Series: Empire of the Vampire #1
Published by St. Martin's Griffin (9.7.21)
Genres: Adult, High Fantasy
Format: Hardcover, 739 pages
Source: I own it
It has been twenty-seven long years since the last sunrise. For nearly three decades, vampires have waged war against humanity; building their eternal empire even as they tear down our own. Now, only a few tiny sparks of light endure in a sea of darkness.
Gabriel de León is a silversaint: a member of a holy brotherhood dedicated to defending realm and church from the creatures of the night. But even the Silver Order could not stem the tide once daylight failed us, and now, only Gabriel remains.
Imprisoned by the very monsters he vowed to destroy, the last silversaint is forced to tell his story. A story of legendary battles and forbidden love, of faith lost and friendships won, of the Wars of the Blood and the Forever King and the quest for humanity’s last remaining hope:
The Holy Grail.
Okay, so this book took me foreeeever. I started this behemoth September 20th. Didn’t finish until November freaking 22nd. TWO. MONTHS. To be fair, I was planning my wedding and was balls deep in wedding stuff (which was November 6th, and my glorious husband messaged Jay about it and he actually recorded a “happy marriage” video for me *insert squealing, puppy eyes, and tears*) so I didn’t have much time to read. Plus, this book is HEAVY. It probably took me twice as long to read each page as a normal book would take. I was only able to read a couple chapter a night at best, and the result was that I really got to savor this bad boy. Usually I gobble new Kristoff books up within 24 hours of release at the latest (usually months before release in ARC form, actually). It killed me that I didn’t even get to start it until a week after release! I did get the ARC from NetGalley a couple months in advance, but I was less jazzed to read it when I found out it was only a lengthy sampler – I didn’t want to get SUPER into it and then get cut off and be jonesing for the rest for weeks on end! I figured it was better to just wait until release. And it was 100% worth the wait!
That being said, this is the first of Jay’s books that I wasn’t absolutely gung-ho smitten with from the very beginning. It definitely feels like Adult High Fantasy because it started SLOW. Jay’s writing is phenomenal, as always, so I was never bored; but I wasn’t super into Gabe as a character until a good 1/3 of the way in. (As per usual, it’s all about the side characters for me though!) It took a while for me to get invested in this story.
This book is dark. And when I say dark, I mean: It’s the darkest book Jay has written, and his books are usually pretty dark anyway. Moreover, it’s extremely bleak, too. Gabe is very pessimistic and has basically lost all faith and all hope. And because he’s telling the story, that bleakness bleeds into the whole narrative and feel of the entire novel. The storytelling is super interesting because Gabe is telling his own story after it all happened. Which is a lot like Name of the Wind (which I hated), but it’s done in a way that I actually enjoyed. NotW didn’t work for me because it made me feel detached from the story knowing that everything had already happened. But, Jay is a MASTER at pulling shit off, and there’s just something in the way he does it that it worked for me.
I also want to say that I’m not usually a vampire fan, but I thoroughly enjoyed Jay’s take on them! It was a fresh perspective on vamp lore – maybe it’s been done before, but if it has I haven’t seen/read it, so it was new to me.
It’s not a Kristoff story without a few blow-your-face-off bombs being dropped. I looove that Jay always keeps me on my toes! I can usually see twists coming a mile away, but Jay always manages to surprise me. There were two twists in this one that had me positively gobsmacked.View Spoiler »First, I just want to say: I knew Astrid and Patience were dead from pretty early on. I knew. But goddamn if that didn’t SUCK when Gabe finally admitted it. There were plenty of signs, I don’t think Jay was trying to hide it. It seemed blatantly obvious to me. But, I was still in tears when it finally came time for Gabe to tell the story of The Worst Day. MY HEART.
The twists that got me? First of all, DIOR IS A GIRL. Like, fuuuuck my face that one got me!! I can’t believe I didn’t see that one coming! (Which makes me feel MUCH better about the Dior/Saoirse dynamic because when Gabe caught them together and I still thought Dior was a 12-year-old boy I was like whaaaat hold the phone. EW? Sooo yeah, much better! I wish we’d have seen them together after the reveal, though. Womp, womp.)
Second, CELINE! IS! ALIVE! And she’s Liathe, whaaaaat? I did NOT see that coming. In fact, I was racking my brain trying to figure out who the hell she was! Loved that twist. I’m excited to see more of that dynamic in the next book, and how her use of Sanguimancy correlates to everything. « Hide Spoiler
Side note: The horse deaths got me hard. I actually had to put the book down after that one scene. Whew.
As always, superb and flawless storytelling by Mister Kristoff! Can’t wait to get my hands on the second book!
Writing style: 5/5
Overall rating: 5/5