Review: Winter Duty

Posted: August 20, 2009 by in Books We Like (4/5 single_star) Meta: E.E. Knight, Urban Fantasy

WINTER DUTY (Amazon) is the latest entry in E. E. Knight‘s Vampire Earth saga, and it gets the story on track. The prior entry–the seventh novel–was generally regarded (and rightfully so) as a sub-par effort in an otherwise fantastic series. Thankfully, WINTER DUTY is a welcome return to the quality of the prior novels.

For those uninitiated with the series, here is a brief lesson on this apocalyptic take on vampires (before you point fingers and go rabid, remember, we like vampires as long as they don’t sparkle at us). The world has been overrun by the Kurian Order, which are basically monsters that have a remarkable similarities to vampires, (Duh. The series is called Vampire Earth) and they actually act like it. They will kill your face until you are dead. Eureka! Queue the angelic chorus!

The world we know has been reset and replaced by a harsh and unforgiving one. Knight has a real gift that allows him to show in gritty detail how insane the circumstances really are. Education consists of things a Boy Scout would learn on a camping trip… well, if Boy Scouts learned about guerrilla warfare and how to resist interrogation (we already sent a letter to Boy Scouts of America requesting new Merit Badges in said categories. They have yet to respond). Technology is an eclectic mix of eras from the Middle Ages, Civil War, and the World Wars, with an occasional appearance of something made of more modern quality. The Kurians hold all the cards, control most of the world, and have most of the resources. Oh and let’s not forget to mention their big scary Reapers (vampiric-ish, nearly indestructible, enforcers that are full of awesome) that do their dirty work, and all the regular old humans willing to sell everyone else out for the chance of mercy from the Kurians.

This is the world of David Valentine. Grim huh? Now you see why we love it.

The protagonist of the series is likable from the start, and he stays that way. Watching his progression and development has been entertaining, and has been a real study in the art of character growth over the course of a series. The development takes a somewhat more interesting approach in WINTER DUTY. Without spoiling anything, the focus is turned more towards Val (as his friends call him) and his dwindling group of ‘freedom fighters,’ their relationships, and the challenges that lie ahead of them.

Jim Butcher could take a lesson from Knight here. This is what a setup book should be. There is less action here than we expected from a Vampire Earth novel, but what is there is well done and thrilling (Less can, indeed, be more. You paying attention, Michael Bay?). Despite the book being obvious set up, we feel that something was accomplished, and that this entry in the series warranted our time and money.

The characters are really getting the conflict piled up on them (Sucks to be them. Yay for us!). The more they get pushed, the more interesting they becoming, and the more engaging Vampire Earth becomes for us. WINTER DUTY does a great job of making this happen.

WINTER DUTY isn't as strong as Knight's previous entries, but we love the storytelling and it moves the story in the right direction.

Knight also does a masterful job at taking jabs at poor leadership, whether it be in the military, government, or trade. It is executed well–and is a recurring theme throughout the series–but it doesn’t leave the bitter taste of a political bent or agenda (you know who we are talking about). Instead, it lends great humor, intrigue, and conflict to the plot.

Final verdict? We liked it. It isn’t as strong as his earliest entries, but it is a good one, stepping back in the right direction. Thanks, Knight, we look forward to the future adventures of David Valentine. Bring them quick!

If you haven’t been reading these novels, you are missing out on some fantastic story-telling. There are some who felt the first book, WAY OF THE WOLF (Amazon), was a tad slow. Don’t let this keep you from Knight’s work. Book 1 starts and ends with high amounts of pure awesome, and the series never lets up (except for one, forgivable novel). Go grab the first part of the series, and cancel your plans for a week. Remember, is your friend, and you are slaves to our opinions.

  • Recommended Age: 16+
  • Language: Nothing really graphic, some cursing where one would expect it
  • Violence: This tale is pretty violent, but it isn't excessive or gratuitous
  • Sex: Innuendo


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