From holy cup comes holy light;
The faithful hands sets world aright.
And in the Seven Martyrs’ sight,
Mere man shall end this endless night.
It has been twenty-seven long years since the last sunrise. For nearly three decades, vampires have waged war against humanity; building their eternal empire even as they tear down our own. Now, only a few tiny sparks of light endure in a sea of darkness.
Gabriel de León is a silversaint: a member of a holy brotherhood dedicated to defending realm and church from the creatures of the night. But even the Silver Order couldn’t stem the tide once daylight failed us, and now, only Gabriel remains.
Imprisoned by the very monsters he vowed to destroy, the last silversaint is forced to tell his story. A story of legendary battles and forbidden love, of faith lost and friendships won, of the Wars of the Blood and the Forever King and the quest for humanity’s last remaining hope:
The Holy Grail.
I received a copy of this book from NetGalley. All thoughts are my own.
Oh boy do I have thoughts on this book. I enjoyed Kristoff’s Nevernight (have not gotten around to books 2 and 3 yet) and I’m well aware of the hot mess that is his Asian YA series, but I’m weak for vampires and the early marketing for this book really seemed to hint at some kind of enemies-to-lovers relationship between vampire hunter and vampire. Having read this…uh….yeah no. There’s none of that there. Hell, the vampire character that I thought was the secondary main character barely has any screen time. Instead, Empire of the Vampire was as rote, by-the-books, grimdark coming-of-age Chosen One story that overly relies on stereotypical grimdark tropes (misogynistic language) and offers nothing new to the genre.
Empire of the Vampire follows 3 (really 2.5) timelines. In the 0.5, we have Gabriel de Leon, last Silversaint (fancy vampire hunter), defeated and scheduled for death by his vampiric enemies, forced to tell his story for their history books. Also in this timeline (and the only redeeming character in this book) is Jean-Francois, vampire historian and man in charge of writing down Gabriel’s tale. I call this a 0.5 timeline because not much occurs, mostly Jean-Francois making snippy comments and Gabriel asking for more wine.
The other two timelines are two portions of Gabriel’s life: Gabriel the child, first brought into the school of vampire hunters, and Gabriel the adult, now famous vampire hunter but completely disillusioned from god. These two timelines, told in alternating sections, make up the vast majority of the book. To me, they were also the least interesting. Gabriel the child follows the stereotypical “child suddenly brought into a different world, thrown in magical (vampire hunting) school” tropes. He’s bullied by the rich kids, the hot girl really likes him for whatever reason, he’s weaker than the other kids because he didn’t inherit any magical vampire powers (but wait! he’s actually part of a surprise bloodline they didn’t check for! :O), he manages to make greater achievements despite his disadvantages and also despite his own poor decisions every step of the way.
Gabriel the adult finds himself reluctantly searching for the Holy Grail with a party of new and old friends. I did think this storyline was more interesting than the Gabriel the child one, if only because there wasn’t as obvious a story roadmap. On the other hand, I found the side characters in this story were much flatter and forgettable. Gabriel’s party started off with something like, six or seven members and I couldn’t tell you a single thing about most of them, name included. I found myself skimming much of this book, kept afloat by only Jean-Francois’s snarky comments.
I do try to write reviews independent of an author’s other works, but I’m going to break that rule this one time because the Nevernight comparisons just write themselves. I really enjoyed Nevernight’s edginess for a plethora of reasons, one being that the edginess doesn’t take itself very seriously. Read even a couple pages of Empire and the difference was, well, very apparent. But beyond that, there was something else that took me a while to figure out. Traditionally “edgy” language relies heavily on sexist/racist/homophobic/etc language passed off as being “realist” and “pessimistic”. Nevernight, with a female MC and a fairly gender-balanced cast, couldn’t really rely on those aspects, thus forcing the author to get pretty creative with Mia’s “edgy” language. Empire, on the other hand, has an almost exclusively male cast, especially in the childhood timeline, and so we’re right back to the well-traveled territory of 15yo boys telling each other they fucked their mom/sister/aunt/etc.
Overall, I rate this books a 2.5/5. I went into this with high expectations and came out extremely disappointed. While the prose and worldbuilding were well done, the story itself felt extremely rote and predictable. Even the only redeeming character, Jean-Francois, wasn’t really his own character, just a reader vehicle to provide sarcastic commentary.
r/Fantasy 2021-22 Bingo Squares:
- Revenge-Seeking Character
- Published in 2021
- Cat Squasher
- Forest Setting
- Chapter Titles
- X of Y