Clay and Susan Griffith
Reviewed by Steven H Silver
With the ubiquity of vampires in of vampires, it is nice to see them used in a different manner, as Clay and Susan Griffith do in The Greyfriar, the first book in the Vampire Empire series. Set in the near future, this world departs from our own in the eighteenth century, when vampires suddenly appeared en masse and attacked human society, driving the governments of Europe from their counties and forcing England to form a massive tropical empire known as Equatoria.
The novel opens with the Princess Adele, heir to the Equatorian Empire, on an airship tour when she is attacked by vampires. Adele, unaware of the fate of her guard or brother, is temporarily captured by vampires before being rescued by the human folk hero known as the Greyfriar. Before she is able to return to Equatoria, she learns about vampires, who are quite different from the traditional version of the creatures, and their politics. Unfortunately, the authors have frequently provided the necessary background for Adele and the readers in the form of info-dumps rather than as an organic outgrowth of their story.
While the majority of the novel focuses on Adele, the authors do spend time in Equatoria, where Adele’s survival is taken as a matter of faith and is used as a casus belli by her recently arrived fiancée, American Empire Senator Senator, who made his name as a vampire slayer at the Battle of St. Louis and is eager to dispatch more of the creatures.
Adele’s adventures not only have her traveling with (and separately from) the mysterious Greyfriar, but also finds her prisoner of both the villainous Prince Cesare, who is looking for his own reason to start a war, and his enigmatic older brother, Prince Gareth. It is during her time with Prince Gareth that Adele begins to wonder if her understanding of the world of vampires is as complete as she had been led to believe.
Many of the characters are clichés with little room to grow. Adele is trained in fighting vampires, although she doesn’t know she has the training. Clark is a stereotypical, gung-ho, American with a shoot-first-ask-questions-later mentality intent on starting a war against vampires. The vampire prince Cesare and his minion, Flay, are unrepentant villains, intent on starting a war against humanity.
Although the authors generally stick with either Adele or the Greyfriar as a viewpoint character, at times they shift suddenly, and often briefly, to other characters, which is disconcerting, especially when it occurs multiple times in a reasonably short stretch of space.
With The Greyfriar being the first book of a series, it is quite possible that subsequent volumes will leave the clichés behind. The Griffiths have included many ideas that they can return to, not least of which is a secret Equatorian council that is trying to run things from behind the scenes. Adele’s powers are clearly greater than the authors have already shown and can only expand in future volumes. Finally, with Adele barely spending time with Clark, their relationship can be fleshed out, perhaps with him being less of a caricature, although it is difficult to see how he will be happy with a woman as independent as Adele.
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