I already knew that I was going to love Jay Kristoff’s take on vampires. After all, I adore anything Mr. Kristoff writes, and vampires have had my heart since I was eight years old. Still, Empire of the Vampire not just exceeded my already high expectations. It blew them out of the water. If you could call a book perfection, then Empire of the Vampire is indeed perfection.
Anyone who has ever read anything penned by Mr. Kristoff knows that no character is safe under his hands. He has made a name for himself for putting his characters and his readers through the deepest, darkest levels of hell. There is a reason he has a mug that says “Tears of My Readers” after all. In Empire of the Vampire, it feels like all of his previous novels were nothing but warmups to the levels of violence and torture he inflicts on Gabriel de Leon and his readers. I saw one reader joke about making a drinking game out of the number of times someone stabs Gabe, with Mr. Kristoff himself replying that it would result in alcohol poisoning. The amount of blood that all of the characters shed throughout the book is staggering, but there is a purpose to it all. The violence helps shape the world in which Gabe lives, detailing the dangers in ways that mere descriptions could never hope to achieve.
At 752 pages, Empire of the Vampire is not a fast read, but therein lies some of its magic. The world-building is spectacular simply because Mr. Kristoff takes the time to do so. Nothing he writes is without purpose though, so any exposition is necessary and totally worth it. Mr. Kristoff’s world is so complete it is essentially real.
For all the betrayal and violence, Empire of the Vampire is one of the saddest, most gut-wrenching books I have ever read. The tender moments in between all the violence are what truly capture the reader’s heart. There are moments that are breathtaking in the love they capture. Gabe describing Astrid’s smiles, their stolen moments. Gabe’s interactions with Dior. These are the moments of hope within this story of violence and death and are also the moments when we see Gabe’s true essence.
Long-time readers will know it takes a lot for me to cry while reading. Books often trigger many emotions within me, but such utter desolation that tears require is rarely one of those emotions. Yet, Empire of the Vampire made me sob for the last few chapters. I cried so hard that my husband came into the room to check on me. This is more proof of the perfection that is Empire of the Vampire.