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.
Author: Jay Kristoff
Narrator: Damian Lynch
Publisher: Harper Collins
Running Time: 27hrs 10mins
Audio Release Date: 07/09/2021
Series: Empire of the Vampire #1
My Rating of ‘Empire of the Vampire’ 5 out of 5
I could just make this a really short review and say ‘it’s probably the best fantasy novel I’ve finished this year’. It was one of those I got super-excited about back when all we had was a title and a thumbnail image that read ‘cover not yet available’, and, for once, it’s one of those that saw that high pedestal I put it on, laughed, and took it a notch higher.
Our story is told through the eyes of Gabriel de León, the last silver-saint. Which is to say, the last half-breed vampire who fights all things dark and deadly with the powers bestowed upon him by his vampiric father. Unlike those who came before him, and unlike the man he used to be, Gabriel has utterly lost his faith in God. It’s not so much a mild crisis of faith, it’s more a case of ‘he’d have a darn good go at giving the Almighty a bloody nose if they happened to cross paths’. A bit of a downer when so much of the Silver Saints’ powers are rooted in their faith.
Gabriel de León’s tale is told to his captor, a vampire who’s mistress wishes to compile a written history before those who it concerns are extinguished forever. The banter between the historian and Gabriel is utterly wonderful, it makes the scenes in between Gabriel’s recollections so much more fun than they otherwise might have been. I saw Kristoff write somewhere that this is like ‘Interview with a Vampire meets Name of the Wind’ as far as the storytelling goes, and that’s a pretty damn perfect description.
Kristoff’s writing is glorious and I love everything about the world he’s created. The descriptions are vivid, the imagery vibrant. The bonds forged between the characters speaks of a master of his craft and I can do nothing other than salute him for the depth, detail and brilliance of what he is currently creating.
What keeps this fresh is how it’s told. It doesn’t simply focus on one linear narrative. Gabriel will realise the historian is enjoying the flow, decide he’s not one to make a vampire happy, and suddenly decide to skip forward or back in time to focus on another area of his past. It’s an approach that, when done badly (which this most certainly is not) is outwardly bad. Kristoff manages to get it blending seamlessly so the different periods of time don’t feel jarring or shoe-horned.
I enjoyed this audio book so much that the twenty-seven hours simply sped by and the only real negative I have is, after said twenty-seven hours of storytelling, we are treated to the line ‘a fine night’s work’ … just how long are these nights? Damian Lynch worked his magic upon this to the point where, were we a few hundred years in the past, he’d be checked for witch craft. His narration was brilliant and each and every character was brought to life incredibly well. Top marks for the performance and piece overall.