Patrickon Wednesday, September 07, 2011
Jasper Kent's The Third Section is the sequel to the excellent Twelve (Canada, USA, Europe) and Thirteen Years Later (Canada, USA, Europe). Having loved the first two installments in the Danilov Quintet, expectations were rather high for this one. And I'm happy to report that Jasper Kent delivers yet again!
Vampire stories are a dime a dozen in this day and age, most of them with nothing original to differentiate them from the rest of the pack. Yet by mixing his tale with Russian historical fiction, Kent created something unique, compelling, and thoroughly enjoyable.
Here's the blurb:
Russia 1855. After forty years of peace in Europe, war rages. In the Crimea, the city of Sevastopol is besieged. In the north, Saint Petersburg is blockaded. But in Moscow there is one who needs only to sit and wait – wait for the death of an aging tsar, and for the curse upon his blood to be passed to a new generation.
As their country grows weaker, a man and a woman - unaware of the hidden ties that bind them - must come to terms with their shared legacy. In Moscow, Tamara Valentinovna Komarova uncovers a brutal murder and discovers that it not the first in a sequence of similar crimes, merely the latest, carried out by a killer who has stalked the city since 1812.
And in Sevastopol, Dmitry Alekseevich Danilov faces not only the guns of the combined armies of Britain and France, but must also make a stand against creatures that his father had thought buried beneath the earth, thirty years before.
Thirty years have passed since the events of Thirteen Years Later. The historical backdrop for this novel is the Crimean War, as Russia yet again went to war against the Ottoman Empire. The difference this time around was that both the French and the English sided with the Turks. Though battles were fought in numerous locations, some of the most important engagements took place on the Black Sea as the Allies sought to destroy the Russian fleet harbored in Sevastopol on the Crimean Peninsula. Unlike Twelve, in which the narrative focused on the events surrounding Mother Russia's fate against the inexorable advance of Napoléon's Grande Armée, and Thirteen Years Later, in which the events that led to the Decembrist uprising in St. Petersburg took center stage, the Crimean War doesn't play as important a role as the historical events depicted in the previous two volumes. Indeed, the Crimean conflict only serves as a set-up that will set Dmitry Alekseevich Danilov upon the path that will change his life. Still, the author's flair and his eye for historical details create an evocative narrative that never fail to dazzle the eye.
The characterization is particularly well-done. Although he may not be as engrossing a protagonist as his father Aleksei, Dmitry nevertheless remains an interesting yet flawed character in his own right. We read Tamara's POV as a child in the second volume, but to read the narrative of a thirty-something woman who has gone through so much now part of the Third Section is certainly a highlight of this book. Yudin's fascinating POV offers a different perspective on everything which has transpired and is occurring, adding another dimension to the tale.
As was the case with its predecessor, The Third Section suffers from a sluggish pace from time to time. And yet, the way Jasper Kent links this novel's storylines with that of the first two installments, the occasional uneven rhythm does nothing to influence the overall reading experience negatively.
Looking for an intriguing blend of Russian historical fiction and paranormal fiction, Kent's Danilov Quintet is sure to scratch that itch. If you want to read something different, this series deserves the highest possible recommendation.
The Third Section seems to act as a transition work meant to bridge what began with Twelve and Thirteen Years Later with the forthcoming last two volumes. As such, it may not be as self-contained as its predecessor, but it does set the stage for what should be great sequels to come.