Hey beautiful booklovers! It been an age since I wrote a review for you all, and so why not start my coming back to social media with a review of a book I recently read and loved so much! Empire of the Vampire by Jay Kristoff! I am so excited to chat about this one with you all. For all of you who watched my EotV chat on Youtube, this will be a more concise and comprehensive review compared to my chatter in that video, but for those of you who want to watch it that haven’t I have linked the video here for you.
So for those of you who do not know what this beauty is about (and I doubt there are many of you out there but you never know) here’s what it is about.
Synopsis – From Amazon
It has been 27 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, half man, half monster and last remaining silversaint – a sworn brother of the holy Silver Order dedicated to defending the realm from the creatures of the night – is all that stands between the world and its end.
Now 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.
So it goes without saying, but I picked up this book (pre-ordered it actually) without having read the synopsis. It really was as simple as hearing Jay was writing a vampire book for me. I loved vampires growing up; by that I mean watching movies like Queen of the Damned, and Underworld, and just being utterly obsessed with how cool it was, not to mention my addiction for Victoria Frances artwork.
So what can I say about this book without spoiling it for those of you who haven’t read it yet?
Well, the worldbuilding is rich and full of life, the characters are gritty and relatable, and the way the story is told is captivating. It kept me engaged throughout, there were moments I laughed and moments I literally teared up because I was so invested in the story and Gabriel De Leon as our main character. The Vampires are ruthless, the humans, you’ll find, can be much the same. There were unexpected turns, moments of despair, and always the want to know what happens next. Overall this book gripped me from page one to the end, and left be thoroughly wanting more. I cannot wait to see what Jay will do with book two but you can be sure that I will be pre-ordering it as soon as I’m able and then consuming it unabashedly when it releases.
Well if you are still sticking around looking for more you must be my spoiler bunch who want the details on what I thought about X, Y, and Z. Don’t worry I aim to please…
Spoiler Review – Turn back ye who haveth not readth this book…(okay that was terrible lol but you get what I mean!)
So, since I rambled a lot in my Youtube video, I am going to try my hardest to be more clear and concise here, therefore I will break it up into sections below, and let you know my thoughts on each. I will start of with the general and get more into the spoiler stuff as we go on.
So as I said above the worldbuilding in this book is fantastic, and I really fell head over heels for it. We get a similar style of worldbuilding to Jay’s previous ‘Nevernight Chronicles’ in the sense that there is different expressions based on where the characters are located or different gestures for cursing etc, than what we are used to in our everyday lives; this is something so small yet something I appreciate so much because it makes sense and it embellishes the story with more depth. Luckily for us there is no shortness of depth in this world, and it is just brimming with possibilities. We have a high society, an emperor (although very absent throughout), an empress, 4 royal houses of vampires one of which is invading the mortal lands with an army of the dead. We have a pretty comprehensive religion along with the fanatics who blindly follow despite the wrong they do in their Gods’ name, and we have tribes throughout the northern lands/ highlands; some of which deal in other Gods’ and magik (which would definitely be interesting to get more information on). The map of this world is beautiful, and when Jay is telling us the story through Gabriel’s eyes I felt as though this world was vast and real. There is definitely a sense of being able to walk straight into this world. The vastness of the world and its’ ability to captivate put me in mind of A Song of Ice and Fire in my opinion – not that the books are similar but more that the world is so actualised it has the same feel.
Now, I mentioned in my video that the storytelling might not be for everyone since it is in the style of ‘sit down and tell me your tale’. We have a historian who comes to Gabriel in his cell and asks him to share his story. Now some people might be turned away from that, I personally wasn’t as this type of storytelling when done well can be great, and lets be clear…Jay done good! Then there is the whole split timelines thing that might also put people off, which I can understand because if I am being honest I don’t tend to like getting stuck into something only to be drawn out of it and then dropped into another timeline/ perspective. That being said I really didn’t have an issue with that in this book because both timelines were centred around Gabriel, and I was really invested in knowing his tale. There is also the strategic way in which Jay chose those timelines – they are far apart and give us enough to be engaged whilst also wondering what happened in between. For example, we still don’t know how Gabriel came to be in possession of Ashdrinker, and we also don’t know how he came to kill Fabien Voss. These are pretty big moments in his life yet we are kept away from the details which gives more intrigue and helps keep the reader focused on what they will learn next. What happened? How did that happen? When are we going tofind out tnis etc? This is all essential to good story telling because the question is what keeps us (the reader) moving forward with the story, and indeed what drives us back for the second instalment. Jay did a great job with his storytelling on this one and thoroughly has my attention.
