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Customer reviews

3.8 out of 5 stars
3.8 out of 5 stars
Twelve: (The Danilov Quintet 1)
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on 4 October 2011
This book was given to me and to be reviewed for the Transworld Books.
This was a book I wanted to read for a while after catching it on a BBC TV show about books that are bought in read in Airports, which was part of a series for World Book Night. Vampres and Historical fiction. What more could Catwoman ask for?

I struggled with this book to begin with. It was slow. I struggled to get any feel for the characters apart from the man character who I didn't particularly like. As for the vampires. A little more discription would have helped. For the first 200 pages I could barely read 20 pages a time. I physically groaned picking up the book hoping at some point it would actually kick start with something interesting and if it wasn't for that the fact I was given the book to review I would have put it back on the shelf. But if you are thinkig about getting this book. I would recommend but with the advice to persevere!!! IT DOES GET BETTER! The ending has a fantastic twists which does leave it nicely for the next in the series.

Overall the second half of the book is good and I will at some point pick up the second hoping it doesn't start like the first.
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on 20 September 2011
Set during Napoleon's invasion of Russia this had the potential to be a great meeting place between historical fiction and vampire action. On the whole it does achieve this.

However, the book is slow in places. It is slow to start and there are bits where the story seems to slow to a crawl. It is worth sticking with the book though as the second half is far better.

The historical setting of the book felt just right and it was interesting to read about this time and place. I have to say it's the first book I've read set in Russia which made it a refreshing change.

The vampires were also well done. Raw killers without all the fluff of the recent young adult novels is something that has been missing from vampire books I've read recently.

Overall, I did enjoy this once it got started and if you are a vampire fan I'd recommend giving it a go.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 28 June 2011
How can you lose with a plot like this, Vampires during Napoleons invasion of Russia!
There were times when i thought that Jasper Kent was going to screw this up, the first few chapters were a little on the slow side and there were a few places where the pace of the plot got bogged down, but in the main this was a good read, dark, moody, full of menace, palpable cold from the frozen wastes of Russia, i think the author has a real love for this time and place, but im not so sure about the vampires, at times there was a real lack of detail and information about them, you could be forgiven for thinking the book had been written about the invasion and then vampires were added because they are in vogue?

The book is worth a read....would i buy his next book? probably but it would not be top of my buying list.
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on 17 October 2011
I love history and I love reading. I'm also quite intrigued by the whole vampire thing (I loved Bram Stalker's Drakula) so this book seem quite perfect. I enjoyed it, though I did not love it.

It felt to me to be clearly written by a man for a male oriented audience... the descriptions are very good and the story moves a long nicely, but I would have preferred a bit more 'pathos'...

Saying that it was a really easy read (well, a bit gory in places) and I was surprised by the clever twist at the end. Would I read the rest of the series? Yes, I probably would. It's a good holiday read.
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on 21 August 2011
Great idea, but just too much historic detail around battles, too many characters with very russian names which interrupted my reading flow and basically I found it a very boring read with some reasonable twists, but not enough to save it.
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on 6 January 2009
A well-written debut - the French are invading Russia, in 1812. The Tsar wants them stopped, by any means. So a group of Russian covert operatives decide to employ some mercenaries, who only work at night...

I will not spoil the rest of the plot, except to say that this book takes you into this desperate time, full of the chaos and violence of war, romance, and great historical detail. A page-turner!
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on 9 March 2015
I am a very big admirer of Bram Stoker's Dracula novel and have been disappointed by so many books about vampires since. This one is well written with a very good plot and strong characters
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on 22 August 2010
"Twelve" is set during the Napoleonic invasion of Russia in the early 1800s. A Russian Special Forces team among which is the story's protagonist Aleksei, recruits a team of twelve Wallachian assassins in an attempt to slow the progress of Napoleon's forces. As they begin their operations, Aleksei begins to worry as to their their true nature; they refuse to meet in daylight, enjoy playing with and torturing their victims, and rumours of plague follow them wherever they go. "Twelve" is a refreshing return to the monstrous, from the plethora of fluffy vampire nonsense currently offending our screens and bookshelves.

Some of the descriptive prose could have been better; strong on blood and guts though it is, Twelve" is particularly lacking in a "feel" of the 1800s with not many descriptive references to the life and artifacts of the era to give a sense where the reader is. Buildings, barns, cannons and people all exist today but must have looked different to how they do nowadays, and more actual description of them would have helped.

However Kent's use of psychological devices is excellent, and one of the lead vampire's psychological manipulation of him and his humanness, particularly in relation to his lover, is very well done and quite gripping. "Twelve" is full of this psychology of edgy potential betrayal and a lack of trust between all quarters; set in the snowy midwinter darkness of Russia it has an overwhelmingly dark and mistrustful feel to it. I'm looking forward to reading the sequel.
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on 5 June 2011
A book of two halves if ever there was one!!! Part one of the story is slooooow to the point of tedium at times with page after page of dialogue, sole search and insights into the human sole rolling past with very little of the story progressing. The big reveal about the vampires, when it eventually comes, isn't really much of a reveal at all as its patently obvious not only from their first appearance but from simply looking at the front cover that we are dealing with the undead. Kent spends an inordinate amount of time character building and scene setting and while this makes his characters believable and very well rounded it does slow the book down to a glacial crawl at times.

