaps an even more sinister threat: the white-robed Papists who claim to be vampire slayers?

My hope is that Nicholson releases her next novel super soon. Until then, I’ll be sharing this one and plotting when I’ll actually dive into Dracula for myself. (Maybe I’ll listen to the CraftLit version, because I have no doubt the commentary will be helpful.)

The Eighth Arrow: Odysseus in the Underworld, by J. Augustine Wetta, O.S.B. (Ignatius Press)

I didn’t intend to confess my literary shortcomings all at once, but here I go: I also haven’t read anything by Homer.

But I have read Dante’s Inferno (though it’s been a while). And I think that counts for something …

Though, honestly, this book is just as entertaining if you didn’t take Classics 222 in college (or you slept through it).

And what’s not to love about this author?

J. Augustine Wetta, O.S.B., is a monk of Saint Louis Abbey. He serves as the director of Chaplaincy at the Saint Louis Priory School, where he teaches English and Theology, and coaches rugby. … During his spare time, Father Augustine supervises the juggling team, cultivates carnivorous plants, raises carpenter ants, and surfs.

Clearly, the man has an active imagination and should be writing novels, don’t you agree?

This novel is a keeper and a five-star read. As I read it (thoroughly entertained the whole time), I knew I must be missing something (many somethings, if I’m honest). It wasn’t until I had finished that I found the glossary. *facepalm*

He writes, prefacing the glossary, “I started writing this book, with the help of my students, as a way of introducing them to the worlds of Dante and Homer.”

(So you see, you don’t have to have read those works!)

I’m not sure if Fr. Augustine intended it, but he made me wonder how I could go about reading and understanding these Homeric works for myself. (I suspect, though, that it’s better done with some guidance.)

The story: Odysseus and his sidekick Diomedes are granted a reprieve from the eighth circle of Hell. They start back at the top and work their way down. The deal is, if they can get past the Devil himself, they can have a chance at a “redo” on earth.

Odysseus is all of us. He’s cocksure and full of himself, completely blind to his weaknesses and failings. The trip through Hell, as it turns out, is an opportunity for self-awareness to bloom in him, even as he ignores the loyalty and insight of his longtime friend.

Each circle of Hell poses its own challenges and hilarity — because this book is full of laughs and chuckles. I think I probably got about half the jokes … and I’m sure on a good reread that there will be even more to appreciate.

Here’s the official description:

Condemned to burn in the eighth circle of Dante’s Hell, Odysseus, legendary thief and liar of Homer’s Odyssey and Iliad, decides he is going to break out. His adventure begins with a prayer to Athena Parthenos, who appears to him bearing gifts: his armor, his famous bow, a mysterious leather pouch, and seven unusual arrows. She then sends him on a quest through the Underworld along with Diomedes, his friend from the Trojan War who had been sharing in his eternal punishment. To complete their escape, the goddess warns them, they must recover their squandered honor and learn to use — the eighth arrow.

At turns exciting, humorous, and edifying, this action-packed epic follows Odysseus and Diomedes as they journey through all the circles of Dante’s Hell, where they encounter various characters from Greek mythology, ancient history, and Renaissance literature, including Helen of Troy,Cerberus, Penelope, Homer, Harpies, Centaurs, and eventually Satan himself. With witty banter and wily stratagems, the two Greek warriors fight their way through the obstacles that stand between them and redemption.

The Eighth Arrow is a thoroughly entertaining jailbreak story. Full of allusions to great works of old, it is also gently educational, and as such it can be read as a guide or a companion to Dante’s Inferno and the works of Homer.

I find myself, once again, a fangirl without a second novel to devour from this author. Ah, well. I’m guessing he’ll have some spare time in a few months to write a new one … 😉

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Copyright 2019 Sarah Reinhard
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About Author

When she’s not chasing kids, chugging coffee, or juggling work, Sarah Reinhard’s usually trying to stay up read just one…more…chapter. She writes and works in the midst of rural farm life with little ones underfoot. She is part of the team for the award-winning Catholic Mom’s Prayer Companion, as well as the author of a number of books. You can join her for a weekday take on Catholic life by subscribing to Triple Take, from Our Sunday Visitor.

1 Comment

  1. My son loved The Eighth Arrow – which I hope to read myself, one of these days! He’s reading The Inferno now. And, he read Dracula last year, and I bet he’d enjoy A Bloody Habit too!

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