Having finally watched Babylon 5 for the first time (check out my posts for that series at my Babylon 5 Hub), I decided to dive into the novels. I’ll be reading them largely in publication order and reviewing them individually as we go along. Please do not spoil later books for me. There will be SPOILERS for the book reviewed going forward.
Blood Oath by John Vornholt
Blood Oath is a novel that would have made a stellar short story. It fits the series better than the first two novels, and it doesn’t suffer from the out of character moments those novels had, either. The whole novel is a kind of addendum to the episode from the first season, “The Parliament of Dreams.” This ties it in to the series in a fun way, but it also makes it seem overlong since its plot really is just an extension of that episode.
What happens here is that the daughter of Du’Rog, whose name was allegedly besmirched by G’Kar, takes out a Shon’Kar against G’Kar, swearing to kill him. G’Kar sees the threat as imminent and fakes his death in order to escape. He then makes his way to the Narn Homeworld, independently pursued by Na’Toth, Garibaldi, and Ivanova.
We saw the backstory for this novel, again, in “The Parliament of Dreams.” Vornholt ties this novel quite well into that episode, though some of the timeline is ambiguous. The action moves along well, though the book does ultimately run into some serious pacing issues in the middle section. That section basically has G’Kar running into people (or not) who recognize him (or don’t) while Ivanova and Garibaldi haplessly look for him across the homeworld. There are only so many close misses and chase scenes one can take before it starts to feel like padding, and this novel is definitely padded for length. Some judicious editing would have made it a fantastic short story though, especially with its strong ties to the plot of the show.
The conclusion is great, and we witness a wonderfully fun moment between G’Kar and Mollari right at the end which left me with a sweet taste after the occasional slog.
Fun fact from The Babylon File: The Definitive Unauthorised Guide to J Michael Straczynski’s Babylon 5 by Andy Lane about Vornholt’s research for the book–which he was given only 2 months to write! Lane quotes Vornholt: “I asked [JMS] for information on the Narn homeworld for Blood Oath, but he told me to make it up. I thought this was very cavalier of him, until I realised he was going to destroy the planet in a war” (388).
Another fun fact, though I’m not sure if it’s intentional: the name “Mi’Ra” for G’Kar’s rival, is quite similar to “Mira,” the first name of Mira Furlan, who plays Delenn in the series. Again, I don’t have a source saying if it was intentional, but it seemed a fun Easter egg at the time I noticed.
Blood Oath is the best of the first 3 Babylon 5 novels, though it still has its issues with pacing. It ties in well to the series, and Vornholt captures the characters believably. Vornholt gives readers more fun character scenes than expected, and so I give it a reserved recommendation for fans of the series.
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