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.
ANALYSIS: One of my favorite books of 2009 — and one of the year’s best debuts — was Jasper Kent’s Twelve. 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, e.g. the reason vampires don’t have reflections, the ability to harm a vampire using its blood or body parts, and so on. Jasper 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 and 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 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.
The Danilov Quintet — (2009-2014) Publisher: Zmyeevich had remained standing and now began to speak in very precise, but very formal and strangely accented French. His voice had a darkness to it that seemed to emit not from his throat but from deep in his torso. Somewhere inside him it was as if giant millstones were turning against one another, or as though the lid were being slowly dragged aside to open a stone sarcophagus… On 12th June 1812, Napoleon’s massive grande armee forded the River Niemen and so crossed the Rubicon — its invasion of Russia had begun. In the face of superior numbers and tactics, the imperial Russian army began its retreat. But a handful of Russian officers — veterans of Borodino — are charged with trying to slow the enemy’s inexorable march on Moscow. Indeed, one of their number has already set the wheels of resistance in motion, having summoned the help of a band of mercenaries from the outermost fringes of Christian Europe.Comparing them to the once-feared Russian secret police — the Oprichniki — the name sticks. As rumours of plague travelling west from the Black Sea reach the Russians, the Oprichniki — but twelve in number — arrive.Preferring to work alone, and at night, the twelve prove brutally, shockingly effective against the French. But one amongst the Russians, Aleksei Ivanovich Danilov, is unnerved by the Oprichniki’s ruthlessness… as he comes to understand the true, horrific nature of these strangers, he wonders at the nightmare they’ve unleashed in their midst… Full of authentic historical detail and heart-stopping supernatural moments, and boasting a page-turning narrative, “Twelve” is storytelling at its most original and exciting.