Twelve - Jasper Kent Caveat emptor: I picked this off the New Books shelf at one of my libraries because it sounded intriguing – a desperate group of Russian officers recruits a band of voordalak (vampires) to help defeat Napoleon’s Grande Armée only to realize that Bonaparte is the least of their worries.

The idea is still intriguing and it might make a good novel but this isn’t it.

The writing is dull and turgid, giving neither a sense of place nor a sense of dread, and the info-dumps are painful (I’m still nursing a black eye and a swollen jaw). I understand that a general readership might not have a broad knowledge of Russian history but there have to be better ways of informing you than this:

“‘Perhaps you should tell us what makes them so remarkable,’ said Vadim.

‘It’s hard to describe,’ said Dmitry, considering for a moment. ‘You’ve heard of the Oprichniki?’

Vadim and I both nodded agreement, but Maks, surprisingly, had not come across the term.

‘During the reign of Ivan the Fourth – the Terrible, as he liked to be called – during one of his less benevolent phases, he set up a sort of personal troop of bodyguards known as the Oprichniki,’ explained Dmitry. ‘The job of the Oprichniki was internal suppression, which is obviously not what we’re talking about here, but the method of an Oprichnik was to use absolute, unrestrained violence. Officially, they were monks. They rode around the country wearing black cowls, killing anyone that Ivan deemed should die. Although they weren’t monks, they weren’t educated, but their faith gave them the fanaticism that Ivan needed.’”
(p. 18)

Don’t waste your time with this one.