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Friday, August 5, 2011

“The Third Section” by Jasper Kent (Reviewed by Robert Thompson)

Official Jasper Kent Website
Order “The Third SectionHERE (US) + HERE (UK)
Read An Excerpt HERE
Read FBC’s Review of “Twelve
Read FBC’s Review of “Thirteen Years Later

AUTHOR INFORMATION: Jasper Kent attended Trinity Hall, Cambridge where he earned a degree in Natural Sciences with a specialty in Physics. For over twenty years he has worked as a software consultant & trainer, while writing both fiction and music. His bibliography includes the first three volumes of The Danilov Quintet, two unpublished novels (Yours Etc., Mr Sunday; Sifr), various short stories, a play, and several co-written musicals (Writer's Cramp, Malvolio's RevengeThe Promised Land and Remember! Remember!).

PLOT SUMMARY: Russia, 1855.  After forty years of peace in Europe, war rages. In the Crimea, the city of Sevastopol is besieged. In the north, Saint Petersburg is blockaded. But in Moscow there is one who needs only to sit and wait—wait for the death of an aging tsar, and for the curse upon his blood to be passed to a new generation.

As their country grows weaker, a man and a woman—unaware of the hidden ties that bind them—must come to terms with their shared legacy. In Moscow, Tamara Valentinovna Komarova uncovers a brutal murder. It seems this is not the first killing of its kind, but the most recent in a sequence of similar murders that have been committed since 1812.

And in Sevastopol, Dmitry Alekseevich Danilov faces not only the guns of the combined armies of Britain and France, but must also make a stand against creatures that his father had thought buried beneath the earth, thirty years before...

CLASSIFICATION: Like its predecessors, The Third Section blends historical fiction with vampire horror. Think Bernard Cornwell meets Bram Stoker and Anne Rice’s The Vampire Chronicles meets Baltimore, or, The Steadfast Tin Soldier and the Vampire.

FORMAT/INFO: The Third Section is 476 pages long divided over a Prologue, twenty-seven Roman-numbered chapters, and an Epilogue. Also includes an Author’s Notes, a Selected Romanov Family Tree, information on the Crimean War and His Imperial Majesty’s Own Chancellery, a cartoon from Punch magazine published in 1854, a Map of Sevastopol in 1855, and a list of characters. Narration is in the third-person via three main POVs: Dmitry Alekseevich Danilov, Tamara Valentinovna Komarova, and Vasiliy Innokyentievich Yudin. Like its predecessors, The Third Section is largely self-contained, but is the third volume in The Danilov Quintet after Twelve and Thirteen Years Later. The People’s Will is the working title for the fourth volume in the series.

August 18, 2011 marks the UK Trade Paperback Publication of The Third Section via Bantam Press UK. The US edition will be published by Pyr in October 2011, and will feature the same artwork by Paul Young.

ANALYSIS: Jasper Kent’s Twelve was a remarkable debut, one that I still remember quite vividly. The sequel, Thirteen Years Later, was arguably even better. Following in the footsteps of these two exceptional novels, The Third Section had very large shoes to fill. A feat the book is unable to fully pull off because of two specific problems.

The first of these problems is with the protagonists. In Thirteen Years Later, the author made the switch from Aleksei Danilov’s first-person narrative to multiple third-person POVs. A move I didn’t mind too much since Aleksei remained a main character. Unfortunately, Aleksei Danilov has been demoted to a very minor supporting role in The Third Section. Taking his place as the main protagonists are Aleksei’s son Dmitry Alekseevich Danilov and Tamara Valentinovna Komarova, both of whom had POVs in Thirteen Years Later. Dmitry and Tamara are well-developed characters with interesting backgrounds and fleshed out hopes, desires and regrets. Yet, I never became attached to them the same way I became attached to Aleksei. Third-person narration is partly to blame, lacking the intimacy found in Twelve’s first-person POV that allowed readers to forge a strong emotional connection with Aleksei Danilov. The bigger issue though, lies with the story, which is the novel’s second problem.

