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Monday, March 8, 2010

“Thirteen Years Later” by Jasper Kent (Reviewed by Robert Thompson)

Official Jasper Kent Website
Order “Thirteen Years LaterHERE
Read An Excerpt HERE
Read Fantasy Book Critic’s Review of “Twelve

AUTHOR INFORMATION: Jasper Kent has a degree in Natural Sciences from Trinity Hall, Cambridge. For almost twenty years he has worked as a software engineer and has co-written several musicals including The Promised Land and Remember! Remember!. “Thirteen Years Later” is his second novel after “Twelve”.

PLOT SUMMARY: 1825, Europe—and Russia—have been at peace for a decade. Bonaparte is long dead and the threat of invasion is no more. For Colonel Aleksei Ivanovich Danilov, life is peaceful. Not only have the French been defeated, but so have the twelve monstrous creatures he once fought alongside, and then against, all those years before. His duty is still to his tsar, Aleksandr I, but today the enemy is merely human.

But the tsar knows that he can never be at peace. He is well aware of the uprising fermenting within his own army, but what troubles him is something far more terrible—something that threatens to bring damnation down upon him, his family and his country. Aleksandr cannot forget a promise: a promise sealed in blood . . . and broken a hundred years before.

Now the victim of the Romanovs’ betrayal has returned to demand what is his. The knowledge chills Aleksandr’s very soul. And for Aleksei, it seems the vile pestilence that once threatened all he held dear has returned, thirteen years later…

CLASSIFICATION: Like its predecessor Twelve, Thirteen Years Later is a “vibrant blend of detailed historical fiction” and vampire horror. Think Bernard Cornwell meets Bram Stoker meets Anne Rice’s The Vampire Chronicles meets “Baltimore, or, The Steadfast Tin Soldier and the Vampire”…

FORMAT/INFO:Thirteen Years Later” is 500 pages long divided over three Parts, thirty-seven Roman-numbered chapters, a Prologue, and an Epilogue. Also includes a map, an Author’s Note, a Historical Note, a Selected Romanov Family Tree, and information on the Decembrists. Narration is in the third-person via Aleksei Ivanonvich Danilov—the star of “Twelve”, Aleksandr Pavlovich (the tsar of Russia), Aleksei’s 18-year-old son Dmitry Alekseevich, Aleksei’s 4-year-old daughter Tamara Alekseevna, and a few other characters. “Thirteen Years Later” is a sequel to “Twelve”, set thirteen years later, and concludes Aleksei’s story, but is just the second volume in The Danilov Quintet. The third installment, “The Third Section” (working title), looks to feature Aleksei’s daughter Tamara as the protagonist.

March 18, 2010 marks the UK Trade Paperback Publication of “Thirteen Years Later” via Bantam Press UK. Cover designed by Paul Young. The US edition will be published by Pyr.

ROBERT’S ANALYSIS: One of my favorite books of 2009—and one of the year’s best debuts—was Jasper Kent’sTwelve”. In fact, I loved “Twelve” so much, I had concerns about the sequel disappointing me due to the lofty standards set by Mr. Kent’s outstanding debut. Fortunately, I needn’t have worried...

For starters, “Thirteen Years Later” retains the same winning formula found in Jasper Kent’s debut: realistic historical fiction mixed with chilling vampire horror in the vein of Anne Rice and Bram Stoker. From a historical standpoint, “Thirteen Years Later” is once again set in Russia—mainly Moscow, Taganrog and Petersburg—but this time revolves around the tsar of Russia, Aleksandr I, his mysterious death in 1825, the subsequent confusion surrounding the order of succession among his brothers, and the Decembrist uprising.

The voordalak—vampires—meanwhile, remain of the mostly time-honored variety—drink human blood to survive; increased strength, speed and recuperative abilities; can only be killed by sunlight, a wooden stake through the heart, or decapitation; et cetera—but where Jasper Kent explored vampires from a philosophical and psychological standpoint in “Twelve”, here he examines the voordalaki scientifically, like why don’t vampires have reflections, the ability to harm a vampire using its blood or body parts, and so on. Mr. Kent also introduces a couple of new vampire abilities, although they are powers that readers will be familiar with...

Secondly, Jasper Kent’s writing is once again first-rate, including detailed world-building, evocative prose, and in-depth characterization. Instead of the single first-person narrative used by Kent in “Twelve” though, “Thirteen Years Later” is written in the third-person via several different point-of-views. Because Aleksei Ivanovich Danilov’s first-person narrative was one of the best features about “Twelve”, I was admittedly worried by this change, but the author is able to pull off the third-person narratives without losing any of the depth, insight or personality that made Aleksei so compelling in the first book, while also providing variety and additional insight through the other characters. I particularly enjoyed the narrative of the book’s primary antagonist—one of the best villains to have been introduced in literature in the past few years—and wish more time had been spent with him.

Lastly, “Thirteen Years Later” features another engrossing story by Jasper Kent, brilliantly weaving together history and family drama with supernatural horror, political intrigue, espionage and suspense. To be honest, there are a number of similarities between the two novels plot-wise like the games of cat & mouse and how nothing is what it appears to be, but I liked the way “Thirteen Years Later” built on key events from “Twelve”, while laying down the foundation for the upcoming sequels. Plus, the whole Aleksandr, Romanov Betrayal, Cain and Decembrist uprising subplot added a different flavor to the book. Other than that, the novel suffers from a few lulls and the twists aren’t quite as heart-wrenching as those found in “Twelve”, but the pacing is engaging for the most part, and the story still delivers plenty of unexpected surprises...

In the end, as much as I loved “Twelve”, I enjoyed “Thirteen Years Later” just as much, if not more, and if Jasper Kent can continue this high level of excellence in the remaining sequels, then I strongly believe that The Danilov Quintet will end up being one of the best vampire series I have ever read...

Liviu's Short Take: There were two issues in this novel that made it less of a hit with me than Twelve:

1 - I thought that here the vampire part of the novel takes much more of a center stage in the big picture and that lessened my suspension of disbelief by a lot, while the experiments mentioned above read to me like 50's pulp sf.

2 - The whole Romanov subplot grated a lot - all the passages with Alexander read to me way anachronistic, like imagining a modern leader, not the Autocrat Tsar of Holy Russia in 1825, while the Peter the Great sequence verged on the ridiculous; only the Catherine snippets felt historical.

Everything that involved Aleksei was excellent and I could not put the novel down for 2/3, the twists and turns were great and the final one superb, but the failure on the big-picture front meant I was left a bit disappointed by this novel overall and I would rate it a B for me.

4 comments:

rachelhestondavis said...

The cover of this book is creepy!

I love dark Stoker-esque vamp lit. Will definitely have to check this one out. Having it be set somewhere other than a European country is a plus too.

Rachel Heston Davis
Up and Writing

Robert said...

It's a great series so far Rachel. Hope you get the chance to check it out. I highly recommend it...

Anonymous said...

I loved the first book twelve - great blend of history, horror and drama. The second book Thirteen Years later dragged in places - the return of some familiar characters was great.

Unfortunately I really didn't like the ending at all - very disappointed

fsenturk said...

Twelve was much better than this. It goes well until the finishing. The plot seems so odd and so quick at the ending.

Spoil Alert

Yuda has never been human. Nor vampire. He is just an undead. It is really frustrating how he pulled off every time. So I'm not gonna read anymore publishing about this series.

Spoil Alert

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