The People’s Will

Written by Jasper Kent
Review by Sarah Cuthbertson

It’s 1881, and the Russians have just conquered the Turcomans, from whose stronghold they take a prisoner, Iuda, to St Petersburg to be handed over to his old enemy, the arch-vampire Zmyeevich, who is seeking revenge on the serf-freeing Tsar Alexander II and his family. There are other forces in play at the time, including The People’s Will, a breakaway revolutionary faction plotting to assassinate the Tsar because they feel his reforms haven’t gone far enough. All collide in a tale that’s part political thriller, part horror story.

This is the fourth in a series of vampire novels set in 19th-century Russia. Twelve was reviewed in HNR 48, and The Third Section in HNR 59. Intertwined with historical events and suitably cloaked in Dostoyevskian gloom (the great man is mentioned), this tale is satisfyingly replete with as many grisly vampire clichés as a thirsty fan could wish for – fangs, coffins, spooky crypts and so forth, not to mention intricate details on the mechanics of bloodsucking. But the rather thin main plot is interrupted too often by episodes of back-story that are intriguing at first but soon begin to look like padding.