The war of 1812 between France and Russia will forever be known in history as a bloodbath between two of the worlds most powerful empires of the seventeenth century. The stories you haven’t heard about are what extremes the Russian powers had to resort to to win the day. Wrapped in a beautiful historical retelling, Twelve is the story of survival, childhood stories, and the horrors of war with folktales coming to life. Jasper Kent is an expert on Russian history and it shines through on every page, even if the pacing can feel painfully slow at times.
Captain Aleksei Ivanovich Danilov is tasked with what seems to be the impossible, engage and defeat the greatest military mind of his time, the Grande Army of Napoleon Bonaparte. City after city have fallen to the wrath of the French Emperor and his eyes are set on Moscow itself. In desperation, Aleksei and his comrades enlist the help of the Oprichniki–a group of twelve mercenaries from the furthest reaches of Christian Europe, who claim that they can turn the tide of the war. It seems an idle boast, but the Russians soon discover that the Oprichniki are indeed quite capable of fulfilling their promise … and much more. Aleksei cant help but thinking back to the days of his childhood when tales of legendary creatures have been told to children as scary stories. What monsters have they unleashed on the world?
The Danilov Quintet is a historical fiction series mixed with elements of horror and fantasy, but to go into more detail I would be spoiling the fun of the story. The strengths of Twelve is in the detailed history of the war of 1812 and the introductions of Russian folk lore with the horrors that it entails. Aleksei is a strong POV character to follow and the passion he holds for his countrymen stands at the forefront. The story is well written but the prose are not the greatest and the pacing can feel off at times given the story bein told. Twelve requires a good deal of investment but the return is very satisfying as the series moves forward. One thing I should mention about the series is that each book covers major events in Russian history and each novel has a time jump. Book 2 takes place 13 years later, Book 3 is set in 1855, Book 4 in 1881, and the finale is set in 1917 during the Russian Revolution.
If you are a bit of a history buff, enjoy a bit of horror in your novels, or are on the lookout for something different, Twelve could be the book for you. I don’t believe it will be everyone’s cup of tea, but something will be there that anyone can enjoy. History has always been told by the victors, but even the victorious have deadly secrets of there own.