Fiction Reviews

Vampire Empire: Book Two: The Rift Walker

(2011) Clay Griffith & Susan Griffith, Pyr, £14.99, pbk, 304pp, ISBN 978-161-614523-1


As the self-proclaimed world’s most reluctant reader, I was pleasantly surprised when I read the first of the 'Vampire Empire' novels, The Greyfriar as I devoured it, and enjoyed it so much I was slightly wary about reading the second book in the series for fear that it might not live up to the first instalment. Should I have been worried? Well read on, if you dare. But first the basic premise of the series is that the vampires have revolted, or rather risen up from hiding in the shadows in the year 1870 to wage war on mankind, slaughtering millions in the process, including every man, woman and child in Ireland. Because of the limitations of their physical make-up they have control of the northern, cooler, countries, and stay away from more tropical countries as the heat makes them weak, and lethargic, and vulnerable, although they have the distinct advantage of being able to alter the density of their bodies which gives them the power of flight. Their reluctance to stay away from warmer climes has allowed the southerly Equatoria Empire to thrive and plan an alliance with America through the marriage of crown princess Adele to gung-ho, and ever-so-ruthless, Senator Clark who led the charge to retake New Orleans from the vampires (although it has since been lost, or reclaimed by them again).

But before the marriage could take place, the headstrong and slightly snooty, Princess Adele went on a disastrous tour of the empire’s more northerly colonies, which attracted the attention of the vampires, and the sinking of her airship. Lost in vampire territory she was rescued by the enigmatic, masked swordsman known as The Greyfriar who turned out to be Gareth, the vampire Prince of Scotland (okay, not the greatest Scottish Christian name in the world), who delivered her home in time for her impending nuptials, with the only problem being that they had fallen in love with each other on the way. Cue book two, which, fortunately does not falter or fail to deliver, despite being the “difficult” the middle book of a trilogy – no “middle-book-itis” here as The Rift Walker continues the themes of the first book – action, adventure, intrigue, romance, magic and horror, oh, and some steampunkery, and ups the ante with some interesting character development and devious plot lines.

One of the strengths of the series is the depth of the characters, from those who occupy centre stage – Adele, Greyfriar/Gareth to those who are slightly lesser characters – thought not by much – such as the ruthless and reckless, Senator Clark, to Gareth’s malevolent and cunning younger brother, Cesare, to his lethal lieutenant, Fray. Orbiting around them are Adele’s devoted protector, Colonel Anhalt, and her mysterious teacher, Mamoru, and his secret cabal who have been nurturing the powers that Adele tapped into in book one, powers which could possibly end the vampire menace for ever, which is unfortunate if you happen to be in love with one of them. This then, is the central conceit of the book as Adele and the Greyfriar go on the run with a vengeful Clark and the Equatorian army after them as the princess rebels against plans to wipe out the vampires and their “innocent” human slaves, and struggles to master the powers that are growing within her. “The Rift Walker” is every bit as entertaining and enjoyable as The Greyfriar was, and gives me another worry - can book three live up to books one and two?

Ian Hunter


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