In the present day, as the man-made apocalypse unfolds, three strangers navigate the chaos. Lila, a doctor and an expectant mother, is so shattered by the spread of violence and infection that she continues to plan for her child’s arrival even as society dissolves around her.
Kittridge, known to the world as “Last Stand in Denver,” has been forced to flee his stronghold and is now on the road, dodging the infected, armed but alone and well aware that a tank of gas will get him only so far. April is a teenager fighting to guide her little brother safely through a landscape of death and ruin. These three will learn that they have not been fully abandoned—and that in connection lies hope, even on the darkest of nights.
One hundred years in the future, Amy and the others fight on for humankind’s salvation . . . unaware that the rules have changed. The enemy has evolved, and a dark new order has arisen with a vision of the future infinitely more horrifying than man’s extinction. If the Twelve are to fall, one of those united to vanquish them will have to pay the ultimate price.
A heart-stopping thriller rendered with masterful literary skill, The Twelve is a grand and gripping tale of sacrifice and survival.
- Detailed Plot Summary (Contains Spoilers!)
The story returns to the beginning—to the terrifying origins of the vampire apocalypse. Virals are on the rise, humans are on the run, and everything we know is under attack. Amid the widening chaos, four strangers set out on a desperate search—to connect with other survivors and find a way to survive in a world gone mad.
Lila is an expectant mother, her mind broken by the violence she’s seen. Heedless of the destruction all around her, she wanders the aisles of an abandoned Home Depot, searching for just the right color to paint her unborn child’s nursery.
Kittridge, an ex-Marine, has found refuge in a Denver highrise, taking out virals with a sniper rifle, one bullet at a time, and posting the videos to a waiting world.
April, a teenager who has to grow up fast, will never go out on dates or apply to college. Instead she’s on the run, trying to protect her younger brother from the chaos all around them.
Lawrence Grey, a janitor at Project Noah, awakens to find himself in a roadside motel, with no idea how he came to be there. All he knows is that the parking lot is full of bodies, he has a bite mark on his neck, and there’s a voice in his head calling his name.
It’s these characters, and others they connect to along the way, who plant seeds that will sprout a century later, laying out new terms for the next showdown between humans and virals.
A hundred years in the future, Amy and her followers have taken up new roles since we saw them at the end of The Passage. Amy now works at the orphanage in Kerrville, Texas, her identity unknown to all but her friends and the top tier of the military and civilian leadership. Michael works at the oil refinery in Freeport, the remote, heavily fortified facility that keeps Kerrville running. Greer has been imprisoned for abandoning his command when he joined the group in Colorado. Peter and Alicia have joined the Expeditionary, searching for the Twelve.
But not all members of the original group have survived. On the journey to Texas at the end of The Passage, Theo, Mausami, and Sara were lost when the garrison in Roswell was overrun by virals. Sara was never found. Only Hollis and Caleb survived. Caleb, now five years old, is in the orphanage, being cared for by Amy. Hollis, broken-hearted over Sara’s loss—the two had planned to marry when they reached Kerrville—has taken up with Kerrville’s criminal underground, called “the trade,” as an enforcer.
Since the death of Babcock, the search for the other original virals has not gone well. In New Mexico’s Carlsbad Cavern—the lair of Martínez, tenth of the Twelve—Peter and Alicia are nearly killed by a viral horde when their trap to lure Martínez fails. In the aftermath, Peter is recalled to Kerrville; Alicia is sent to Kearney, Nebraska, where the Expeditionary maintains a distant outpost. The hunt seems over.
But not all is as it appears. The Kearney garrison has been overrun; Alicia knows this. Her orders are to press on to Iowa, to investigate a mysterious community that may present a threat.
Peter is assigned to provide security on the Oil Road, the lifeblood artery connecting Freeport to Kerrville. At the refinery, he is reunited with Michael and meets Lore, another oiler. They are leading a convoy of oil tanker trucks to Kerrville when a woman appears in the roadway, blocking their path. Moments later, the trucks are attacked by both humans and virals. Peter, Michael, and Lore are the only survivors.
