The People’s Will by Jasper Kent

The People’s Will is the fourth of five instalments of the Danilov Quintet in which a section of Russian history is given a different slant.  The first novel, Twelve, started in 1812 with the Napoleonic invasion of Russia where we were first introduced to a band of mercenaries called the Oprichniki.  Ruthless and devoid of conscience they have been enlisted to cause chaos amongst the French troops.  However, it soon becomes apparent that these ruthless mercnaries have a different agenda.  They are Voordalak, creatures of the night, or, as they are more commonly known, Vampire.  Twelve was followed by Thirteen Years, The Third Section and now The People’s Will.  If you haven’t read the first three novels in the series, firstly, I really recommend you do so – unless you’re a bit queasy – and secondly, probably best to stop reading now for the avoidance of spoilers from the previous novels.  Also, don’t be put off by the fact that these novels contain elements of the supernatural.  I think this is one series where the author has succeeded in writing history with a twist.  This is not YA and in some respects not for the faint hearted but it is gripping, interesting, full of adventure, dark and twisted.

For the avoidance of doubt I will start this review by saying I loved this instalment.  It’s an action packed tale of revenge and on top of this it takes us back in time to look at the past of one of, what I consider to be, the best villains I have read about, Iuda.

As with previous instalments the People’s will takes us forward a number of years and starts in 1881.  The action starts in Turkmenistan with the rescue of a prisoner who has been held captive for the past two years beneath the Citadel of Geok Tepe.  The Russian Officer responsible for this mission, Colonel Otrepyev is in league with another and the rescue is not really a bid for freedom for the prisoner but simply more another form of imprisonment.

Meanwhile we are introduced to a left wing terrorist organisation called The People’s Will, who are planning the assassination of the Tsar Alexandra II and who will play a large part in the story.

The jump forward in time means we have again moved on to different characters, at least in human terms.  Tamara no longer plays a role but her son Mihail, reared on a diet of revenge, takes over the role once played by Alexsei (his grandfather).  Of course, the vampires themselves have not aged at all and are still circling each other in their strange game of power and revenge.  Iuda is his usual menacing sociopathic self, Zmyeevich still an expert in playing the long game and Dmitry, relatively young and inexperienced in terms of vampires.

I don’t really want to delve into the plot.  There is the whole seeking for power and revenege side to this played by Zmyeevich, we have a number of the key players seeking to kill Iuda for the purposes of revenge and then we have The People’s Will hoping to instigate an uprising following the assassination of the Tsar.  All of the threads are inextricably linked with more than one character playing a double role.  To quote Blackadder the plot twists and turns like a twisty turny thing and Kent brings it all together seemlessly.

The writing is again flawless.  The events of the story an expert weave of truth and fiction.  The historical detail is just enough to give you a flavour without overwhelming the story with a flood of detail and trivia that would dilute the impact. The real hook with these stories is the characters themselves.  The author manages to pull you in to their story and keeps you involved even with the family members who are no longer involved.  I found myself thinking again of Alexsei, who I had misgivings about at the very start but ended up really enjoying reading about – his legacy still lives on here with his son and grandson standing on different sides of the fence.  I really enjoyed finding out more about Iuda and gaining an insight into his past – what  a delightfully despicable character he is to read, no cardboard cut out villain here.  I hope that we will be given a similar insight into the all powerful Zmyeevich who, although plays more of a secondary role here, certainly displays just how incredibly powerful he really is.

Again, there is an element of horror, these vampires take us back to the old school style of writing.  They are evil, they have no compassion or feelings, they smell of rotting flesh – they have no inner conflict whatsoever  about taking human life and in fact enjoy the chase and the fear they inflict as much as the feed itself.  And, not only are the villains ruthless but so too is the author!  I certainly didn’t see some of these twists coming and must confess my jaw dropped more than once.  Plus, can I also say that thank goodness Kent has chosen to channel his activities into writing – the means of vampire torture and death that he has come up with alone are enough to make you shudder.  His imagination seems to know no bounds!

On top of this I really admire the overall scope of the series and the historical content that has been brought into play here.  For me this shows real imagination and creativity at its finest.  Kent has taken a particular period in history and twisted a number of the key events to give it a more sinister meaning.  I think I can see where this is probably going to lead next and I admit I can’t wait to read the final instalment.

If you enjoy historical fiction where the story includes an element of something different, a touch of horror and a look at the lengths to which people will go to try and seek revenge then definitely check out this series.

I have no hesitation in recommending Jasper Kent’s Danilov Quintet.

I received a copy of this through NetGalley in exchange for a honest review.


The Third Section by Jasper Kent

Posted On 12 March 2012

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Just finished reading Third Section (actually the 3rd novel in the Jasper Kent series of books).  If you haven’t read the first two novels (Twelve and Thirteen Years Later) then the rest of this post will undoubtedly contain spoilers and therefore please do not read on (unless of course spoilers are what you seek!)

