The second of the five courses that make up the banquet that is The Danilov Quintet.
In Thirteen Years Later Jasper Kent provides us with the second of the five courses that make up the historical/supernatural/fantasy banquet that is The Danilov Quintet.
1825. Russia has been at peace for a decade. Bonaparte is long dead and the threat of invasion is no more. For Colonel Aleksei Ivanovich Danilov, 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 Aleksandr cannot forget a promise: a promise sealed in blood and broken a hundred years before. Now the victim of the Romanovs' betrayal has returned to demand what is his. The knowledge chills Alexsandr's very soul. And for Aleksei, it seems the vile pestilence that once threatened all he held dear has returned, thirteen years later.
Twelve was an educational, entertaining and dark historical fantasy novel which was very well received upon publication, its mixture of history, fantasy and horror proving a winning formula that left many eagerly awaiting the publication of Thirteen Years Later. The good news is that Jasper Kent has once again produced a polished and engaging story that leans more towards the historical than its predecessor.
The strength of Thirteen Years Later lies in the legend around which Kent has built his story. The legend goes like this… On the grey morning in December 1825 the Azov seaport of Taganrog echoed to the tolling of death bells. Alexander I, conqueror of Napoleon, keystone of the Holy Alliance, Emperor and Autocrat of all the Russias, was dead at 48. But had Alexander really died? Legend has it that Alexander faked his death, then took up a 39-year life of humble repentance as a wandering holy man in Siberia. This intriguing legend is woven seamlessly into the narrative, bringing history, legend and the supernatural together in a way that is both accessible and appealing.
Unfortunately, what I thought of as a weaknesses in the first book are amplified here. One look at the – once again beautifully illustrated - cover will tell you that Iuda did not in fact die at the end of Twelve and would indeed be making another appearance within Thirteen Years Later. And it is the parts that involve him that led my belief in the story being stretched to breaking point. I know that this is fantastical fiction but characters still need to be believable and their actions plausible. In Twelve, Iuda was one of the twelve Oprichniki, or vampires, that were hired to help face the invading French. But Iuda is a mortal man playing at vampire; a secret he has managed to keep from both humans and vampires. Unfortunately I have always found - and have continued to find – Iuda's character rather unbelievable and, as he plays such a large part in the novel and the series so far, it was more than just a minor inconvenience when trying to immerse myself within the story. The other thing that I found infuriating about Thirteen Years Later was what could be called the “James Bond death” in which Danilov has Iuda at his mercy, only to leave his death to others rather than finishing him off himself. Could Iuda possibly escape? Of course he bloody can.
Despite my problems with the character of Iuda I still enjoyed the book (just not as much as I had hoped) and the settings of Petersburg, Moscow and the Azov seaport of Taganrog are once again superbly brought to life. Danilov is once again a fine lead with Kent portraying him as neither hero nor anti-hero, allowing him to fall into that grey area in which most of humankind resides. The book's ending is well handled and the events that occurred ensured that I will certainly be reading the next instalment in the Danilov Quintet.
The Legend of Fyodor Kuzmich
On the grey, gull-studded morning of Dec. 1, 1825, the Azov seaport of Taganrog echoed to the tolling of death bells. Alexander I, conqueror of Napoleon, keystone of the Holy Alliance, Emperor and Autocrat of all the Russias, was dead at 48. But had Alexander really died? Legend has it that Alexander faked his death, and then took up a 39-year life of humble repentance as a wandering holy man in Siberia.
Alexander was haunted by the memory of his murdered father, Paul I, and half-crazed by a sense of guilt for Napoleon's burning of Moscow. A handsome rakehell, Alexander had latterly fallen under the influence of Baroness Barbara Juliana von Kriüdener, a Baltic Billy Sunday who converted the Tsar into a rabid religious mystic. Thus in 1825 he decided to change his life.
In a Crimean hospital, Alexander came across a dying army officer who closely resembled him, even down to a scar on the leg. When the soldier died, Alexander's physician allowed the body to decompose just enough to blur its features. Meanwhile Alexander took to his bed, ostensibly with malaria or typhoid. When the time was ripe, the corpse was brought up to the Emperor's room in a covered bathtub; Alexander was smuggled out the same way to a yacht belonging to the first Earl of Cathcart, former British Ambassador to Russia and a close friend of Alexander's. It slipped quietly out of the harbour the next day, bearing south and east to the Holy Land, where a "mysterious passenger" made a tour of sacred shrines. The coffin was opened only once en route to the capital, and then only immediate relatives were permitted to look inside.
Eleven-years later, in 1836, a tall stranger with a flowing beard and erect military bearing rode into the Siberian outpost of Krasnoufimsk on a white horse. He carried his right hand on his hip in the manner of the late Tsar; he spoke fluent French and a kind of Russian that was half church-Slavic, half Latin; he carried an icon with the initials A.I. The peasants began to wonder if this might not be Alexander the Blessed. When the stranger, who gave his name as Fyodor Kuzmich but could produce no papers to prove it, was sentenced to 20 lashes for vagrancy, a strange thing happened, and out from Moscow rode Grand Duke Michael, Alexander's younger brother. He personally threatened the judge with a lashing of his own. But after talking privately and reverentially with Kuzmich, Michael relented and left. Other Romanovs visited the holy man: Czarevich Alexander, namesake of his uncle and soon to bear the imperial title, arrived and kissed Kuzmich's hand.
Review by Floresiensis
1 positive reader review(s) for Thirteen Years Later
Jasper Kent was born in Worcestershire in 1968. Twelve, a horror / thriller / fantasy set in Russia amongst Napoleon's invasion of 1812, was published in 2008 to great acclaim. Jasper kindly spoke to Fantasy Book Review i [...]
Susannah from Australia
Very interesting. How about number 14, whereby Alexander 1st organises a rescue of Grand Duke Michael in 1918.
7.8/10 from 2 reviews