Tuesday, January 18, 2011

The Greyfriar by Clay Griffith & Susan Griffith


I received this book as one of many vampire-themed Christmas presents from my husband (I don’t know whether that says more about him or me), and I was pretty dubious. Sure, I love vampire stories, but steampunk vampire stories? Really? My husband insisted it was highly recommended. And now that I’ve read it, I can see why. In fact, I highly recommend it. This book is brilliant, and I love it!

In the world of Vampire Empire, it is the year 2020. It’s been 150 years since the Great Killing-- the time when vampires rose and drove humans from the northern lands. Humans have relocated to warmer climates where vampires do not live and rebuilt their empires on technology of iron and steam. Adele is the future empress of Equatoria which was built on the remnants of the British Empire, but she is not your conventional damsel in distress. Adele studies various martial arts from her Japanese mystic tutor Mamoru and can clearly hold her own in a fight. In order to drum up support for the coming war to reclaim their homeland, Adele leaves her father’s court in Alexandria to tour the independent borderlands of Europe. On the trip, her airship is attacked by vampires and Adele ends up joining forces with the mysterious vampire-fighting legend, The Greyfriar.

I don’t even know which good thing to say about the book first. The pacing is impeccable, and you would never know that the book has two authors rather than one. Clay and Susan Griffiths manage to meld their voice and style so that their writing is indistinguishable. I can only begin to imagine what sort of professional and marital partnership it must take to accomplish this endeavour so flawlessly.

The conflict between religion, mysticism, and rationalism also plays a very interesting role in this book. The authors have done an excellent job bring that Victorian debate into the narrative, and it really helps the reader to grasp how stilted human society became after the Great Killing. Not only are they still in a very industrial phase (hence, steampunk) but they are still concerned over the same social and religious quandaries. Then it makes you realize that we are still concerned over many of the same social and religious quandaries. Maybe we really haven’t progressed as much from the Victorians as we would like to believe. This gave the book an added layer of depth that was greatly appreciated and intellectually enjoyable.

Another thing I absolutely love about this book is the characters. Adele is sassy, smart, and entertaining in first-person POV. She balances the courtly and personal aspects of her life with considerable grace, and she has no qualms about getting her hands dirty when necessary. The Greyfriar is a romantic mix of dark brooding and awkward tenderness. He’s all tough exterior with a teddy bear center. They share an adorable interplay that gets neither boring nor nauseating in the story. Of course, there’s always a catch, and it turns out that Adele is already engaged for a political marriage to the American Senator Clark. The Greyfriar himself is more than he seems. The romantic tension is just right.

Every great book has one fun little curveball tucked in that somehow defines the whole thing. In Greyfriar, it’s the cats. But I can’t say anymore about that until you go and read it yourself.

So there you have it. Vampire Empire Book One: The Greyfriar has a fascinating alternate timeline, compelling characters, star-crossed lovers, and cats. What more could you ask for? Oh yes, the second book. Now.

Pyr: The Greyfriar by Clay and Susan Griffith
Image Source: Pyr
Review Copy: Self Purchased
ISBN-13: 978-1616142476

This review was originally published at Kawaii Writing and republished with permission.

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