Friday, October 22, 2010

The Greyfriar (Vampire Empire – Book 1) – review

Authors: Clay & Susan Griffith

Release date: 2010

Contains spoilers

The Blurb: In the year 1870, a horrible plague of vampires swept over the northern regions of the world. Millions of humans were killed outright. Millions more died of disease and famine due to the havoc that followed. Within two years, once great cities were shrouded by the grey empire of the vampire clans. Human refugees fled south to the tropics because vampires could not tolerate the constant heat there. They brought technology and a feverish drive to reestablish their shattered societies of steam and iron amid the mosques of Alexandria, the torrid quietude of Panama, or the green temples of Malaya.

It is now 2020 and a bloody reckoning is coming.

Princess Adele is heir to the Empire of Equatoria, a remnant of the old tropical British Empire. She is quick with her wit as well as with a sword or gun. She is eager for an adventure before she settles into a life of duty and political marriage to man she does not know. But her quest turns black when she becomes the target of a merciless vampire clan. Her only protector is The Greyfriar, a mysterious hero who fights the vampires from deep within their territory. Their dangerous relationship plays out against an approaching war to the death between humankind and the vampire clans.

The Greyfriar: Vampire Empire is the first book in a trilogy of high adventure and alternate history. Combining rousing pulp action with steampunk style, The Greyfriar brings epic political themes to life within a story of heartbreaking romance, sacrifice, and heroism.

The Review: One of the finest things about vampires, and the genre, is the malleability of them. They can be used in so many different ways.

This is a prime example. Taking the premise that vampires are another species, above the food chain but disguised by folklore and superstition, it has a background that in 1870 the vampires rose and decimated humanity. Whilst they can walk in sunlight they function poorly in heat and thus the empires of the world moved to an equatorial position. This seemed, to me, a logical progression of the premise given the colonialism of the time.

When we cut forward in time we see an alternate world, a steampunk world and this is where the book works oh so very well. The husband and wife writing team summon images of steam powered airships floating over the very colonial British city of Alexandria, of the carnage and desolation of a vampire controlled London and the eerie emptiness of Edinburgh with next to no population.

They draw a rip-roaring adventure and then pepper it with conspiracy and political double dealing.

Whilst our vampires are a natural race they have a supernatural edge. They can somehow change their density and thus fly and they are hurt by places of power (stone circles, for instance) and symbols of faith – just their luck that religion and magic are deemed as superstitious nonsense by most humans.

They have superbly sharp senses – bar touch, which leads to them being poor users of tools. In vampire controlled areas herds of subjugated (or should that be domesticated) humans roam across the wilds.

This was a great adventure and will be well received by vampire fans and steampunk fans alike. If, like me, you like both it is a real treat. 7.5 out of 10.

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