"Twelve" by Jasper Kent is a novel set in Russia in 1812 during the Napoleonic invasion. The main protagonist, Aleksei, and his friends form part of a special unit of undercover fighters set up to cause the French as many problems as possible during their advance and subsequent occupation. To this end Aleksei's group enlist the aid of twelve mercenaries to ensure that as much damage as possible is inflicted on the advancing French, however after a short while Aleksei begins to realise that all is not right. The twelve, named after the apostles, take great delight in their killing missions, only hunt at night and show very little emotion in respect of the missions they carry out - which leads Aleksei and his friends deeper and deeper into a tale of suspicion, double crossing and ultimately a fight for survival.
The novel is written in the first person and is a narrative of the incidents, adventures and events as seen and experienced through Aleksei's eyes. The novel is a bit slow to start and the pace takes a bit of time gathering momentum primarily due to the long drawn out descriptive prose and I must admit that I had almost given up on the novel, however, I am very glad that I persevered, as the novel progressed the pace quickened the story flowed faster and the revelations, some shocking, started hitting all the right spots. The psychological twists and manipulations of the main character by others in the novel also become very compelling reading, so much so the sequel is now ordered. A slow start - with a big finish!Twelve