Extract from Jasper Kent's THE PEOPLE'S WILL

Speaking of Jasper Kent, the author was kind enough to provide an exclusive excerpt from The People's Will. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

Here's the blurb:

Part historical adventure, part vampire thriller — the fourth dark and dazzling novel in Jasper Kent's 'Danilov Quintet'.

Turkmenistan 1881: Beneath the citadel of Geok Tepe sits a prisoner. He hasn'’t moved from his chair for two years, hasn'’t felt the sun on his face in more than fifty, but he is thankful for that. The city is besieged by Russian troops and soon falls. But one Russian officer has his own reason to be here. Colonel Otrepyev marches into the underground gaol. But for the prisoner it does not mean freedom, simply a new gaoler; an old friend, now an enemy. They return to Russia to meet an older enemy still.

In Saint Petersburg, the great vampire Zmyeevich waits as he has always waited. He knows he will never wield power over Tsar Aleksandr II, but the tsarevich will be a different matter. When Otrepyev delivers the prisoner into his hands, Zmyeevich will have everything he needs. Then all that need happen is for the tsar to die.

But it is not only the Otrepyev and his captive who have returned from Geok Tepe. Another soldier has followed them, one who cares nothing for the fate of the tsar, nor for Zmyeevich, nor for Otrepyev. He has only one thing on his mind – revenge. And it'’s not just Zmyeevich who seeks the death of the tsar. Aleksandr’'s faltering steps towards liberty have only made the people hungry for more, and for some the final liberty will come only with the death of the dictator. They have tried and failed before, but the tsar’'s luck must desert him one day. Soon he will fall victim to a group that has vowed to bring the Romanov dynasty to a violent end — a group that calls itself The People’'s Will.


The main action of The People’s Will takes place in 1881, but there are several flashbacks to earlier periods of Iuda’s life. Here’s one of them:

Iuda’s father, the Reverend Thomas Owen Cain, was the parish priest of Esher, in the county of Surrey, in England. Iuda himself – Richard Llewellyn Cain – had been born in the rectory of Saint George’s Church on 28 June 1778, killing his mother, quite accidentally, in the process. By the time Richard was old enough to discern such things, he noted that his father seemed none too perturbed by the loss of his mother, and Richard chose to adopt a similar attitude. Thomas Cain’s chief interest, aside from his flock, was in science – particularly its application to maritime navigation, a matter of increasing importance with the rapid expansion of His Majesty’s vast empire.

Thomas seemed almost to regret that the problem of longitude had been solved, not because he did not admire the solution, but because he had spent so many of his earlier years trying to deal with it by a quite different approach. But he was not disheartened. Even now that the issue of accurately knowing the time was resolved, there were still vast and complex measurements and calculations that needed to be made in order to combine that time with the observed positions of the sun or the stars and thus calculate a ship’s location, allowing it to sail safely across the oceans. The loss of the thirteen colonies, when Richard was just five, was a shock to the whole nation, but Thomas became convinced that they could be won back if only a fleet could be sent that had sufficient navigational agility to outmanoeuvre the rebel forces.

The solution was his ‘Navigational Engine’, a device, in its ultimate form, the size of a small table, with concentric wheels on its surface which allowed the positions of stars to be marked off, the time set and – so Thomas insisted – a course to be plotted. Richard had little interest in it, but that was not a concept that his father could even consider. Each year – sometimes with greater frequency – Thomas would come up with a new generation of his device, with additional features and refinements that would guarantee its effectiveness, and then he and it and young Richard would board a carriage and head out for the Royal Observatory at Greenwich.

On some occasions the trip would take the whole day – a third of it for the journey there, another third for the journey back and the remaining third sitting, waiting for the committee to find a moment to allow Thomas admittance to their presence. On others they would set out the day before the appointed meeting and spend the night with Thomas’s brother, Edmund, across the Thames in Purfleet. There, as his father snored beside the fire, Uncle Edmund taught Richard to play chess. After the age of ten, Richard never lost a game to him.

