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Twelve (Danilov Quintet 1) by Jasper Kent

Twelve (Danilov Quintet 1) (original 2008; edition 2010)

by Jasper Kent

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2701342,050 (3.51)10
Title:Twelve (Danilov Quintet 1)
Authors:Jasper Kent
Info:Bantam (2010), Paperback, 492 pages
Collections:Read but unowned
Tags:Fiction, Vampires, Russia, Moscow, Napoleonic War, Historical, Freebie, Not kept

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Twelve by Jasper Kent (2008)



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Aleksei is a young Russian officer during the Napoleonic Wars, who is ordered to liaise with some new allies. He is somewhat disconcerted that his new allies are to be only twelve in number, and doubts how much difference twelve men - no matter how experienced - can make. Later, after seeing them in action, he comes to realise that his beloved country may now be in peril from a threat far worse than the imminent arrival of French troops in its capital...

This is a reasonably well researched historical novel. At times I felt that the author was more comfortable writing military fiction, and that the supenatural component was somewhat awkwardly tacked on. However, when the vampires do make their appearance, they are what vampires shoud be - simply terrifying! There is no romance here; we are in the presence of an ancient, and extremely efficient predator.

This is a novel with a real sense of time and place. There are a few jarring notes, particulary in the use of Russian; for example, why does a young officer address his peers by the formal version of their names, while speaking to and about his immediate superior always with the familiar diminutive?

But on the whole far more attention has been paid to an authentic setting than is usual in many fantasy/horror novels. Most importantly, Aleksei is a man of his time- ruthless in war, and indulging his carnal impulses in the manner usual at the time. This only makes the contrast stronger, when his new allies act in a manner that even this soldier cannot stomach... ( )
  Guanhumara | May 28, 2016 |
A round of applause to Jasper Kent for this oddball but weirdly effective novel, in which Count Dracula (or Zmyeevich, as he is known to his Russian allies) and his undead minions turn up in Russia in 1812. Their aim is to help the Russian army drive back the invading French, and their methods are, shall we say, unconventional. Stated as baldly as that, it sounds hilarious. Actually, Twelve is atmospheric, creepy and, apart from anything, a fine read.

The narrator is Aleksei, a Russian soldier and spy who unwittingly helps to bring this group of vampires to Russia. At first he thinks they’re just Wallachian mercenaries, but it’s not long before he realises that there’s something decidedly odd about his new chums. When he discovers that they’re vampires he’s horrified and – former allegiances notwithstanding – sets about destroying them.

A fine story, and well-told. Naturally, there are a few flaws – Aleksei, for example, is sometimes unbearably self-absorbed, often to the point of being self-obsessed. The vampires provoke a great deal of moral outrage and soul-searching in him, yet he’s hardly a paragon of virtue himself. The vampires – the ‘Twelve’ of the title – are supposedly brilliant, cunning killers, but they are without exception rather one-dimensional and stupid. The ending falls a bit flat; it feels like it goes out on a whimper rather than a bang.

Still, when you’ve enjoyed a novel so much recounting its flaws in this way feels like griping for the sake of it. This is a great read and, while it’s never really frightening, there are some chilling, very effective moments. One of the most unnerving parts of the novel is the part where Aleksei’s friend and comrade Dmitry recounts his first meeting with Zmyeevich, while he was fighting against the Turks in Wallachia. The creepy old castle, the wild Carpathians, the thick atmosphere of menace and gathering dread … it’s reminiscent of Stoker, but with a greater emphasis on Dracula’s historical role as a soldier, a fighter against the Turks and, from a Romanian point of view, a brutal, terrifying saviour.

Five stars.
( )
  MariBiella | Dec 6, 2015 |
A slow start, that lays the background and sets the scene with well researched authenticity. The villains of the piece are villainous indeed and their true horrendous nature is detailed at some length in one particularly gruesome scene.

