Empire of the Vampire

Empire of the Vampire
Jay Kristoff
Published date
Harper Voyager UK

“Empire of the Vampire” by Jay Kristoff is the first book in the new series with the same title. The story is very dark and was meant to bring the image of vampires from the romanticised eternal creatures promoted by pop culture back to the bloodsucking monsters of legends from the olden days. And I say the author did a marvellous job.

At the very start of the book, we meet Gabriel de León, the last Silversaint of a holy brotherhood imprisoned by his mortal enemies – the vampires. He is forced to tell his own story to the empress historian. And now we get to the narration, which is not typical because it’s nonlinear, meaning we are jumping between two different timelines. I have to say that I was a bit annoyed because every time something interesting was happening, we were pulled away and thrown to completely different events (which most of the time slows down the pace). But as I read it further, it made sense why the protagonist told his story this way, and it served well to build the suspense and tension before the grand reveal of secrets at the end of the book.

“Empire of the Vampire” is meant for adult readers, as the main character is swearing, like, a lot. Sometimes even more than it’s necessary. I was internally laughing that the author was trying to make sure that this time his work wouldn’t end up on the Young Adult shelf. I’m not a massive fan of cursing in novels, but here, somehow, it didn’t bother me. It was fitting for the protagonist to speak this way, so it felt natural and not forced.

The world-building is impressive. We have this whole massive setting with a dystopian and gothic atmosphere where the vampires are unstoppable, and humans are scrambling desperately to survive. The author used the central concepts of Christianity but twisted them just a bit to give them more novel sound and fit well into his world. And finally, we have the vampires that are as they always should be – bloodsucking monsters that bow to nothing but their twisted desires. I also love the whole concept of the Silversaints’ order and how each member is a descendant of vampire clans which grant them special abilities to fight against monsters. It is a mix of the Witcher and the Grey Wardens from the Dragon Age games (I love both).

We meet an exciting set of characters in addition to the protagonist - a ragtag band led by Gabriel’s old friend. Each person there is not what they seem at first, which makes them all very likeable. They are all quirky, annoying, and scheming to meet their own goals but still fight side by side when they need to.

The book is also full of epic battles, mad chases, escape attempts and heart-breaking moments. Even though it’s huge (over 700 pages), there are not many moments where the reader could get bored. It may take a moment to get pulled into the world entirely and get the good feeling of the scenery with all the details, but once you do, the story flows beautifully. I wasn’t binge reading it, I was taking my time reading just a few chapters each evening, and I always looked forward to getting back to the story of Gabriel de León.

If you like dark, gothic tales with bloodthirsty vampires, knight-like orders, epic battles, and rich world-building, you should check out this book. I loved every page, and it’s one of my favourite books read this year.