Genre: historical fantasy
Target audience: adults
Synopsis (from Goodreads):
Russia 1855. After forty years of peace in Europe, war rages. In the Crimea, the city of Sevastopol is besieged. In the north, Saint Petersburg is blockaded. But in Moscow there is one who needs only to sit and wait – wait for the death of an aging tsar, and for the curse upon his blood to be passed to a new generation.
As their country grows weaker, a man and a woman – unaware of the hidden ties that bind them – must come to terms with their shared legacy. In Moscow, Tamara Valentinovna Komarova uncovers a brutal murder and discovers that it not the first in a sequence of similar crimes, merely the latest, carried out by a killer who has stalked the city since 1812.
And in Sevastopol, Dmitry Alekseevich Danilov faces not only the guns of the combined armies of Britain and France, but must also make a stand against creatures that his father had thought buried beneath the earth, thirty years before.
What I liked:
The third part of the series features two main characters, the children of Aleksei Danilov, Dimitry and Tamara. They are adults now, with their own families and careers, they don’t know about each other’s existence (up to a point anyway) and their only connection is the old enemy of their papa, a man who had to turn himself into a vampire in order to save his life. He used to hide under different nicknames and now he is called Yudin. Yudin lives and breathes revenge on Aleksei and anybody close to him. As you can guess the scope of this installment is more personal and domestic, rather than told within the vast events of the military and political crises of the first two books. But this one is equally involving.
Let me tell you that Tamara is one of the strongest female protagonists I’ve ever met. The story of her adult life is being slowly unravelled throughout the narration and when you finally find out how she was turned into a prostitute, lost her husband and children and then rebouded you have to respect her. She is a woman made of steel, independent, clever, intelligent and brave – finally an appropriate opponent for the demonic psychopath turned vampire who ruined her father’s life. I really liked the way Tamara’s character was constructed and the way the author slowly unveiled her strengths. Three-dimensional doesn’t even start to cover it.
I have to admit her half-brother, Dimitry, was a less compelling character but still he managed to surprise me more than once with his choice of bedfellows. I also liked the fact that, despite his military career, deep at heart he remained a musician. However, the ending belongs completely to him – I don’t want to spoil you so I must be rather vague with my remarks but let me assure you something happened to Dimitry which I wanted to happen to his father at least one installment ago and now I am so looking forward to the next book in the series because I am curious what Dimitry will do next, what side will he pick.
When it comes to Yudin/Iuda/Vassily Makarov a.k.a. the vampire I love to hate there is a section narrated by him that describes from his point of view what Aleksei did to him in the previous novel. Shot, drowned, in an ice-bound river, he did not die the human death and he despised every moment of it. Now he pulls strings in the tsar’s intelligence bureau, known as the Third Section, continuing to plot the Zmyeevich’s Great Scheme to control the Russian throne and planning his own revenge involving Aleksei’s children and wife.
I also liked how the novel started. So often genre novels’ prologues are vexatiously silly, but this prologue is not among those.We follow a young Englishman who managed to gallop out of the Crimea’s Valley of Death. The action is taut and contained, and tells us what we will need to know later within the novel itself.
Finally let me say that I really appreciate the ingenuity with which the author answered an old question: why nobody can see a reflection of a vampire in a mirror (not even themselves).
What I didn’t like:
Just one carping – I admit that the ending was a bit too melodramatic for such a great story. I am not a big fan of ‘the deathbed goodbye’ scenes and here you get two of them and rather close together. It was like a dissonant note; although I understand the author wanted to get rid of the older generation in a neat manner, making the place for the new kids to come, he could have diversified it a bit.
A third generation of the Danilov family is gestating. Vampires remain on Russian soil. There will be blood and I hope I will love it even more because it seems Mr. Kent’s novels are getting better and better with every installment. Now it is becoming one of my favourite vampire series. Seriously worth reading.