The Twelve is second in a post-apocalyptic vampire trilogy, sequel to The Passage, which I surprised myself by loving.
It’s hard to read The Twelve without comparing it to its predecessor and, well, how to say this … The Passage is superior. But here’s the thing – The Passage was predictable and trope-tastic. It followed a well known formula and told the story really well, and with interesting characters. With those established, The Twelve could take a less trodden road, and this story surprised me more than its prequel.
PSST – Major spoilers for The Passage ahead …
The Twelve begins by doubling back in time, to just after the events that created fourteen vampires in the not-too-distant future. We learn what became of a few characters who had been introduced in the first book but whose stories had yet to be told. There’s a lot of back-story in this story, but finally we move to the crux of the plot, which is the characters of the First Colony, along with heroine Amy Bellafonte, using what they’ve learned from the events of The Passage to defeat the remaining eleven virals infected with the vampire virus.
What I Liked
On the whole, my number one favorite thing about The Twelve is Alicia, one of the members of the First Colony who we met in book one. I didn’t really understand the character in the first book, but what Cronin does with her character here is fascinating. Many of the characters in these books are either entirely good or entirely evil – Alicia is one of two, maybe three, characters who can do atrocious things and yet we are completely sympathetic. She’s very well flushed out. Also, the teaser in the back of my paperback copy for the final book in the trilogy centers around Alicia, and it has me on edge for the next book!
You may recall from my review of The Passage that I went in to it expecting a post-apocalyptic dystopia, and was surprised to find it read like a horror novel. It’s here in The Twelve that we get to see the Orwellian society that’s been constructed on the pretense of keeping humans safe. I want to say so much about this part of the book, but don’t want to give too much away — here’s what I will say: I’ve been devouring dystopian fiction ever since I read The Hunger Games series, and the society in this novel holds up to some of my favorites that I’ve read in the past six months. There are assigned worker roles! Brutal leadership! Propaganda! An uprising! … I’ll stop myself there.
What I Didn’t Like
Like I’ve already said, there’s a lot of back story to this story. I was surprised, and not in a good way, at the start of the novel to go all the way back to the start of the first novel and revisit some of those events. Cronin has said that he intends to do this in each of the novels and to keep adding more layers of the story as he tells it. In this case, I don’t think it really worked. There are a couple of distinct plot lines in the 2015 part of the story, and only one of them gets any kind of resolution in The Twelve. On the one hand, this will make the next novel more compelling for me as a reader once it comes out; on the other hand, it made the beginning of this novel drag.
And after that part of the story, before we get to catch up with the characters from 97 A.V. who we left, literally, mid-chase at the end of The Passage, there’s an interim cast of characters (one of whom we met at the end of The Passage.) This part of the story is important and interesting and belongs in this novel — if I could rewrite it, the novel would begin at that moment in the story (the 2015 parts should either be told in the next book, as several threads were left hanging and we’ll surely see those characters again, or in The Passage which would be a more linear telling of the story.)
Lastly, without giving too much away, there are so many characters and so much action in the climactic battle scene that it was really difficult to follow what was happening.
While I didn’t love this book with the same gusto as The Passage, it was also a compelling read and I enjoyed spending time with (most of) the characters. I’m excited to see what’s in store in the third installment.
What I missed in my reading of The Passage but became abundantly clear about 13 pages in to The Twelve (or maybe I should say 12 pages in … har, har) is that this is not merely a really long horror story about vampires. This is an epic tale of humanity and salvation … with vampires.
Here’s a link to the Publisher’s Weekly review.