Book Review: The Twelve by Justin Cronin

My first post in a while (my move to Cornwall and work has kept me away but I hope to be back regularly soon).

I have been excited to read this book, the second part in a trilogy, the first of which I truly adored. Cronin’s style and tone felt literary, brooding, ominous and that put it above most horrors for me. Did this live up to the promise delivered in the first?Amy Belafonte Harper – a 12 year old girl whose body has not aged in almost a century has a mission. After killing Babcock at the end of the first book, it is now down to her and the survivors to take care of the remaining vampire masters (the titular The Twelve). The Second Viral War has humanity fighting back and some of the old faces are back, and some new, to claim the world back for humanity.

The story is split into several sub-plots. One sub-plot is year zero (the time of the outbreak and the months immediately following). The second follows on from the events of the first (something like five years after the end of The Passage) and the third thread is set some 15 years before the time of the first book. So begins the hopping around that appears to have been one element that confused so many readers. It’s all carefully intertwined, but it is confusing and difficult to pay attention at times.

A further element is added in the conflict in Iowa and with the Republic of Texas, but much of this feels overly-long. Obviously, if the humans are going to take back their world, it isn’t just vampires that are going to pose a threat but other humans too. The Iowa story adds an interesting twist and some complexity and I confess to having mixed feelings about the development of this thread – it has its positives and negatives.

Much about this sequel feels less than the original. Although many elements are pleasing, particularly (SPOILER ALERT!) the revelation of the fate of Wolgast (SPOILER ALERT OVER!) there is still so much that remains unsatisfying. The style lacks the ominous sense of foreboding for one, and this is incredibly disappointing. Secondly, the Virals (vampires) feel less than they were. They are simply not scary enough compared to the first, their animalistic, inhuman need to feed is something different than what we have seen before in vampire novels.

The story is shorter than the first, but it feels longer thanks to the weight and the multiple plot threads. That is not necessarily a good thing, the book feels kind of like a slog at a time when you really want the pace to crank up a notch.

This is not a bad book, but it is not great either. I found it disappointing. Many of the characters I loved from the first feel a shadow of the characters they were in the first. The third book, The City of Mirrors is due for release today. I will read it, but I am not particularly excited to rush out and grab it


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