WHAT’S PLAYING: Moving Pictures “What About Me”
This is the tale of Captain Aleksei Ivanovich Danilov, a Russian officer. It’s the autumn of 1812, and Napoleon’s army is advancing across Russia. In desperation, Aleksei and his comrades enlist the help of the Oprichniki – twelve mercenaries from the Carpathian Mountains, who claim that they can turn the tide of the war. It seems an idle boast, but the Russians soon discover that their new comrades are quite capable of fulfilling their promise. Because the Oprichniki are voordalak, – vampires – and they won’t just stop at killing the French.
Besides the vibrant and realistic setting, the best thing about this book was that all the main characters were very human, especially Aleksei. Even though I didn’t always like or approve of him, I still found myself empathizing with this flawed but decent man as he suffered through bouts of mental and physical hardship, self-loathing, love and loss.
I especially liked the vampires. Shabby, filthy, and disrespectful, the Oprichniki are not the stuff of paranormal romances. They are traditionally evil bad asses that must be hunted down and killed at all costs. A refreshing change from their modern-day, romantically inclined brethren.
Fair warning: be prepared to squirm. There are some genuinely gruesome moments in this book. (We are dealing with vampires, after all.) My biggest issue is that Aleksei’s self-absorbed narration tends to run long in places, slowing the pace to a painful crawl.
Still, I can’t deny that Twelve is a breath of fresh air and a great example of classic vampire horror.
Favorite Line/Image: Moscow was as full of life as a cadaver on the embalmer’s table. The fluids and chemicals that had been introduced into it’s veins can engorge it sufficiently to give it some vague semblance of the living creature that it once was, but they would never have the ability to provide the vital essence that once made that body a man. The image brought to my mind the Oprichniki. They passed themselves off physically as men, but I had never seen in any one of them a hint of the desires and loves and anguishes of living beings.
Did the French occupiers, I wondered, perceive themselves as parasites feasting on the corpse of a once-great city, or did they believe that they were the vanguard of a new wave of life that had revitalized al the rest of Europe and was now supplying the physical reality of the Enlightenment to Russia? I think that Bonaparte himself probably believed that, but I also think he was deluding himself.
What I Learned: JasperKent’s meticulous research and attention to detail adds a layer of richness and detail to this novel that makes it shine. Then there’s the heady combination of history, fantasy and folklore. Somehow, Kent managed to bring a sense of classic horror to something completely original.
Bottom Line: A dark and entertaining historical fantasy novel.