Empire Of The Vampire – Extra

“If I needed to describe Empire of the Vampire, by Jay Kristoff, in one word, that word would be ‘extra.’ This gigantic epic fantasy, that reads like a cross between Interview with a Vampire and The Name of the Wind, does everything in its power to be edgier than the sharpest knife, louder than a gigaton bomb, and more intense than a life-threatening wound. While this stylistic choice certainly differentiates Empire from most of the other books of 2021, it also makes it very hard to connect with or take seriously. It struggles with tonal issues, pacing, and direction and is chock full of herculean pros and devastating cons.”

Empire of the Vampire is told in the increasingly popular historical analyst narrative style, as made famous by Name of the Wind. Our storyteller is Gabriel de León — silversaint and terror to vampires — as he tells the stories of his childhood training to become a saint and his quest to find the holy grail to save the world in two different time periods. Both of these stories are of particular interest to his observer, a vampire secretary of one of the vampire emperors who currently rule the world ever since it got locked into eternal night. The vampires are your classic gothic horror variety; they can’t cross open thresholds and running water, with the added twist that the four original bloodlines of the empire each have a bonus power. These powers are iron-like skin, the ability to cast glamors, an affinity for animals, and titanic strength. In order to fight the ever-growing vampire hoard, a school of half-vampire cast-offs go to megachurch school and use the power of God to fight their full vampire brethren as silversaints. Depending on which vampire scion the silversaints have, they inherit the abilities of one of the bloodlines, except for our main character Gabriel who is not like other halfbreeds and has no bloodline.”

“The three timelines (distant past when Gabriel was in saint school, the recent past when he hunted the grail, and the present when he is a captive of the empire) are all told in a winding and interweaving story to create a tapestry of mystery, is what I would like to say. Instead, kicking off the cons category, I need to talk about the outrageously confusing narrative style of Empire. Although there are three distinct timelines in the story, the narration never leaves the present, and both the past timelines that make up the vast majority of the book are told as stories. This means that the entire story is told in quotation marks as dialogue and the ENTIRE BOOK is just one long piece of dialogue with about a gajillion quotation marks.”

“It is extremely difficult to tell when people are actually talking in this book unless you are paying close attention. In addition, Gabriel and the listening vampire enjoy adding really annoying color commentary to the two stories, which makes it hard to tell when Gabe is telling the story of something he said to a past character or some glib comment to his current listener. On top of both of these issues, the two past storylines never actually come together, and you don’t really get a lot of explanation for a lot of the events that happen in the holy grail storyline. I see the framework to answer these questions in future books, but at almost 900 pages I expected this book to resolve more than it did.”

“Other issues that plague the book are being absolutely ridiculously over the top in the edge lord category, some shocking examples are as follows. Gabe discovers his half-vampire origins when he has an uncontrollable desire to eat women out on their period and one day takes a big ole chomp out of a girl’s pelvis. When asked how he learned to memorize formulas for potions in saint school, he says he both carves himself up to remember the steps and pulls pubes out of his crotch to remember the ounces of material in a formula. This is not a subtle, calm, or reasonable book – but it also knows it isn’t. Kristoff is very clearly aware of his almost farcical edginess and just leans in further to see how far he can take it. It’s going to be a major issue for some readers who will toss the book out quickly after starting, but I have no doubt that a certain kind of reader is going to adore it as it is definitely unique.”

“Switching back to some of the book’s strengths, the first and easiest one is its incredible production quality. A huge portion of the book is illustrated, and it’s gorgeous. The book is also extremely compelling with a lot of the plotlines evoking intense curiosity and intrigue. Despite my difficulty reading the book mechanically, I finished it in a relatively short period of time as the mysteries and cliffhangers kept me engaged and wanting more. The action is fast and furious, with several scenes giving a nice adrenaline rush as I read them.”

“While the cast wasn’t very original, the chemistry between members of the various groups in timelines was great. The grail timeline has my favorite synergy with the eclectic adventuring group. I loved the romance interest of Gabe’s in the school timeline, which is something I found surprising given my reactions to Kristoff’s past work. She is interesting, has a large personality, and doesn’t feel like she is just there to be a prize for the protagonist. Gabe himself is a mixed bag and where you fall on him will largely be affected by how you feel about edgy protagonists. If you like them you are in for a whole new world of brooding, if you don’t you will struggle with this book.”

“Jumping back to some issues; I can accept crude and coarse language in a book with no problem but Empire sacrifices substance for shock. Characters tell each other to ‘shut the fuck up’ multiple times a page, everyone is always yelling, and some characters are always rude even when nothing calls for it and it isn’t called out. For a book that is so long, not enough feels like it was accomplished in any storyline. I really don’t like the continued interruption in the present for witty remarks (despite some being genuinely funny), it felt like it just continued to slow the pacing and take the place of substance. Reading this book was a continuous assault of ups and downs on my senses and I ended the novel with very conflicted feelings on how to rate Empire of the Vampire.”

“Using my typical criteria to rate a book, I don’t think Empire of the Vampire performs very well. However, this is definitely a unique story that Kristoff has unorthodox plans for and he is writing for an audience that is very obviously not me. I don’t know if I have the ability to assess Empire on the merits that Kristoff was looking for, but if you are someone who usually likes my recommendations and reviews you probably won’t love this despite some of its strengths.”

“Rating: Empire of the Vampire – 5.0/10”
“-Andrew”, said Andrew.

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One thought on “Empire Of The Vampire – Extra

  1. It’s going to be a major issue for some readers who will toss the book out quickly

    From what you described right before that sentence, I can tell you that I won’t even be starting this book based on those incidents :-/

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