However, all is not lost!!! The second half of the book manages to save the day as the action comes think and fast. As soon as Captain Danilov realises what he is dealing with (he obviously hadn't seen the front cover!) the Vampires start to fall thick and fast. The Vampires themselves conform to the traditional Bram Stoker mould and Danilov has little difficulty staking, chopping and burning his way through them (if anything its almost a little too easy for him at times) once he pulls his finger out. The twist at the end is nice and the conclusion leaves the story open for the second book.

While I was struggling at times with the first half, perseverance is the key and the second half does reward. There was certainly enough here to make me read the second book (I started it the other day) in the hope that it continues in a similar vein to the second half of Twelve. My fear is that it may go back to square one and Kent may start the slow grind of character building and scene setting all over again. As Thirteen Years Later is a longer book than Twelve this could be its downfall. Only time will tell.
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on 7 June 2009
Comparisons between Twelve by Jasper Kent and the Temeraire series by Naomi Novik are perhaps inevitable: both are set during the Napoleonic wars, and both make significant use of fantastical creatures (dragons in Novik's case, vampires in Kent's). But there the similarities end. Where the Temeraire series is generally quite lighthearted, Twelve is much darker. Where in Temeraire the reader somehow always feels slightly detached from the violence, in Twelve the violence is often brutal and far more visceral. Twelve is therefore a novel that needs to be assessed on its own terms.

The premise is simple: Napoleon's army is marching into Russia, with the intent of capturing Moscow and breaking the spirit of the Russian people. Aleksei Ivanovich Danilov is a Russian officer and a member of a four-strong secret group of saboteurs, whose sole task is to use their guile and stealth to slow the French advance. When all looks lost, Dmitri - one of Aleksei's comrades - sends an urgent request for help to the Oprichniki, a group of mercenaries from the fringes of Christian Europe. They prove hugely effective against the French...almost too effective. The more that Aleksei sees of his new allies, the more he doubts them. Eventually, he finds himself in a desperate struggle against not just the French, but an old enemy of mankind.

There's no doubting that the vampires are the star attraction of Twelve, so it was satisfying to see that Kent neatly avoided cliché. His vampires are far closer to the version found in eastern European folklore; they're not melancholy, beautiful figures in velvet jackets and frilly cuffs. Instead, they're brutal, almost primitive, killers that are devoid of any traces of humanity. They can't be reasoned with; they're relentless, efficient killing machines - a far cry from the general depiction of vampires in speculative fiction. This distinction lends a certain freshness to Twelve, which - had Kent perhaps used the more familiar stereotype - could have become stale very quickly.

As good as the vampires are, they don't steal the show from the human participants. Without some solid characterisation, Twelve could have ended up being a lopsided affair with vampires battling a host of paper-thin characters. Again, Kent avoids this pitfall by carefully developing the protagonist, Aleksei Ivanovich Danilov, and his relationships over the course of the novel. As cool as the vampires are, it's this strong human factor that really makes the book what it is. Aleksei's changing relationships with the prostitute Domnikiia and his comrade Dmitri - and the personal turmoil this causes him - adds some stark realism and emotional impact to the novel.

The plot itself is simple but well-constructed, building up nicely in both tension and pace. Kent manages to through a few curveballs into the mix as well, keeping the reader on their toes, and his prose is clean and accessible. Despite the setting, Kent manages to avoid getting bogged down in military detail, with just enough information given to the reader to further understanding and atmosphere.

The novel does have its flaws. Certain characters, at times, display a rather muted emotional response that I found unconvincing. For example, more than one character - when discovering the true nature of the Oprichniki - didn't seem too bothered or surprised. Sure, folktales carried far more resonance two hundred years ago than they do now, but still...I expected a bit more of an emotional response from some people. This problem extends to Aleksei as well; sometimes he seems too fearless, and on more than one occasion he makes decisions that seem utterly ludicrous (and clearly only for the sake of the plot's advancement). It's hard to go into much detail, as I don't want to spoil anything, but I also felt that he seemed rather too adept at dispatching vampires...to the extent that the vampires sometimes didn't come across as fearsome as maybe they should have done. Then again, perhaps this was deliberate. I do quite like the idea of Kent's vampires being somehow more vulnerable...

I felt that at times the atmosphere of the time period didn't come through as well as it could have done (this is one area where I am happy to cross-reference with Novik - I think she does better than Kent at capturing the atmosphere of the Napoleonic era). Some snippets of language seemed a little modern, and subsequently a little jarring. I would have liked more description at times, as I had trouble picturing one or two places. Some passages did feel a little stark in terms of the prose.

Verdict: Flaws aside, Twelve is a solid, engaging novel and a promising start to the quintet that Kent has promised. There's plenty of good action, solid character development and a decent plot that manages to surprise on more than one occasion. I'm already looking forward to the next novel, Thirteen Years Later, both to see how the story progresses and to see if Kent can improve on the areas that I think could be done better.
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