The Holy Grail Storyline
As I said before, normally I don’t appreciate being pulled out of something I am enjoying and thrown into something else, and whilst it did take me a small bit to get into this timeline, I did actually end up loving it too. I know that makes it sound as though I slogged through…I didn’t, it was pretty quick for me to realise that this storyline was just as captivating. I think the reason for that is that it also centred around Gabriel, and by that point I was so invested in him I wanted every scrap of information he had to offer. Lets talk characters; in this timeline we have a familiar ‘face’ in Chloe, and we have a bunch of new characters in Dior, Saoirse, Bellamy, Rafa, and of course Phoebe. I appreciated Saoirse as this strong female warrior type who reminded me a lot of Scotland (as you may or may not know I am Scottish) and I loved that she came from some tribe that was steeped in old magik and things. Oh, and that fact that she had Phoebe by her side helped a little too! I loved that she didn’t take Gabriel’s crap at all. She was seriously giving off some bad b***h vibes and I was here for it. I loved Bellamy, he made me chuckle and I was actually surprised how sad I was at his death, I really wanted him to find his final song. Chloe, for me was a shock, because I wasn’t expecting her to be that person that was into human sacrifice and yet that’s exactly who she turned out to be. Dior grew on me massively and I can’t wait to hear more about her in the next instalment. Initially I wasn’t sure about her but she won me over for sure.
Let’s talk about the obvious…The whole sacrifice Dior, kill Gabriel, discovering Celene is still alive thing, because I’m not gonna lie to you folks…that was not what I expected. Well, for the most part anyway. Towards the end of this storyline I did feel that they were going to try either sacrifice Dior or do something along those lines, so I wasn’t overly surprised when that was the case. I did however not see Gabriel dying coming, mostly because he is telling this tale from a cell, but also because I had some kind of childish hope that he wouldn’t be able to be overpowered by them all. Perhaps I’ve been reading too much David Gemmell. Regardless, I wasn’t expecting his found ‘family’ Chloe, Greyhand etc to kill him and watch him die, it was such a betrayal for Gabriel and all because he didn’t believe Dior should die. Then once we get over that we realise that Liathe is actually Celene, and now she hates Gabriel for her untimely death at the hands of his enemy. I was SHOOKETH! There was no part of me at all that expected Celene to still be alive, and to find out that she was some sort of immortal badass with sanguimancy?!? Like what?! She is of the same Esani bloodline as Gabriel! Honestly I need answers folks!
The Early Life of Gabriel Storyline
I loved this storyline. Loved finding out where Gabriel came from, his family dynamic, and his trials and tribulations during his time training to become a Silversaint. It was interesting to have a main character who was young and full of pride to the point of making foolish mistakes. I was also not expecting to have Gabriel be thought of as a Frailblood, I was sitting there thinking ‘nah, that can’t be right’. I loved watching the friendship between Aaron de Coste and Gabriel form; I was fully expecting their hatred for one another to contribute to the death of Aaron, but I am so thankful that they became friends instead. I really enjoyed Greyhand’s character too, he was definitley that militarian man I’ve had the pleasure of meeting multiple times. He reminded me so much of being back in the army, and I loved that he was someone who lived for the Order. It was sad to see how his relationship with Gabriel developed into one of resentment, but that just made his character that much more real to me. Astrid – Honestly I was not expecting the relationship that formed between Gabriel and Astrid to be as pure as it was; I know that sounds weird, but they truly loved each other enough to turn their backs on their positions within the Order, and set out by themselves. It was unexpected but I loved that their relationship went that way.
