Release Date: November 10th, 20110
Genre: Adult, Steampunk, Paranormal
Series: Vampire Empire #1
Source: This is a guest review.
Blurb: In an alternative history timeline, vampires ruthlessly invade and dominate the northern cooler continents and cities in 1870. Humankind has fled to the warm, vampire-free lands of the deserts and warmer climate regions during the two year attempted genocide of the human race. For years, the exiled humans attempt to shape their world to reflect their cherished culture and homes lost in the great killings.
In 2020, the forsaken human race is ready to return home.
Driven by airships, machines and revenge, the humans conquer and rebuild the new empire and name their new home Equatoria. The female heir to the throne, Princess Adele, views the wars as just another obligation that must be fulfilled by her empire, and takes her role in the shaping of history as lightly as possible.
After falling into enemy hands, she is transported back to the wrecked and vampire-controlled London to be used as a pawn in the upcoming political warfare for the lost lands. In captivity, the princess discovers that her life, her empire, and her future are more fragile than she could have ever imagined.
Aided by her mysterious human savior, the Greyfriar, she struggles to survive in the blood-thirsty capital as she attempts to flee back to the south. Prince Gareth, the heir to the English vampire throne, complicates Adele’s simplistic view of the larger, more complex point of view. Caught between her future husband’s attempt to win over his Equatoria and her fresh sympathy for the northern settlements, Adele loses her naïve persona and discovers a hidden power inside of herself that could save the world. But what is the cost of this power, and can she save her heart from an unexpected romance with the enemy?
Review: I’ll be completely honest–I was lusting over the cover of this book. I sneered at the title (Vampire Empire, really, REALLY?) when I first opened up the packaging. Then I started to read it, and I hated it. Then I started to like it. Then I loved it. Now I want to love it and make beautiful book babies with it. The Greyfriar, the first book of Clay and Susan Griffith’s Vampire Empire trilogy, made me fall in love all over again with literature. I praise the Griffiths for renewing my faith in vampires, steampunk, and true love. Don’t be fooled by that lovely cover–the story is just as beautiful as the Victorian-inspired artwork on the front.
The characters. Gods, how I love them all. Adele seems a bit distant and cardboard at the start, and even though she really begins to develop only about two-thirds of the way into the story, she does stand out on her own. Egyptian (big bonus points for a non-white female lead!), confident, and able to take care of her own damn self, Adele absolutely blossoms into one of the best female characters in adult fiction. Adele’s charm develops straight out of her own abilities and self worth instead of stellar good looks or a mysteriously secret attractive personality. She’s awesome because of her OWN TALENTS. How I enjoyed a story where the female main character skipped the part on describing herself as dull, or unattractive while slobbering over the marble (vomit), god-like physique of the male character. I believe that Adele’s eyes were mentioned once (brown), and her auburn hair actually lead to one of the most memorable scenes in the entire book. Kudos to the Griffiths for skipping the entire attractiveness dilemma–we have enough of that as it is. On the personality front, Adele might have seemed dull and lifeless for a majority of the book, but the princess was never a helpless, secretly good-looking heroine just waiting for her true love. Even during her sillier, sheltered moments, Adele always had a good head on her shoulders. So when she actually grew a personality, it did not feel forced or weird. Instead, her secret badassery was simply locked away, just ready to burst out of her empty, one-dimensional existence.
Prince Gareth….where do I even start? Dazzling, sweet, and downright loveable, the vampire Prince Charming was oddly one of the most human characters in the story. Watching his struggle to comprehend and fathom human existence ripped my heart straight out of my chest. Watching a god-like creature envy and love humans caused me to celebrate what makes all of us feel alive. Our music, our art, even our books and literature added a bittersweet touch to the living world. Gareth’s greatest flaw (from a vampire point of view) is his complicated love of all things human. Just think of a male Ariel, and instead of legs, he wants art and books. And the guy loved cats, for crying out loud! Seriously, this hunk of vampire sexiness will leave you screaming for more of his royal I’m-gonna-create-me-some-fangirls highness.
The Greyfriar completely shocked me as well. His role in the plot twists brought a whole new level to this book. As I said over Twitter one day, he is basically the Batman of the vampire universe. Discussing the Greyfriar can lead to some spoilers, but overall, he was the perfect hero-in-disguise for an already kick-ass book.
Senator Clark left me seriously torn. First of all, what is a good love story without the asshole soon-to-be-spouse? Never fear–Clark had a major and seriously two-sided part to play in this tale. I really enjoyed, as an American, the absolutely ridiculous smoke and mirrors attitude of his part-time annoying character. Because in America, we really love our crap to be as dramatic and flashy as possible. And according to this book, America becomes one big Texas, with cowboy hats, guns, rifles, bandannas, and the overwhelming color *puke* of red, white, and blue. Yeehaw. Vampire-killing cowboys. The only people who love big and flashy more than Americans are Texans. I kid you not. Now that I am done sidetracking, I’ll say that Clark is everything you believe the future husband of the protagonist should be–very full of himself. But this was the man who was expected to be what he was. I even found myself rooting for the guy, and I frankly wanted to kick his cowboy ass.
With the big three out of the way, the whole slew of supporting characters–Flay, Caesar, Adele’s protectors–all of them deserve a huge round of applause.
The world-building is also another huge advantage of the book, but it wouldn’t have hurt to describe the events and influences a bit more in depth. I am actually advocating for a prequel to this book, or a novella of Equatoria history, and I HATE prequels with a passion. I struggled with this book at first because I had no clue what the heck was happening. After the wars and conquering made an appearance, my interest finally piqued, and I felt that I had a better grasp on what was happening. The authors of this book even had the decency to shift cultural and central influences to different parts of the world (American, Middle Eastern, and European). This is the first book I have read in forever that approached their setting in a global fashion.
There are so many highlights and high points that I could point out, but then this review would be a few hundred pages longer. To sum it up, the first book in the Vampire Empire trilogy attempts to rebuild the injured reputation of the vampire culture while shifting the setting to a wider world point of view. Romance, the human achievement, and an audience’s struggle to choose a side pushes this book to the front of the pack. The Greyfriar is a perfect weekend getaway book that does not dumb down the content to become accessible and enjoyable.