'Empire of the Vampire' by Jay Kristoff is Book 1 in the trilogy by the same name. A story which finds our narrator imprisoned and waiting to die for the crime of killing the Forever King.
With the last proper sunrise twenty-seven years past, vampires have spread their eternal empire far and wide. Destroying the human civilization bit by bit, they've rained death and destruction everywhere they've gone.
Silversaint, sworn brother of the holy Ordo Argent (Silver Order).. half-human and half-vampire, Gabriel de Leon has dedicated himself to defense of the realm. Not that it's necessarily stood beside him in return. Still.. he's the last line of defense between our world and theirs.
Forced to tell the tales of his legendary battles, forbidden love, loss of faith and self.. his captors press for more. Demanding everything of him.. intimate details of relationships, the Wars of the Blood, and the quest for hope.. The Holy Grail, he has little choice but to give them what they want.
If I'm being entirely honest, I'd been waiting for this book for well over a year. It's easily my most highly anticipated 2021 release and I'm happy to say, Kristoff absolutely delivers.
Not only is this story right up my proverbial alley, gritty and bloody.. with plenty of suffering to go around, Kristoff's writing skill also seems to reach a pinnacle here. While managing to maintain the rough edges his stories and characters are known for, there's a dark refinement at work within the pages.. a pristine alchemy.. a masterwork.. if you please.
I saw someone mention once that this book.. to paraphrase.. makes The Vampire Chronicles by Anne Rice look like an opening act. While I don't know that I agree with that, it isn't because the writing in Empire isn't superb. There's no doubt this book is a masterpiece of fiction, but rather because it's a wholly different kind of monster. Frankly, I don't think it's fair to either author's story to try to draw the comparison. I will say that for me, my love of the two are neck-and-neck, and that's high praise considering my admiration of Rice's prose.
Empire definitely put me through the wringer emotionally. It's funny really, I felt like I was doing very well.. as I'd gotten over halfway through the book dry-eyed, but it wasn't long after that point when the first gut-punch came.. leaving me a little more wary. I have to give Kristoff credit. Now matter how far ahead he sometimes chooses to let you know the gist of what's coming, he doesn't fail to crush you with the details all the same in the moment you get to experience it. In the hands of any less gifted author, that knowledge takes some of the impact out of the blow.. but with him.. it only seems to hurt all the more. I'm not sure I've ever wanted to be more mistaken during a read before.
Despite being over seven-hundred pages long, this book never becomes a slog. Whether he's character building or developing backstory, providing visual references or expanding relationships, I never wanted to put the book down and by the end.. he left me wanting more. Needing more.
The battle scenes are visceral explosions of violence and pain, scripted like a well-choreographed dance.. and in the Kristoff fashion we've all come to expect.. no one is safe. Not from death nor turns of darkness.
I'm thoroughly invested in the series and cannot wait to see where it goes.. what else will be unearthed in Gabe's tales.. and what he might yet get up to. I know there seems to be a certain end at the road, but The Last Silversaint is nothing.. if not stubborn and resourceful.. and I wouldn't bet against him taking a whole lot of coldbloods with him somehow.
If you haven't yet picked up this book, surely there's someone.. somewhere who hasn't.. even if I don't know them, do yourself a favor and remedy that. You're missing out.