Jasper Kent’s Twelve was one of the historical fantasies that I enjoyed the most. He continues his Danilov Quintet with this second book, Thirteen Years Later. As the title indicates, the novel reunites us with the hero thirteen years later for another spectacular ride through 19th century Russia and the dangers and intrigues it, and fantastical creatures, have to offer. A truly stunning ride, this new offer from Kent is just as good as its predecessor and continues to spark my interest in these novels.
1825. Russia has been at peace for a decade. Bonaparte is long dead and the threat of invasion is no more. For Colonel Aleksei Ivanovish Dnilov, life is calm. The French have been defeated, as have the twelve monstrous creatures he once fought alongside, and then against, all those years before. His duty is still to his tsar, Aleksandr the First, but now the enemy is merely human.Thirteen Years Later has a different feel to it than Twelve. It probably should, seeing as they are not the same book, but nevertheless it’s very noticeable. The setting is not the same and so the change in atmosphere derives from this. Where Twelve was happening during a war and a military occupation, Thirteen Years Later is set in peace time, so there is a lot less stress ; the characters no longer need to creep down the streets of Moscow, they can now walk down them as freely as they want. Also, there is not the massive threat of a marching army, instead the danger emanates from a much more quiet source that is, however, no less perilous. In both novels there are many “downtimes” which consist mainly of Aleksei spending time with either his lover in Twelve, or his lover and daughter in Thirteen Years Later. The fact that he possesses a second family adds a sweet and much more grounded element to those scenes that release the tension from the other, eerie, monster-involving scenes of the book.
However, the tsar himself knows he can never be at peace. He is well aware of the uprising formenting within his own army, but his true fear is of something far more terrible - something that threathens to bring damnation upon him, his family and his country. Aleksandr cannot forget a promise: a promise sealed in blood...broken a hundred years before.
Now the victim of the Romanovs' betreyal has returned to demand what is his. The knowledge chills Aleksandr's very soul. And for Aleksei, it seems the vile pestilence that once threathned all he held dear has returned, thirteen years later...
The intrigue featured in this sequel is just as good and twisted as that which was presented to readers in the first volume. Kent has a way of introducing new characters or plot twists that, in most cases, quite awesomely blows my mind. It seems that every time something new happens it’s not really new because Kent has previously outlined the situation in a vague way (this applies both to plot elements and characters) that at the time were perfectly normal, but in retrospect bring forward an uncanny feeling as we discover just how things fit in to those previously vague situations. It really is just like any crime/mystery/detective novel. And looking back, it’s true that a lot of what is not supernatural-action related is mystery.
As well as having its own story, Thirteen Years Later also has the duty of advancing the general story of the Danilov Quintet, a duty which it carries out wonderfully. Most of what needs to be done in term of series arc for the moment can be summed up by the following two categories: stuff that advances the mythology of the supernatural elements and stuff that advances the history of the Danilovs themselves. Let’s further detail that last statement. The first category is the one that contains all bits concerning the supernatural folk: who are the big baddies, where do they come from, what do they want; the usual. The second is perhaps less important. Kent has already discussed on his website that the Quintet is about the Danilovs, not just Aleksei who we have been following for the first two books, so a certain expansion of his family is needed if the rest of the novels are to tie in fluently. Kent does an incredible job of weaving all these plot threads in together with the story he wishes to be central to this novel in particular. In this area especially he does a bang up job.
I would have to say that in many ways Thirteen Years later is a better book than Twelve was. Jasper Kent’s storytelling has grown on me even more with this second novel in his historical quintet. I will without the shadow of a doubt be arranging to get my hands on the third novel, planned for a spring 2011 release. Where Twelve was set during the Napoleonic Invasion of 1812 and Thirteen Years Later during the Decembrist Revolution, the third entry in the series will center around the Crimean War. If you enjoyed Twelve, then you will find no disappointment in this sequel.
My Rating: 5 out of 5
Reading Age: 16 and up
Jasper Kent's website: http://www.jasperkent.com/
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