These bad guys are vampires who are very strong and can move with incredible speed. This makes the seemingly easy dispatch of some of them by our hero, one Captain Aleksei Ivanovich Danilov, somewhat unbelievably fortuitous in many cases. Also, a bit tiresomely, Danilov's philosophising on many occasions in the last third of the book, had me turning pages unread.

Get rid of about twenty pages and this would be an “unputdownable” book. It wasn't so bad though, that it will stop me reading the sequel "Thirteen Years Later" now on my wish list. ( )
  Kampuskop | Jul 31, 2013 |
Captain Aleksei Ivanovich Danilov is part of an elite group Russian spies, working to stem the tide of Napoleon's army as it pillages its way across the Russian landscape en route to Moscow. He soon finds himself fighting alongside a group of twelve highly-skilled Wallachians who call themselves the "Oprichniki," savage fighters who prefer close combat and only work at night -- and who claim they can halt the invasion of the French troops. Although Danilov questions how only twelve men can turn the tide of the war, he soon discovers just how efficient these mercenaries are, but begins to have doubts about the motives of this secretive group. But after discovering the horrible truth about the Oprichniki, Danilov decides that his new allies are actually a threat to all of mankind, and it's left up to him to rid the world of these legendary creatures of nightmares.

With the invasion of Napoleon's army into Russia as a backdrop, Jasper Kent weaves an interesting tale about a conflicted soldier who would do anything to protect his homeland from the French army. But the man soon realizes that his new allies, with their inflated expectations, are too good to be true. The tale infuses folklore about these "voordalak" mercenaries, a group of traditional vampires who are born to kill -- and who definitely do not sparkle in the sunlight. (Nor do they see humans as anything beyond being a food source.)

The story itself is a little slow moving up until Danilov discovers the truth about the Oprichniki, but then moves at a quicker pace as he hunts them down one by one. The main issue I have with this book is just how easily Danilov manages to kill these savage bloodsuckers; many times it seems like there's a little too much divine intervention going on. The man himself spends quite a bit of time reflecting on the events around him; it's hard to imagine that a soldier caught up in such carnage and horror could be so much of a philosopher. Ultimately I found the secondary character of Maks to be much more interesting. It is nice to see vampires that are more traditional and less cuddly, however one particular scene with the Oprichniki is straight out of a "torture-porn" film, and seems very out of place in a novel that otherwise keeps most of their exploits hidden in the shadows. I'm all for a big reveal of the horrors they commit, but I believe this scene goes a little too far.

For those who enjoy historical fiction, "Twelve" will be a worthwhile read, especially for those who are tired of vampires being so cute and cuddly. The story continues in the sequel "Thirteen Years Later."
( )
1 vote bradmiddleton | Feb 10, 2013 |
Forse contrariamente a quanto affermato in copertina Tolstoj non avrebbe scritto un libro di vampiri (vedrei meglio Gogol'o Bulgakov) ma l'ambientazione e la cura della narrazione mi hanno piacevolmente riportato alla mente i ricordi delle letture dei Grandi Russi, con quella gradevole attenzione al folklore, ai luoghi, alla storia. Notevole anche la costruzione dei personaggi, non complessa (o ampollosa come spesso capita nei tomi russeggianti) ma molto attenta a dipingere con pochi tratti precisi caratteri non troppo stereotipati. Ho apprezzato molto la scelta della figura del vampiro, non il solito vampiro moderno (bello e maledetto, fragile, tendenzialmente umano) ma la creatura del folklore, legata alla paura del'ignoto, alla violenza inspiegabile, alla morte, al predatore crudele per eccellenza: l'uomo. ( )
  vanlilith | Jul 25, 2012 |
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Prologue - A Russian Folk Tale

Some people place this story in the town of Atkarsk, others in Volgsk, but in most versions it's Uryupin and so that is where we will keep it.
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Facing defeat by the French during the Napoleonic Wars, Russian Captain Aleskei Danilov enlists the help of twelve mysterious mercenary soldiers, the Oprichniki, only realizing too late their true nature as vampires.

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