Whether their travels took one day or two, the actual examination and discussion of the Navigational Engine took only minutes, and the result was always the same. Travelling out there, Thomas would be full of optimism. He and Richard would look out of the carriage window and he would answer Richard’s questions about the flora and fauna they could see. But the return journeys were more sombre. Thomas would emerge from his discussions with ostensible cheer, speaking of the points which the committee had liked and the recommendations they had made for further improvement, but as the journey home progressed he would fall into a morose silence, his face flushed and scowling. On occasions he would grab the white powdered wig from his head and hurl it on to the floor of the carriage, revealing the sparse ginger hair that naturally topped his scalp; hair which Richard was thankful not to have inherited. On those dark days Richard knew not to ask about or even to look at the world that sped past.

Richard’s fascination had always taken him more in the direction of living things than of astronomy and mathematics. At first his father had discouraged him, telling him that nothing would ever come from the study of plants and animals, but later he had relented, reasoning, Richard supposed, that it was better for his son to show an interest in something, however unimportant it might be to the fate of the empire, than to be interested in nothing.

Even so, Thomas Cain was not prepared to allow his little boy merely to take pleasure in the beauty of the world that God had created; he must experiment and he must discover. Richard’s approach, like his father’s, should be scientific and methodical. It was not enough to marvel at the beauty of a butterfly; the creature must be caught and pinned in a case to be studied and documented. It was not enough to ponder the mathematical symmetry of a spider’s web; the web must be broken, and the steps taken by the spider to mend it recorded; a fly must be placed on the web, and the speed at which the spider scampered over to devour it measured. It was not enough to watch a rat devise and execute a plan to steal grain from a sack that the farmer had thought beyond reach; the creature must be trapped and dissected in order to gain a better understanding of how its organs operated, and compare it with the same organs in other animals and then – perhaps one day at university – with those of a human being.

Richard had not enjoyed it at first – it was tiresome, mundane work, with little reward, but it was incentive enough to keep his father happy and to keep the cane (Thomas never tired of the pun: ‘Master Cain, the cane awaits!’) in its place on the mantelpiece. Later, though, he began to get a sense of satisfaction when his pages of notes and measurements revealed some general principle of which he had not previously been aware: that the spacing between threads on a spider’s web was proportional to the size of its body; that a rat could not vomit.

By the age of eleven, Richard had already filled a dozen volumes with his observations. Such subjects were not studied at school, but even there he did well, with Latin a particular favourite. But he had no interest in divinity – his father had bored him with the subject before he began school, and the more he learned of the detailed mechanisms of nature, the more he doubted that the Lord could have created them in the space of just a few days. More than that, even if the Bible were true, he despised it for the cursory disregard with which it so fleetingly skipped over the magnificence of what God was supposed to have achieved. Six verses to deal with every animal of the sea, the air or the land. Where was the respect? Where was the wonder? Richard could have spent six chapters simply describing the wing of a butterfly.

Richard’s disregard for religion inescapably led to a disregard for his father, for whom, as God’s representative on earth, religion played an important role. But it was more than that; it was Thomas Cain’s failure as a scientist that inspired the most loathing in his son. As the expectant journeys out to Greenwich – and the disappointed trudges back – came and went, Richard began to understand more and more the gap between his father’s ambition and his ability. Others around them saw it too – parishioners, the bishop – but in them it inspired sympathy, an admiration for the heroic failure. But he was not their father and they didn’t have to grow up worrying that one day they might end up like him. There was little Richard could think of that might solve the problem of his father, but at least he could make sure that he did not become him.

But it was when Richard was just eleven, in 1789, that the revolution in France changed everything. This was far more terrifying than the loss of the colonies; this was on England’s very doorstep. Richard’s world changed in a hundred ways as his country came to terms with what had happened to a fellow monarchy of equal age, pedigree and grandeur. But for Richard there was one great practical benefit. Within a few years of the Revolution, thousands of French émigrés had left their homeland and come to England, many to live in Surrey. And it was among these émigrés that Richard was first to make the acquaintance of a vampire.

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