Concurrently, something has begun to happen to Amy; her long forestalled puberty has commenced. She has been experiencing strange dreams—dreams of Wolgast, in which he has retaken human form and tells her that someone is waiting for her “in the ship.” She breaks Greer out of jail and travels with him to Houston. There, in a beached oil tanker, awaits Anthony Carter, the twelfth of the original virals—a man sentenced to death for a murder he did not commit. She enters the ship alone. There she experiences a mystical vision of sitting in a garden with Carter as he tells her about the Twelve, who are gathering in Iowa. When Amy emerges from the ship, her body is changed; she is no longer a girl but a young woman. She and Greer set out for Iowa.
Meanwhile, Peter, Michael, and Lore return to Kerrville to learn that the woman who heralded the attack on the Oil Road has been witnessed before—many years ago, at an event known as “The Massacre of the Field.” One man still living may know where she comes from: Tifty Lamont, leader of the trade. Peter convinces Hollis to take him to Tifty’s hideout. By defeating a viral in hand-to-hand combat—a form of entertainment among the Trade leadership—Peter wins the man’s trust. Tifty agrees to take them to Iowa.
All roads, it seems, lead to Iowa.
The community there is known as The Homeland—a massive, slave-labor state run by Horace Guilder, who had once been the deputy director of the Division of Special Weapons, the government agency that created Project Noah. Guilder and the leadership class—permanently ageless men called “redeyes”—have maintained their youthfulness through the consumption of Lawrence Grey’s Zero-tinged blood. Also in the Homeland is Lila—eternally youthful like the redeyes and capable of controlling the virals, who regard her as a mother. Still unbalanced, she lives in a dream world in which the viral apocalypse never happened; Guilder keeps her pliant by providing her with a young girl whom Lila imagines to be her daughter.
The centerpiece of the Homeland is the decades-long construction of a massive, fortified building that will serve as a protected home for The Twelve. There they will live in safety, fed on the blood of Homelander slaves. The project is nearly complete, but a violent insurgency, led by a mysterious figure named Sergio, has begun to rattle the leadership.
One of these insurgents is Sara—not killed at Roswell, as it turns out, but captured by Homeland forces gathering fresh slaves to serve The Twelve. She has infiltrated the redeyes’ organization to become Lila’s personal attendant. The young girl in Lila’s care, she learns, is actually Sara’s own daughter, Kate, whom she was told had died at birth.
As the Twelve gather at the Homeland, so do Alicia, Amy, Greer, Peter and the others. Alicia is taken captive and tortured, but manages to escape; the others make contact with the insurgency and join forces with them for a grand assault, intended to lure the Twelve into the open. Amy surrenders to Guilder, telling him that she is the mythical Sergio. Battle is joined when the Twelve are unleashed as the instrument of her execution. Amy reveals her hidden power; she tranforms into a viral to face her adversaries. But she is outnumbered. The clash seems lost when one of the virals reveals himself to be Wolgast, who has taken Carter’s place. He sets off a massive explosion, killing The Twelve and liberating the Homeland.
But what of Amy? When the dust settles, she is nowhere to be found. Is she still alive? And if she survives, can she face the final terror? For the greatest and most terrible of the virals remains hidden away: Zero, the father of the viral race.
A great battle has been won, but the war is just beginning.
“[A] literary superthriller.”—The New York Times Book Review
“An undeniable and compelling epic . . . a complex narrative of flight and forgiveness, of great suffering and staggering loss, of terrible betrayals and incredible hope.”—Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
“The Twelve is even better than The Passage.”—The Plain Dealer
“A compulsive read.”—San Francisco Chronicle
“Gripping . . . Cronin [introduces] eerie new elements to his masterful mythology. . . . Enthralling, emotional and entertaining.”—The San Diego Union-Tribune
“Fine storytelling.”—Associated Press
“Cronin is one of those rare authors who works on two different levels, blending elegantly crafted literary fiction with cliff-hanging thrills.”—Fort Worth Star-Telegram