Winter Duty by E.E. Knight

Published by Roc
July 2009
Hardcover 352 Pages
ISBN 9780451462749

E.E. Knight’s Vampire Earth series has crept on to eight volumes in six years, an impressive accomplishment.  Also impressive is that Knight has managed to churn out these books while penning another series of four books – the Age of Fire sequence.  Take those two impressive caveats and throw on the proverbial cherry on top that Winter Duty is as entertaining and enjoyable as the preceding volumes in the series.  In fact, more so than some of the preceding books in the series.

For the uninitiated, the general premise of the series is as follows – in the year 2022 the world went to hell.  This was all orchestrated by long dormant Kurians, aliens which have very similar attributes to Vampires, among other things.  In fact, the Kurians are the source for the vampire myths.  Massive earthquakes and wars have put earth into a state of Nuclear Winter and as the series begins, humanity is on the long march back to hopefully regaining control of the Earth.  The saga’s central character is David Valentine who started the series as an orphan who joined the military to follow in the footsteps of his deceased father.  By the time of Winter Duty, Valentine has joined and rejoined the human military forces and has also gone undercover as a Quisling, or Kurian loyalist. 

Whew.  That may seem like a lot of back-story (and I’ve only touched on the surface), but Knight does make each installment of the series as stand-alone as possible.  The plot of Winter Duty centers on Valentine’s efforts to reestablish Kentucky as a human controlled area.  A theme that’s picked up from earlier novels is Valentine’s hope to convert Quislings to the cause of humanity.  This, of course, proves difficult and Valentine naturally hits many obstacles in these attempts to build a company capable of toppling the Kurian forces who rule Kentucky at the outset of the novel.  

One element that has made the series so much fun to follow is the characters Valentine encounters throughout his travels.  With each novel, Knight further fleshes out this future apocalyptic world and lends more plausibility and depth to it – everything is connected and comes together organically.  As a fan of the series since the first book, Way of the Wolf, I was pleased to see the return of Duvalier who was sort of an enigma since her first appearance.  The history between her and Valentine is hinted at in such away to keep longtime readers wanting to see them become closer.  On the other hand, Knight hints at enough for readers picking up Winter Duty as their first Vampire Earth novel to encourage them to seek the earlier books in the series. 

One of the more endearing characters in the series is Ahn-Kha perhaps David’s closest friend and a Grog. The grogs are genetically engineered hulking creatures that seem to resemble either ape-men or even perhaps a Sasquatch. In any event, Ahn-Kha and David were separated in one of the earlier books in the series as Ahn-Kha set out on his own when David went undercover.  Knight gives Ahn-Kha what amounts to a cameo in this book, in effect teasing us in the hopes we’ll see more of the grog in future volumes.

The main plot is relatively linear throughout the story, but it holds up very well as Knight further explores this blasted future.  Valentine deals with a reputation that precedes him and the author’s strength, in addition to the memorable characters, is providing great action scenes of battle as well as the encounters Valentine has with Reapers, the Kurian’s vampire army, and other nasties the Kurians have conjured to keep humanity under their heel.

All told, I’m continuing to really enjoy this series and after catching up with the previous two books in the series just before jumping into Winter Duty, I’m left a bit unawares because I’ve got to wait until Mr. Knight finishes the ninth volume of the series.  As I said, this is a series with a long-range plan but benefits with providing enough closure in each volume to allow each of the novels to stand fairly well on their own as entry points for new readers. The great setting, endearing characters, and overall entertainment Knight provides in Winter Duty seems amped up from previous volumes.  In other words, I’d recommend both the book and the series.

© 2009 Rob H. Bedford

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