Rather than follow on immediatly from the events of the first book in the trilogy, The Blood Red Army introduces us to a new set of characters in a new setting. Having previously shown the invasion of Russia from the perspective of the Germans, this time David Bishop switches the action to a Soviet penal company during the Siege of Leningrad. Its not just the characters which change, but also the style of writing. This time around the story is told in a first person perspective, with Victor Zunetov looking back on his experiences in Leningrad. There’s far more than the siege to worry about however, as Constanta and his vampires continue their involvement on the Eastern Front.

The previous book in the trilogy, while still essentially a horror story, had a feeling of a sort of boys own adventure yarn which couldn’t be more different from this installment. The Blood Red Army is an incredibly bleak novel, suitably evoking the seemingly hopeless situation which the citizens of Leningrad found themselves in. Indeed for almost the first two thirds of the novel there is little supernatural occurances, with the all to real horrors of war being more prominent. One of the most disturbing passages in the enitre novel involves some civilians digging up dead bodies in order to cook them and eat them. It’s a harrowing scene and one which sadly is documented as historical fact. David Bishop deserves credit for making this particular reader want to go online and look up details about the siege of Leningrad, such as the cases of cannabilism, and i’m sure i’m not the only person to have read this novel and then looked up what really happened.

As I said the first two thirds of the novel are pretty light on the supernatural. Contstanta retreats into the shadows for the most part, which is a far more effective use for him than in Operation Vampyr. Scenes in which he does appear are lent a certain weight due to his being used more sparingly. The final third of the novel more than makes up for the first two thirds in terms of the supernatural however. For the first time in any Fiends of the Eastern Front stories, zombies are brought into play, and as you can imagine during World War Two there were plenty of dead bodies to bring back to life. If you have played the Nazi Zombie levels on any of the Call of Duty games then i’m sure you will enjoy these scenes, which are somewhat reminiscent of the games, although I believe this book does actually precede them.

While both part of the same trilogy, The Blood Red Army is completly different to Operation Vampyr in pretty much every way. In fact you could probably read the two books in either order and the story would still make perfect sense, although there is one reference to the events of the first novel in The Blood Red Army. While perhaps not quite as readable as its predecessor, this installment is still an excellent read and one which comes recommended. If you have an interest in the Second World War (like I do) then you’ll probably find plenty to enjoy, even when the Vampyr’s and their thralls are nowhere to be seen.

7/10

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