These days, vampire stories are a dime a dozen. Indeed, the majority of them have nothing original to differentiate them from the rest of the often lackluster pack. Yet by mixing his own tale with Russian historical fiction, with the Danilov Quintet Jasper Kent created something definitely unique, compelling, and thoroughly enjoyable!
Twelve, Thirteen Years Later, The Third Section, and The People's Will were all engaging and satisfying reads. And with this last installment, I was looking forward to see what sort of grand finale Kent had in store for his readers. Spanning over a century and generations of Romanov and Danilov family members, I was eager to discover just how this epic tale would come to an end. And I wasn't disappointed!
Here's the blurb:
Russia – 1917. Zmyeevich, king of all vampires, is dead. History records that the great voordalak – known across Europe as Dracula – perished in 1893 beneath the ramparts of his own castle, deep in the mountains of Wallachia. In Russia, the Romanov tsars are free of the curse that has plagued their blood for two centuries. But two decades later and Tsar Nicholas II faces a new threat – a threat from his own people. War has brought Russia to her knees and the people are hungry for change. Revolution is in the air. Mihail Konstantinovich Danilov – who himself carries Romanov blood – welcomes the prospect of a new regime. Like his ancestors he once fought to save the Romanovs from the threat that Zmyeevich brought them. Fought and won. But now he sees no future for a Russia ruled by a tyrant. He is joined in the struggle by his uncle, Dmitry Alekseevich - a creature born in a different era, over a century before. For more than half his existence he has been a vampire, and yet he still harbours one very human desire; that his country should be free. But the curse that infects the blood of the Romanovs cannot be so easily forgotten and Mihail soon discovers that it – that he – may become the means by which a terror once thought eradicated might be resurrected . . .
The historical backdrop for The Last Rite is the Russian revolution of 1917, which was triggered by a combination of economic breakdown, war-weariness, and discontent with the Tsars that ultimately led to seizure of power by the Communist Bolsheviks. As is usually his wont, Jasper Kent's flair and his eye for historical details capture the minutiae of the day-to-day life in Russia during that particular era and create an evocative narrative that never fails to dazzle the eye. However, though this marks an extremely important moment from an historical perspective, the author didn't quite manage to weave these momentous events with his various plotlines the way he was able to in the fourth volume. It doesn't take anything away from the overall reading experience, but it would have been nice if the brewing revolution had taken center stage and influenced every plotline and protagonist in the same manner as in The People's Will.
This novel features the point of view of Mihail Konstantinovich Danilov. Along with his mother, as a youth he devoted his entire existence to the destruction of vampires. More than three decades have passed since he killed Iuda and Mihail is now an old man with heart problems. With Russia on the brink of revolution, Mihail's life is about to change once more as his past catches up with him. There was an unanticipated and shocking surprise as to what the other main protagonist turned out to be. I can't elaborate on that specific POV, for it would be a major spoiler. Needless to say, these two points of view create an interesting balance as we witness events occurring through the eyes of such disparate characters. Characterization has always been a highlight in the Danilov Quintet and it's certainly no exception once again with The Last Rite.
Both Thirteen Years Later and The Third Section suffered from occasional pacing issues and the same can be said of this final instalment. The People's Will was pretty much a page-turner, but the rhythm drags in certain portions of this book. Still, once the endgame has begun, from that point on the novel becomes impossible to put down!
Ever since I read Twelve and learned that the series would follow the Danilov family through the generations at the way to the Russian Revolution, I've been wondering how Jasper Kent would bring this story to a close. Although there is some foreshadowing throughout The Last Rite, I never saw the end coming. Everything comes full circle, with the sort of great finale that does justice to this epic tale of vampires.
I mention this in every single review: if you are looking for an intriguing blend of Russian historical fiction and paranormal fiction, Kent's Danilov Quintet is definitely what the doctor ordered. If you want to read something different, this series deserves the highest possible recommendation. Indeed, this should intrigue and satisfy even the most jaded genre fiction readers!
The Last Rite is a fitting end to a superior series. Jasper Kent's Danilov Quintet is definitely one of the very best speculative fiction series of the new millennium! Do yourself a favor and read these books!