Sons of Devils, Angels of Istanbul (Arising #1,2)

Author: Alex Beecroft

Publisher: Riptide Publishing

Rating: 4 stars

Buy Links: Riptide & Amazon

Type: Duology

Received from Publisher

Blurb:  Sons of Devils

British scholar Frank Carew is in Wallachia to study the magic generator on nobleman Radu Vacarescu’s land. There, his party is attacked by bandits and his friends are killed. Pursued by a vampiric figure, he flees to Radu’s castle for help.

Unfortunately, this is precisely where the vampires came from. If allowed, they would feed unchecked and spread their undeath across the whole Earth, but Radu maintains a shaky control over them and keeps them penned in his tiny corner of the country.

As Frank recovers from his assault, Radu finds himself falling for the young man. But loving Frank and not wanting to lose him leaves Radu vulnerable to his demons’ demands. Can he bear to let them feed on the man he loves? Or must he give in to their blackmail and set them free to feast on his entire country?

Angels of Istanbul

Wallachian nobleman Radu is recently arrived in Bucharest with his vampire parents. Welcomed as an eligible bachelor, he’s introduced to the enchantress Ecaterina, whose salon is Bucharest’s centre of magical expertise. 

But when Ecaterina’s brother dies of a mysterious new plague, it’s clear to Radu that his parents have not been idle. Soon Bucharest is in the grip of an undead epidemic—a less than ideal time for Ottoman Sultan Mahmud, Wallachia’s overlord, to call Bucharest’s nobility to assemble their armies in Istanbul for a holy war against Britain.

The Wallachians have long resented their Ottoman overlords, so Radu seizes the chance to eliminate them while also ridding Bucharest of the undead: he leads an army of vampires to Istanbul and sets them to feed on the Turks.

As Radu’s demons gut the city of Istanbul, their plans become horribly clear. This is only the start. With the Ottoman armies under their control, the undead are poised to suck the life out of the whole world. Radu, his lover Frank, and Ecaterina are appalled at what they’ve unleashed. But they may be too late to stop it.

 

Review: *Please note. Arising 1 & 2 is really one story split into two volumes, rather than a story and sequel. If you intend to read it, get them both so you can continue right through.

This is a vampire story like no other. What it truly encompasses is an epic undertaking of an alternate history, fantasy, paranormal combination. Beecroft’s brilliant talent for world building is on point; it is rich, powerful, and impressive. Each scene and location, and every emotion experienced by the characters, are elements I felt completely enmeshed in. The story has a definite creepy factor, and a fair bit of violence, so it’s not a book for the faint of heart. Any reader looking for a front and center romance should note that this is not that story, although there is a wonderful, slow building romance between MCs Frank and Radu.

Frank Carew along with a contingent of fellow adventurers has traveled to Wallachia in search of a magic generator. What they find is death, destruction, mysteries and horrors. After Frank has a confusing and unsettling rescue from some Roma locals, he soon encounters the very entrancing Radu Vacarescu and finds himself ensconced in the man’s family stronghold, where not all is at it seems. Or is it? Frank finds himself with a confused memory and an even more confusing situation at hand.

I found the world building – a combination of genuine history, captivating fictional characters, and magic/paranormal aspects – to be quite compelling. From the opening scenes I was caught up in Frank’s perils, not only the direct ones happening to him at present, but the ones he had run from in England. Seems his socially important father was none too happy with Frank’s sexuality. Radu also had family problems. Boy, did he ever, being that his family happened to be strigoi (vampires) and Radu was pretty much saddled with the near impossible job of keeping them under some kind of control. The story changes POV several times, first it bounces between Frank and a more-than-meets- the eye Roma girl named Mirela, and later we are introduced to Zayd, who begins a whole separate section of the overall tale. I didn’t mind the changing POVs, they were very clear and necessary to the plot of the story. However, about three quarters through is when the Frank/Radu/Mirela storyline sort of came to a screeching halt, and the Zayd storyline picked up. Knowing the overall story was continuing in a book two, this didn’t bother me too much, but it still seemed an odd way to break things up; there was no clear link or transition point. I’m assuming this was a publisher decision. As a reader, I would have been perfectly happy to keep sailing smoothly through a 500 page book with writing this wonderful and descriptive at my hands.

Frank and Radu end up reluctantly agreeing to accompany Radu’s family on a journey to Bucharest, where apparently more answers about the magic, and perhaps how Radu could be freed from his familial burdens, were to be found. I definitely wanted to know what happened next, including whether Frank would ever see his father again, or make it back to England. The story definitely makes a strong association along the lines of humans being just as capable of performing monstrous acts as “monsters” are, and perhaps some monsters are rather humane.

 

Continuing with book 2…

As the Vacarescu family, along with Frank and Mirela, arrives in Bucharest and eventually Istanbul, more is revealed about the strigoi, their background and their destiny. The holy war between the Ottoman Empire and Britain becomes the backdrop as the action ramps up; Radu lets loose the forces of the strigoi before realizing his miscalculation. Beecroft again is weaving elements of history, fantasy, faith and magic in true awe-inspiring fashion.

In this volume we meet Ecaterina Sterescu, daughter of a Bucharest aristocrat and hostess at one of the houses of magic. Initially she is set to assassinate Radu before he can do supposed harm, but as the situation changes and all of the players make realizations, her attitude and mission shifts. Instead of one main character, there are pretty much five of them in play at this point: Radu, Frank, Mirela, Ecaterina, and Zayd. Each has a different history, each have different strengths and weaknesses. Frank tended toward low self-worth, Radu was controlled by family, Mirela was self-centered, Zayd was walking the line of his Muslim faith, Ecaterina believed she had a duty to protect. All of them possess magical forces of different strength and ability and must learn to overcome doubts and preconceived ideas. It was truly wondrous to journey with them all through mistakes, triumphs and realizations as they all learned something about themselves and one another. I became quite engrossed in watching them all join together to fight for Istanbul, and I felt I was there with them. There were many particulars, such as how the angels came to be, that had my jaw dropping in astonishment.

The story is built on the foundation of historical knowledge and a vivid imagination, then constructed with a mix of many complex elements. Alex Beecroft manages to explore and discover the heart and soul of shared humanity through cultural differences, personal demons, real demons, faith, and magic. I highly recommend Arising to anyone who enjoys a sweeping fantasy story featuring a full cast of flawed, complementary characters.

 

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