Slow pacing, fewer surprises, a noticeable lack of thrills and tension, subplots that fail to deliver, recycled material . . .  The Third Section’s story suffers from all of these issues. The slow pacing can be attributed to a story that spans years—1854-1856—and lacks the immediacy of the first two Danilov novels. The fewer surprises are a result of knowing too much information: Tamara’s real parents, Raisa’s deception, Yudin’s plotting, etc. (I believe parts of The Third Section are much more effective if you haven’t already read Twelve and Thirteen Years Later.) The plot’s pacing issues and lack of a major conflict contribute to The Third Section’s shortage of thrills and tension. (Yudin represents the main villain in The Third Section, but I found him more compelling than either Dmitry or Tamara, while Zmyeevich and the Romanov Curse are hardly a factor because of what happened in the last book.) Unrewarding subplots were a combination of knowing too much, recycled material and questionable decisions with the vampires of Chufut Kalye, Raisa, and Tamara’s parentage specific letdowns. Most disappointing of all was Yudin’s “endgame”, a revenge over forty years in the making that ended with a whimper. Lastly, while it’s interesting to see the numerous ways in which The Third Section and its predecessors are connected despite a thirty and forty-three year gap, I wish the book had not retread over so much familiar territory.

Apart from these problems with the protagonists and story, The Third Section is actually a very good book. The historical elements are once again detailed and realistic; Jasper Kent’s prose and characterization remain top-notch; and the book offers heavy doses of Yudin, a captivating villain who also appeared in the first two books, but under different names.

CONCLUSION: Compared against Twelve and Thirteen Years Later, The Third Section is easily the weakest of Jasper Kent’s three books because of protagonists who are not nearly as compelling as Aleksei Danilov and a slow-paced story lacking in originality and reward. That all said, as the third volume in The Danilov Quintet, The Third Section works well as a bridge novel, helping readers transition between one generation of characters and the next, and I’m confident the series will return to form in the fourth book...

6 comments:

allanbard said...

Good info! Nice review, blog! Yet don't you think there are a lot of books, stories with the usual, ordinary already characters like vampires, kings, knights, princesses, dwarves, wizards with sharp hats, etc? We can read about them in almost every book of the genre? There should be new, unseen and unknown characters, creatures in the stories. Creatures like weightless korks, glowing, living balls, night fruit, fish-keepers, Brown faces, Fiery men, etc I use in some of my works sound more interesting than the usual?
I know the most important in the fantasy genre are the wisdom, good plot and writing skills but some "fresh blood" of new characters would make the fantasy books better?
Best wishes! keep the good work going! will be glad to follow your blog! Any writer and reader could find useful info there! LET THE WONDERFUL NOISE OF THE SEA ALWAYS SOUNDS IN YOUR EARS! (a greeting of the water dragons' hunters - my Tale Of The Rock Pieces).

redhead said...

aww, too bad this newest book in the series didn't deliver like you wanted. I enjoyed the first two books in the series that I will read the third one, and hope that I like it OK. Aleksei is such a great, flawed character, I know it's going to be hard to get excited about anyone else. Although I am really interested in Tamara's POV.

US release date is Oct? no fair! I don't want to wait that long.

Robert said...

Tamara is an interesting character, as is Dmitry. They're just not Aleksei ;) Regardless, I still recommend the book and hope you enjoy it Little Red Reviewer!

JohnL said...

I found "Thirteen Years Later" boring. A lot of rumination and little action and even less "vampire horror". Not tempted in the least to pick up another JK book.

Robert said...

Hi John! If you didn't like "Thirteen Years Later", you probably wouldn't like "The Third Section". There is probably even less action and 'vampire horror'. I wouldn't write off the series completely though. I think things will pick up in the last two books of the quintet...

Kissa Wiccat said...

I found this book very realistic and satisfying. It is nice someone brings different view to this genre. I recommend to classic lovers and fantasy lovers. Who likes Anne Rice can like this too.

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