I would say that Gabriel in this half of the story is very relatable, because he is young, wants to prove himself and is willing to take risks to prove his worth to others, and I feel like that is something all young and naïve people do; obviously not to this extent or within this context but nevertheless I feel it is relatable. Jay captured the spirit of being young, dumb, and ballsy in this part of Gabriel’s story and I loved it.
The Worst Day
What can I say about this chapter other than a part of my soul died reading it. This broke me, honestly. It was so hard to read how happy Gabriel was and how perfectly mundane his life was only for it to be taken so violently from him. Was it not bad enough that his child was murdered and his wife bled dry, but when he woke he had to kill his wife because she had become (cries hysterically whilst cursing Jay for being so cruel). The thing is…I knew it was coming. I knew they were dead, I just had that feeling but when we got to find out how, oh it was heart-breaking, and I just can’t wait to read about the moment Fabien Voss dies at Gabriel’s hands.
The Battles/ Confrontations
I was kind of expecting more battles in this book, not that I didn’t enjoy the conflict and fights that we did get, because I did, but I somehow fooled myself into thinking I would be getting more of those epic battles, probably because I stupidly thought I’d get to read about the fight with Fabien Voss and stuff but apparently I got ahead of myself. Either way what we did get was good, I certainly enjoyed the fights between Gabriel and Danton Voss. It was fun when Gabriel only told his true plan to Dior because he knew Danton would read everyone’s mind. That kind of thing makes me immensely happy, I always love it when our main character is one step ahead.
So we come to the end of the story and the tale of Gabriel’s life hasn’t been fully told but he is in this cell and he gets his hands on Jean-Francois our historian, and tries to use his sanguimancy on him…which obviously didn’t work, but then we are reminded of the moth at the window, and of course my brain goes to Liathe, and makes me think she is keeping an eye on things. It definitely leaves the reader wanting that’s for sure, and as I keep saying makes me want to read the next book immediately.
What’s To Come/ Theories?
Okay, last bit folks. Theories. I do love me a theory and this book doesn’t disappoint with the possibilities. Firstly lets confront the obvious…Astrid. Yes, yes, I know I have been saying she’s dead and he killed her when she became, BUT let’s be honest here, Gabriel is telling this tale to his enemy, is he going to be honest? Probably not. Could he have killed Astrid? I’m not so sure. It’s entirely possible they have been sustaining each other to sate their blood lust, and she had been made by Fabien Voss, how old was that guy? It stands to reason that she would be a pretty powerful vampire, and given their relationship it could be that Gabriel finds himself with another powerful vampire ally. Why would he want to reveal that card up his sleeve so soon? Or maybe he really did kill her? Time will tell.
There is the matter of the sanguimancy too. Gabriel is obviously of a line that has the ability of sanguimancy, and throughout the book we are told that vampirism only passes from male sires to their boys, but then there is Liathe/ Celene who we are told has a different father from Gabriel…which leads me to believe that the Esani line has been passed down from his mother. It’s either that or Celene has the same father but that seems unlikely to me. It will be interesting to find out what the deal is with all this in book two.
I think it’s obvious that we will continue to find out the story that Gabriel is willing to tell in the next book but I have to wonder if he is comfortable there. Throughout the book he listens to the number of steps the servant takes when they rush from his cell etc, which to me is the observation of a man who has no plan to die yet. It feels like if he has been caught and is a prisoner, then it may be his plan to be there. He may have a reason to be comfortably sitting within the cell. Again, we must assume that Gabriel is an unreliable narrator as he considers Jean-Francois his enemy, so who really knows his motives.
On that note I think it would be foolish of us to assume that Dior is lost to Gabriel, as mentioned above it has to be assumed that he is unreliable and in that case why would he tell his enemy honestly where his allies are etc. As the saying goes, keep your enemies close, and this way Gabriel gets to belt feed Jan-Francois whatever he wants them to believe.
Either way I am very excited to find out what happens next!
Well, that’s it, you now have my thoughts on Empire of the Vampire! I hope you enjoyed my waffling, and please let me know in the comments if you’ve read it and what your thoughts were overall. Do you agree with any of my theories? Do you have any of your own? Let me know!