In today’s post, I am looking forward to sharing my thoughts on one of my favourite reads of 2022! The book easily made it into my top 2022 reads list, and I will be reading the sequel as soon as it’s out next year!
Not too long to wait now!
Empire of the Vampire – Jay Kristoff
Genre: Epic fantasy / Gothic fantasy
Publisher: Harper Collins
Publication Date: 07 Sept 2021
From holy cup comes holy light;
The faithful hand sets world aright.
And in the Seven Martyrs’ sight,
Mere man shall end this endless night.
It has been twenty-seven long years since the last sunrise. For nearly three decades, vampires have waged war against humanity; building their eternal empire even as they tear down our own. Now, only a few tiny sparks of light endure in a sea of darkness.
Gabriel de León is a silversaint: a member of a holy brotherhood dedicated to defending realm and church from the creatures of the night. But even the Silver Order could not stem the tide once daylight failed us, and now, only Gabriel remains.
Imprisoned by the very monsters he vowed to destroy, the last silversaint is forced to tell his story. A story of legendary battles and forbidden love, of faith lost and friendships won, of the Wars of the Blood and the Forever King and the quest for humanity’s last remaining hope:
The Holy Grail.
For the most part, I’m not really one for vampire stories. There are some exceptions to that rule, and this book and future series is now one of them. I suppose I’m a little guilty of tarring books with vampires with a negative brush – whilst I haven’t read or watched Twilight, I’ve heard enough to have made my mind up…
I decided to give this book a go against my instinct because it was written by Jay Kristoff. Since I really enjoyed his Nevernight Chronicles series in audio format, I took the plunge in getting a hardback of this book. I didn’t regret it – not even taking this chunk in my hand luggage on holiday!
Empire of the Vampire, structurally, it’s quite typical of popular epic fantasy novels. There is good and evil, a smattering of religion, and magic that stretches the bounds of reality as we know it. There is some small element of coming of age growth by some characters in this book too, which I enjoyed. At the same time, it doesn’t overly overtake the plot in terms of emphasis either, which makes a refreshing change.
There is plenty of action in Empire of the Vampire, given there’s an ongoing war between humanity and the undead to keep the pacing of the book… alive. See what I did there? Fantasy books are stereotypically earmarked as being full of world building and info dumping. Don’t get me wrong, some of them do. It’s rare that I’ll complain about a book being too descriptive, because I personally enjoy delving into the background and setting of a book. If anything, I’m more likely to criticise a book for being too action orientated, and there not being enough depth for me. I’m still bitter at how much I loved Red Rising by Pierce Brown, but disliked its sequel, Golden Son. It’s a prime example of this at play. However, Empire of the Vampire balanced the two nicely!
If you’re looking to read fantasy on the lighthearted side, then you’re looking at the wrong type of book. Empire of the Vampire is very dark and visceral. What do you expect with vampires on the scene? However, we’re not just talking about the characters. We’re talking about descriptions, events and language. If you ever read the Nevernight trilogy by Jay Kristoff then you’ve already had a flavour of what you can expect in Empire of the Vampire.
One of the tropes I enjoy in fantasy, and is something I discussed recently in my favourite fantasy tropes post, is a non-altruistic protagonist. The protagonist Gabriel is a Silversaint, born and raised to fight against the paranormal and defeat the vampires oppressing humanity. However, he is not the devout and altruistic man he was raised to be. He is a man who experiences doubts and loses his way.
He is the last Silversaint, and whilst he does try to do the right thing broadly, it’s more for his own motives rather than for humankind’s benefit. In my opinion, having a protagonist any other way wouldn’t fit with this book. As I’ve already mentioned, it is a dark and gritty novel. If we had a sweetness and light go-getter to save the world character, he would stick out like a sore thumb. He has been kicked and beaten, physically and emotionally. He’s lost friends. To an extent, he loses his own identity because of the world he lives in. Whilst he may be fighting on the side of humankind in the long run, there are plenty who consider him a monster as well.
I wasn’t sure what to expect going into this book. I wanted to give it a try because I have really come to enjoy Jay Kristoff’s writing style in previous books.
The narrative style (likened to Patrick Rothfuss’ The Name of the Wind) and setting of the world appealed to me. It appealed to me for all the right reasons! I love the way in which this story is told. As in the aforementioned book, the story is told almost in the style of a confessional, through the eyes of the main character retrospectively. There are lots of people out there that love the style of narrative. Others don’t so much. Personally, I want to see more of it! I’ve read some fantastic books using this narrative style. Whilst some argue that it takes some of the joy and suspense out of knowing what happens to characters, I would argue that if it’s written well, that’s not the case at all!
The atmosphere and tension in the book kept me hooked! It definitely maintained Gothic vibes throughout, and I really enjoyed this. It’s not the typical book you would take for summer holiday reading, but I’m not a typical person! It really worked for me!
This book has everything you would expect from an epic fantasy – complex and detailed world-building, a vast array of characters with detailed backstories and relationships, and a storyline that will inevitably span a large number of chunky books!
I can’t wait for the sequel!