If you’ve read Thirteen Years Later you’ll already be aware that Alexsei has been exiled to Siberia following his involvement in the Decembrist uprising.  Third Section brings to us two different storylines controlled now by Alexsei’s children, Tamara (Toma) and Dmitry.  Tamara now works for the Third Section and is investigating a grisly murder.  As a result of her investigations she uncovers a number of similar murders that took place in 1812 and 1825 and these in turn uncover the name of Alexsei as a potential witness to murders during both time periods.  Tamara is keen to find Dimitry to discuss the murders but also she is desperately searching for her real parents, of whom she remembers very little.  Dmitry ‘s actions are now mimicking those of his father in that he is involved in the Crimean war.  During his time at Sevastopol Dmitry is befriended by another soldier Typelov who he is soon to realise has his own motives for seeking him out.

To be totally honest I would say that this instalment was my least favourite of the three.  I felt the storylines were not as absorbing, the tension not as mmm, tense, and I don’t think I found it as rewarding reading about Tamara and Dmitry as I did reading about Alexsei.  That being said I would still  not hesitate to recommend.  Just, for me personally, it almost seems to suffer a little from ‘middle book syndrome’ (even though it isn’t the middle book) or at least it seems to be used as a vehicle for setting up the next story.

What I did particularly enjoy was the insight into the vampire mind and a little bit more of the uncovering of their true nature.  Iuda (or Yudin as he is now called) is his usually wonderful despicable and base self.  He is such a superb villain (if that is not a contradiction in terms).  He really is quite something and I must applaud Jasper Kent for giving him life.  I don’t think I can remember reading a better ‘baddie’ – if that makes sense?

I also enjoyed reading about Tamara’s escapades and uncovering her, rather sad, story.  She has plenty of character and gusto and certainly makes up for the lack of those attributes in Dmitry.  I don’t know why but I really couldn’t find myself liking Dmitry.  He seems almost like a very poor reflection of his father.  As though living in the shadow of the ‘three fingered man’ has left him wanting in a number of ways.  His character certainly doesn’t improve as you reach the conclusion but no more of that (although at least at the end he does seem to be suffering some regret).

Again, the story is a rich tapestry of well researched history, myth and horror.  The voordalaks certainly continue with their gory feasting and their appetites seems to know no bounds.  Deaths and blood are in abundance and as the conclusion approaches a number of twists are revealed.

Although this lacks the tension that had me racing to the end in Thirteen Years Later I still enjoyed the read and will without doubt pick up No.4 with eager anticipation.  I love the combination of history, horror and myth and if you want some good old fashioned vampires reminiscent of Stoker then pick up Jasper Kent.

Third Section

Third Section

Thirteen Years Later by Jasper Kent

Posted On 26 January 2012

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Just finished reading Thirteen Years Later (the Danilov Quintet 2) and I really enjoyed it, at least equally as much as the first if not more!  So, we’re back in Russia, 13 years since Twelve concluded.  In this book Alexsei is once again in the thick of things.  Russia, although at peace with Europe, has internal conflict to be resolved.  The Tsar is not popular and secret societies are gathering and plotting to overthrow him.  On top of that the Tsar has another enemy, an unknown entity, who wants revenge.  Alexsei is once again undertaking his role as spy and trying to protect the Tsar although it isn’t easy with all the secrecy involved.

I don’t think I’m giving anything away by saying that the vampires are back in this episode not to mention Alexsei’s worst enemy!  There are a number of different threads in this story and also it’s written in third person so we get to see more POVs – which I always quite enjoy as you get more information.

It’s difficult to say too much about the plot of this book because there are a few twists and turns that it would be a shame to spoil.  What I found reading this time is that once again there is a lot of information.  I would say it takes 200 pages before the tension increases but I really didn’t find this a problem and having read the first book I expected a longer reading experience anyway.  I found that I just had to change my frame of mind in order to enjoy it.  Sometimes you just want a quick read and if that’s how you’re feeling then wait until your mood changes before you pick Thirteen Years Later up.  The other thing is with this novel is it’s a mixed bag, it’s not really a horror story, although there are some horrific moments (not as much so as in book 1), there’s a lot of history and clearly the author has researched this period in great detail – I always enjoy history novels so this is a winner for me personally, and then we have the paranormal element but, again, in this particular book this play a much lesser role.  Now, if any of that sounds critical it isn’t meant to.  I really enjoyed this book.  I liked the depth, I enjoyed the different viewpoints, I was gripped by The Romanov secret, I was intrigued by Iuda (who has sort of grown since the last book and is a terrific villain) and I thought the exploration of relationships added an extra element as well.

Also, we are now perfectly set up for the next book.

All in all a really great book.  If you aren’t put off by the length and you like a bit of ‘this and that’ all blended in together then you will like this.  However, if you’re after an out and out vampire horror then maybe not.

A winner for me though and I can’t wait to move on to No.3.

Thirteen Years Later

Thirteen Years Later

Twelve by Jasper Kent

Wow, just finished Twelve by Jasper Kent.  My last book of 2011 and what a great book to end with!  I will say that this book will probably not be to everyone’s liking (if you’re a bit squeamish) but I thought it was really good.

