(2010) Jasper Kent, Bantam Books, £7.99 / Can$21.95, pbk, 619pp, ISBN 978-0-553-81959-5
Napoleon Bonaparte has died and Europe has seen some years of peace. The year is 1825 and the place is Russia. Bonaparte's forces, we the readers now know, were in part defeated due to 12 vampires. Yet thirteen years later all this is seemingly behind Colonel Aleksei Ivanovich Danilov. There are rumours of threats against the life of Aleksandr Ist, the Tsar of Russia. If this was bad enough, it seems as if the vile creatures are back and may well be seeking retribution for a century old broken promise made by the Romanovs…
Thirteen Years Later is Jasper Kent's sequel to his novel Twelve and is part of the author's 'Danilov Quintet'. These are a blend of historical fiction combined with traditional vampire horror: the vampires shun light, cast no reflection, are immortal but can be killed by a stake through the heart.
If you like historical fiction and vampire horror then this novel will almost certainly be for you. Of course, such a cocktail of historic warfare and vampires has been done before, not least with 2000ADs comic strip Fiends of the Eastern Front, but Jasper Kent proves that you can't keep a good trope treatment down.
It has to be said that this book does start rather slowly and the first third seems to be largely there to bring everyone up to speed: though we do learn of rumblings against the Tsar. However, this does mean that you can dive straight into this novel without reading Twelve. I have to say that I did not like the story being told from the points of multiple perspectives of the various characters; what with having to come to grips with a myriad of characters, not to mention unfamiliar Russian names, I would have preferred a single-person perspective, but then I am a simple soul and this may just be me.
The historical fiction is neatly interwoven with the vampire horror and we even get some scientific experimentation (with quasi scientific explanation) into the nature of vampires, a fair bit of action and quite a lot of political intrigue and subterfuge. In short Kent presents the reader with a substantial package to get one's teeth into.
The next novel in this sequence will be called The Third Section and will be set in the time of the Crimean War. Roll on into the valley of death…
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