In Twelve, author Jasper Kent paints a dark supernatural thriller against the backdrop of Napoleon's invasion of Russia. Captain Aleksei Ivanovich Danilov is one of a special force charged with protecting their homeland at all costs. City after city has fallen, making the Russians desperate for any advantage, When a fellow operative brings in a group of foreign mercenaries, Danilov finds them odd, but is assured of their effectiveness. These Oprichniki, as Danilov and his fellow officers dub them, claim they can change the course of the war in Russia's favor.
True to their boast, the Oprichniki are swift and merciless, accomplishing more killing than humanly possible. As stories of mysterious death circulate through the troops, Danilov is reminded of the voordalak-- vampire-- tales from his childhood. As the true nature of these mercenaries becomes clearer to Danilov, he feels personally responsible for inviting these monsters into his homeland and sets about destroying them.
At first, I was put off by the slow pace of Twelve. The detailed descriptions of war and battles, while vivid, made me almost put down this novel. But as the war fades into a backdrop for Danilov's story, I was drawn in. About halfway through, the pace picks up considerably as Danilov decides he must hunt down and kill all of the Oprichniki. I was, however, frustrated with the ending. Danilov never makes a choice between returning to his wife and son or continuing to stay with his mistress and there is a predictable chance that one of the Oprichniki still lives.
Overall, I was very impressed with Twelve by Jasper Kent. I must admit a long time fascination with Russian culture and historical fiction, but this novel goes beyond both of these. Kent is able to blend history and vampires into a thrilling story. Despite the weak ending, I would highly recommend this to any fans of vampire, fantasy or historical fiction.
Twelve by Jasper Kent
Published by Pyr
Twelve by Jasper Kent is available at Amazon.com
Pyr Publishing provided me with a free review copy of Twelve