Twelve by Jasper Kent is one of those books that you savor while reading. Unlike most vampire stories out today, Twelve is a blood and guts thriller where the vampires are actually predators.
The voordalak–creature of legend, the tales of which have terrified Russian children for generations. But for Captain Aleksei Ivanovich Danilov–a child of more enlightened times–it is a legend that has long been forgotten. Besides, in the autumn of 1812, he faces a more tangible enemy: the Grande Armee of Napoleon Bonaparte.
City after city has fallen to the advancing French, and it now seems that only a miracle will keep them from Moscow itself. In desperation, Aleksei and his comrades enlist the help of the Oprichniki–a group of twelve mercenaries from the furthest reaches of Christian Europe, who claim that they can turn the tide of the war. It seems an idle boast, but the Russians soon discover that the Oprichniki are indeed quite capable of fulfilling their promise … and much more.
Unnerved by the fact that so few can accomplish so much, Aleksei remembers those childhood stories of the voordalak. And as he comes to understand the true, horrific nature of these twelve strangers, he wonders at the nightmare they’ve unleashed in their midst….
Full of historical detail, thrilling action, and heart-stopping supernatural moments, Twelve is storytelling at its most original and exciting.
Jasper Kent is an excellent storyteller. Twelve was such a breath of fresh air to read because instead of people falling head over heals for his vampires, they are a force to be feared – that is, IF you see them coming.
Twelve starts off with 4 comrades discussing the war (the invasion of Russia by Napoleon Bonaparte) and their roles as secret operatives within it. In this discussion, it’s suggested by Dmitry that 12 strangers will turn the tide of the war in Russia’s favor. This leaves Aleksei and his other two comrades wondering how 12 mere strangers can turn the tide against hundreds of thousands.
This is where the plot starts, as we follow Aleksei on his journey through the war as a soldier being so far away from his wife and child. Throughout Aleksei’s journey, he encounters a whore named Dominique, in which he gets to know and visits often. He also discovers the disturbing reality that the voordalak are indeed real and not a myth as he believed as a child. His journey takes him deep in the middle of the war behind enemy lines, fighting not one but two enemies now that wish to see him dead.
Jasper Kent has created an amazing historical recount with the added mix of horror, betrayal and love. His attention to detail is outstanding; you actually feel like you know the area he is describing. His story telling is absolutely engrossing, so much so that even though there was not much actual *action* in Twelve, I was left every night not wanting to put the book down.
The only thing I found lacking in Twelve was that I wish there were more action scenes with the voordalak in them, though there is a second to this series so I am hoping Kent will deliver :)
The twists and turns in Aleksei’s journey is filled with brotherhood, compassion, betrayal, anguish, guilt and love. If you are a fan of vampire stories, and are tired of sparkles and lovey dovey vamps, Twelve is a must read! Hell, I love the lovey dovey sexy vampires and I really enjoyed this book :D
Twelve – excerpt
Thirteen Years Later (2/8/11) – excerpt
Also reviewed by:
Graeme’s Fantasy Book Review
Dark Wolf’s Fantasy Reviews
Speculative Book Reviews
My biggest disappointment with the book was that the voordalak were so easy to kill. Aleksei didn’t seem to have too much trouble dispatching most of them.
In the end, I really found I had to force myself to finish the book.
I’ve heard good things about Twelve but haven’t had a chance to read it yet.
I sort of got that impression too Katie, though I sorta chalked it up to luck on Aleksei’s part hehe, but yeah I agree they should have been harder to kill.
Hmm, sounds interesting. I haven’t been in the mood for a blood and guts vamp book recently, but the historical aspect of this one is what is drawing me. I’m always in the mood for a good historical, especially if it’s in a setting I don’t know much about.
I got to quit reading your blog. Every time I do I add another book to my TBR list and it is getting long! . A story with vampires being bad seems like a nice change of pace.
Thanks for the great review. I have read only a few other reviews of this book and it sounds like a great read. I was surprised to hear about the vampires in this era and setting. But sounds like it works wonderfully in this story. Thank you!
I am rather curious about this book. I saw it reviewed somewhere else. I am going to have to give it a try, I think.