Twelve is a blend of historical fiction and supernatural chiller/horror.  Personally I found it veered more towards horror than chiller as there is quite a bit of blood and gore plus some rather unsavoury scenes that would probably put some readers off.  The setting is Russia, the year 1812.  Napoleon is invading Russia with his Grande Armee.   Four comrades in arms adopt drastic measures to try and help combat this foe but what they have actually invited amongst their midst is not everything that it at first seems.

This story is told by Aleksei, in the style of a memoir almost and brings to us the creatures  from old peasant tales.  Monsters whispered about behind closed doors as a warning – creatures from folklore known as the Voordalak or as they are known in this story – Oprichniki.  The Oprichniki have been enlisted to work undercover causing chaos and mayhem – I suppost a little like the resistance or underground movement – except in this case there are only 12 of them so exactly how much chaos they can cause you would think would be minimal – except of course that not everything is as it seems.  I’m not going to go to much further into the plot other than to say the mercenaries that Alexsei and his friends have sought help from could prove more deadly than they suspect (I don’t think I’m giving anything away by admitting that the Oprichniki are actually vampires – but this is a fact of which Alexsei and his comrades are ignorant).

What I like about this book – the writing is really good.  The author displays a really good knowledge of this particular period of history and provides enough background to place you firmly in the throes of Russia during war and also later during the harshness of winter!  I found the historical aspects really interesting and the fact that it was Russian history felt like a welcome change in setting and, the other bonus with the writing is that it didn’t feel too modern which I find a bit distracting when reading a historical novel – I want to feel something for the era I’m reading about and be able to picture it.  So, obviously I liked the writing and the historical aspects.

In terms of the characters the story really focuses on two – Alexei and Iuda.  Interestingly, the protagonist Alexsei is not exactly an endearing sort of chap – which at first I found a bit of a struggle as you do spend quite a bit of time in his head – he’s quite selfish he certainly isn’t loyal (n some respects that is) and those are two of his better-lesser characteristics!  But, in spite of this he is aware of his shortcomings and does have quite a bit of internal conflict over them.  Also, whilst saying Alexsei is is not endearing I will point out that I didn’t hate or dislike him – I was just sometimes a bit surprised by his thoughts and actions.  Then we have Iuda who is a totally horrible character and is supposed to be so.  He has no conscience whatsoever and is ruthless in the extreme – it also seems that he has the measure of Alexei to a certain extent which does give him an edge in terms of causing damage.

But, what I liked about this story the most, was the different levels that you can read into it.  Throughout the novel we read about monsters but I think the author clearly wants you to think about the different levels of monstrosity.  Here we are confronted with 12 monsters – and they really are pretty horrible.  These are the good old fashioned monsters of bygone stories not as portrayed in more contemporary novels, flesh eating and blood sucking with no thought about the loss of life – and yet, by comparison with the wars raging around them they actually caused very little death.  The wars that the Oprichniki use to hide their natures behind are no less horrible and cause far more human casualty.  Then we have Alexei, okay, I’m not saying he’s a monster but when we look at Alexei he certainly isn’t perfect is he?  He’s married with a child and yet carrying on an affair with a prostitue over which he has no regret or guilt about whatsoever, he readily admits that he wants no responsibility for her, he is turned on by her apparent wounds received at the hands of one of his own friends and also he’s a bit of a voyeur!  Okay, so he’s not a monster because of those things and he does have the grace to at least ponder on them, but he is the good guy in this story!!  Iuda is horrible – but he never pretends to be otherwise, he doesn’t cover himself with a veneer of respectability in the way what Alexei does – he is monstrous.  So, different levels of monster is what I was thinking.  Bit of a tangent there but I couldn’t help thinking about it particularly as Alexsie was racing around the country and witnessing the horrors of war around him.

In terms of criticism.  Well, I don’t particularly find this a problem but worth mentioning – this is a long novel, with a lot of internal reflection so if you want your action all bam bam bam then this may not be for you.  Here, it’s more bam, make a cup of tea, bam.  But, I don’t mind that personally, just acknowledging it’s annoyance for some.  Also, I didn’t think that the Oprichniki were as formidable as they seemed.  But having said that I think the author was trying to get back to a more old fashioned type of vampire (with no real supernatural abilities), can live for ever (providing they’re not staked!), must avoid sunlight, sleeps underground, etc.  And, finally, I would have liked a bit more hair-on-the-back-of-your-neck-raising creepiness.  I’m not denying that there is horror in spades but I like that neck tingling thing that makes you break from reading because you feel like someone is watching you!

All that being said I thought this was a really good book and I will definitely continue with the rest.  Not meant as a comparison to the novels themselves but it puts me very much in mind of Bram Stoker’s Dracula – because of the monsters, Elizabeth Kostovo’s Historian (especially in terms of length) and an element of the Hitchhiker thrown in for good measure (purely for the nastiness)!

I think that if you want something a bit different combining a good tale of treachery and vengeance combined with a good historical novel, well written then this could be for you.

Rating A