Author: Jay Kristoff
Publisher: Harper Collins
Imprint: Voyager GB
Publication Date: September 1st, 2021
Copy: NetGalley sample/Purchased Personal Copy

I read and loved Kristoff’s debut almost a decade ago yet somehow I haven’t managed to keep up with his work. But I am a massive vampire fan from way back so when I saw that he was delving into Vampire lore with a new trilogy it became a must read. I’ve been a little sporadic with reviews (read absolutely terrible and ridiculously far behind) but I have been reading a lot so I requested the title from NetGalley and dove almost straight in, only to discover that NetGalley are only offering a sampler – which you would be forgiven for not realising as it is over 300 pages. That realisation was the point that I ordered a digital copy for immediate download to my Kindle, and in I dove.

This is DEFINITELY NOT a Young Adult title, much of his earlier work was but this one is most definitely not. I actually think there might even be more bad language in this book than my vocabulary or regular conversation and that is saying quite a lot. It is also extremely and graphically violent and it is wieldy, but I have to say that I loved every page.

I purchased a digital copy because I wanted it immediately but I have to admit, I’m kinda tempted to buy a paperback as well because I want to be able to run my fingers over the illustrations.

Thinking about the first instalment in this epic saga, only minutes after turning the last page and I find I’m still processing, I’m still turning it all over in my mind. The more I think about it the more I see some parallels with my favourite vampire saga, the saga of Lestat the Brat Prince penned by Anne Rice. The stories are completely different; a different time, a different world but there are similarities.

The Empire of the Vampire is penned as a tale told by our hero to a historian; flashes of the present with much of the story playing out as a history told to the historian. Our main character was full of ego and bravado, and it got him in endless amounts of trouble as he failed to follow instructions or the rules. The more I think, the more parallels I see – our hero is Gabriel de Leon. Lestat’s surname was de Lioncourt and his mother was Gabrielle. Lestat has quite a saga and the books number in double digits, and I think Garbriel de Leon has quite the tale to tell so there are bound to be some story arcs that are similar but I found The Empire of the Vampire to be quite original and like nothing I have read before, aside from the similarities I have mentioned.

Gabriel de Leon was a hero of the order of Silversaints, working hard for every accolade he earned while also being a little too full of himself and creating dangerous situations for those around him – though always out of the best intentions. He had been raised in the lower classes, working for everything that he had. Watching as life got harder for all in his village as the years after daysdeath marched on and those who thrived in the night became ever stronger with the absence of proper sunlight.

I’m sure his story would be a wonder to behold if it was told from start to finish as apparently all good stories should be, but Gabriel refuses to tell his story chronologically; demanding that it’s his story and if they want it told badly enough they will let him tell it his way, or no way at all. He starts at the beginning and then when the telling gets too painful he skips forward to a time closer to the present, but that is still aways away from when he is sitting in a tower telling his story.

Kristoff builds worlds that I can plainly see in my minds eye, and I don’t really want to go there but I can immerse myself. His writing is evocative and descriptive in a way that makes it easy to visualise what he is seeing and the fact that Empire of the Vampire is illustrated only serves to help with the visualisation.

I tend not to read reviews of a book until after I have written mine so that I don’t muddy my own thoughts but tonight I had a quiet wander through the Goodreads reviews and see that some people put the fan in fanatic. The reviews are overwhelmingly positive, and the book has raced up the bestseller charts in it’s first few weeks since release, and I can see why. I loved this book. I loved the story and I loved the characters, even the ones I couldn’t like very much. I am determined that I will not let this series fall off the way I did with The Lotus Wars trilogy. I do intend to go back and read the back catalogue – when I find the time.

Empire of the Vampire is dark, darker than dark. It is bloody and vicious and dark. The profanity is over the top which, because my mouth is certainly no stranger to over the top profanity, I often found just made me laugh and may just see me adding some new phrases to my repertoire. Sometimes it was most definitely gratuitous profanity, but sometimes it felt warranted and sometimes it was that jesty profanity that helped paint a picture of the bond that was growing between characters – but that could just be me because it’s the way that I watch the bonds that grow within my friendships.

There is also a rather humunguous vein of nasty bloodslinging profanity that took teenage macho one-upping taunts to dizzying new heights of posturing name calling that felt to me like that stereotyped way movies portray the way new recruits to the army are treated when they start their training, and when I think about it that’s exactly the way that it was used in this story.

If you love darkness and you love vampire lore I would recommend giving this one a run. The worldbuilding was stellar and I found some quite original new vampire lore that I’m enjoying watch develop.

Gabriel de Leon fought his way up from the bottom of the pack to become the legendary warrior he is renowned for across the lands, but he has fallen far from those heights to become a faithless drunk trying to drown the past in spirits (or the spirits of the past maybe), addicted to what was once a holy sacrament.

His story is far from finished and I can’t wait to discover what comes next, unfortunately I have no idea when the next book may be due.

Empire of the Vampire is published September 1st by Harper Collins and is available where all good books are sold, in a number of editions apparently.

Jay Kristoff loves to hear from his readers and is quite active on his socials, you can find him on Facebook, TwitterInstagram and his Website. He is quite witty and fun to follow, I doubt you’ll be disappointed.

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