Tuesday, March 5, 2024

Review: Empire of the Damned (Empire of the Vampire #2) by Jay Kristoff


Empire of the Damned (Empire of the Vampire #2) by Jay Kristoff
St. Martin's Press (US)/Harper Voyager (UK)
Publication Date: March 12th, 2024
Hardcover. 756 pages.

About Empire of the Damned:

"Gabriel de León has saved the Holy Grail from death, but his chance to end the endless night is lost.

After turning his back on his silversaint brothers once and for all, Gabriel and the Grail set out to learn the truth of how Daysdeath might finally be undone.

But the last silversaint faces peril, within and without. Pursued by children of the Forever King, drawn into wars and webs centuries in the weaving, and ravaged by his own rising bloodlust, Gabriel may not survive to see the truth of the Grail revealed.

A truth that may be too awful for any to imagine."

Empire of the Damned does not let up on the drama or intensity that Empire of the Vampire began. The Holy Grail has been saved, but the quest to determine their role in the ending of Daysdeath is now even more fraught with enemies and unknown obstacles.

I’ll admit that I haven't been enjoying this series as much as the Nevernight trilogy, but it’s still an undeniably solid vampire fantasy series with robust world-building, complex and charismatic characters, an ever-twisting plot, and a narrative full of wit and surprises. Kristoff also never fails to create an atmosphere that is dripping with intrigue and always hinting at a constant sense of darkness and uncertainty as to what’s next.

I can’t give too much of a summary of what’s happening in this book as spoilers abound everywhere, so detail will be kept as vague as possible throughout this review. That being said, we pick up not too far from where we left off with Gabriel imprisoned in one narrative and trying to figure out their next step in another. Kristoff also includes an incredibly helpful recap of the first book at the beginning of the book, something that I have loved seeing more often in fantasy series lately.

One of the most notable aspects of this book so far has been its narrative structure, which feature Gabriel recounting his experiences up until the present to the vampire scribe XX. While I like how much this framing structure effectively allows readers to dive deep into Gabriel’s mind and motivations, it sometimes feels a bit cumbersome due to the fact that a majority of the book is told within quotations. I’m not sure what an alternative would be, as I’m not a fan of italics, either, but it just feels a bit odd at times. Fortunately, Kristoff’s writing makes it easy enough to forget all the quotations and instead become immersed in his compelling dialogue and eloquent narrative style.

Gabriel remains a captivating character who is somehow effortlessly charismatic and stays somewhere in the morally ambiguous realm of character. He is incredibly stubborn and also has steadfast loyalty to those he cares about-loyalty to a fault, I’d say. He’s one of those characters that, although may occasionally annoy you, is impossible not to root for.

Empire of the Damned does also open perspectives a bit with the addition of one different POV that really adds to the world in a much-needed way. I was really glad that Kristoff decided to add this additional perspective, as it really enriched the world while also allowing readers to continue to follow characters that were not within Gabriel’s perspective on the journey.

The pacing of Empire of the Damned is on the slower side, and it’s not that the pacing or plot ever fully stops moving forward, but rather that there just doesn’t always feel like a lot is happening on the page. There’s a lot of discussion that takes place and hinders some of the forward plot movement, which actually fits the overarching pacing of the story well. With the slower pacing, we are able to learn more about the intricate vampire hierarchies, evolving relationships between characters, and the detailed lore and history of the different clans. Everything works together to consistently add depth to the world Kristoff has created, which really helped me feel immersed in my reading experience. 

Overall, I’ve given Empire of the Damned 4.5 stars! This is a solid sequel that builds in great ways upon the first book while also continuing to build up and set the stage for the next book. There’s something for everyone in this book, and I think fans of vampires, atmospheric storytelling, and dramatic tales of power, loyalty, and betrayal will have a great time with it.

*I received a copy of Empire of the Damned in exchange for an honest review. This has no effect on my rating.*

Buy the book: Amazon | Bookshop.org


  1. This is a solid rating, I'm glad the series is so strong😁