Twilight Forever Rising
(Translated by Andrew Bromfield)
Published 2010 400 pages
Summary (from the book jacket)
Darel Ericson of the Dahanavar clan is a rarity among his vampire brethren: he's an empath, strong enough to occasionally read thought as well as emotion. For centuries, his power has given the Dahanavar a significant advantage against the machinations of the other vampire families, an advantage which makes Darel both a powerful tool and a highly visible target.
Fortunately for Darel, it is more useful for the heads of the other clans to maintain the centuries-long peace between the houses. But can that truce hold against the will of the dangerous head of the House of Nachterret, a cunning and violent vampire who is tired of hiding his presence in the world? The Nachterret would like nothing more than have free reign over the helpless human cattle upon which they feed.
Darel, and the human woman he loves, become central to the Nachterret's scheme to plunge the Houses into all out war, potentially revealing the presence of vampires to humanity and ruining life as they know it. Darel is ultimately forced to face the question: is one young woman's life too high a price to pay for peace?
Twilight Forever Rising is the award-winning Russian urban fantasy novel that made Lena Meydan a bestselling author in her native Russia. Translated into English and published in the US for the first time in 2010, this amazing vampire novel should be on any urban fantasy fan’s must-read list.
It is a rare thing for me to hand out an unreserved five star review rating these days but Twilight Forever Rising effortlessly earns its top marks – and gains a place on my short list of all time favourite vampire fantasy novels. Why do I hold on to my five star ratings tighter than a miser hanging on to his last penny? Well, when I first started reviewing vampire books there were plenty of exciting original ideas floating around the urban fantasy and paranormal romance genre. Fast forward a few years and when I pick up a new book now I often feel like I’ve already read it – and I don’t enjoy the déjà-vu experience. Twilight Forever Rising breathes new life into the tired UF genre and reminds me why I love vampire fantasy fiction in the first place.
Unlike the popular “Watch” books by fellow Russian fantasy author Sergei Lukyanenko, Meydan’s novel is not overtly Russian. She doesn’t explore cold war politics or the fall of communism and the book’s setting isn’t recognisably in Russia. Most of the action takes place in a large, unnamed metropolis. The city could be anywhere in world and, although to my mind it feels like one of the historic cities of Eastern Europe, it is left for the read to place it in their imagination as they like.
The story revolves around the vampire “families” who live in and around the city. A vampire family is made up of vampires of the same bloodline, a newly turned vampire belonging to the family of whoever turned them. Each family has different skills and different philosophies. The Vricolakos clan live in the forest surrounding the city and they have the magical ability to turn into wolves and accordingly their outlook on life is somewhat animalistic. The Upieschi clan have no innate magical ability but run the banking and business operations of the vampire world, their views are often logical and business-like – who profits, and by how much? There are several families, all with wildly opposing views on human life and the vampire role in the world and together they provide a fascinating cast of vampire characters to populate the novel.
The story’s protagonist is the Dahanavar vampire, Darel. Parts of the narrative are told in first person from his point of view, while other parts of the story are told in third person, giving insight into multiple character perspectives. Usually I hate stories that swap from first to third person view points (I don’t mind either narrative style but I prefer for an author to stick with just one of them in a single story.) However, Twilight Forever Rising was so engrossing it actually took me a whole chapter before I realised that the narrator had changed! Darel makes a good narrator because, as an empath, he is the only vampire who has retained any feelings for humans. Through his unique perspective the story explores what it is like for vampires to have been human once but to have no conception left of what it means to be human.
The author packs a huge amount of supernatural action and intrigue into the book’s storyline. There is a feeling, even in fairly straight forward intrigues like when one of the vampire clans steals some bio-weapon technology from a secret facility, that not everything is quite what it seems to be. All of the story’s players have their parts to play, and each thinks they know what’s happening and why, but nobody seems to have the whole picture of what is going on.
I find it hard to quantify what Twilight Forever Rising has that is so special but I can tell you what it’s not got. It hasn’t got the ridiculous mouthy, gun-totting female protagonist (a staple of generic UF) so butch that she’s a caricature rather than a character. It hasn’t got excessive sex scenes that make me wonder if I accidentally purchased an erotica novel by mistake. And it is strengthened, rather than weakened, by these absences. So I don’t know exactly what makes Twilight Forever Rising the best urban fantasy novel I’ve read for a long while. Even translated from Russian to English the story’s quality writing shines through (there are a couple of noticeably clunky bits of text but having read numerous translations of Russian books I think that there are just some parts of the language that don’t easily convert.)
An addictive reading pleasure, once you start this book be prepared to read it in one sitting – or to smuggle the book around with you all day, furtively snatching a few pages when the boss is out of the office… which ever method works best for you…
Twilight Forever Rising is highly recommended reading. The only downside is the wait for the book’s sequel to be translated into English… and trust me, once you’ve read this book you will be wanting more.
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