Fiction Reviews

Vampire Empire: Book One: The Greyfriar

(2010) Clay Griffith & Susan Griffith, Pyr, US$16.00, trdpbk, 305pp, ISBN 978-1-616-14247-6

Crivens! There I am sitting on a train heading out of Waverly Station with Edinburgh Castle looming over me, and in “Vampire Empire Book One; The Greyfriar” there is a vampire in that very castle. In fact, he’s Prince Gareth, the Vampire Prince of Scotland. Not very Scottish sounding, but given that his younger, nastier brother, is called Cesare, and his father (the vampire King of Britain) is called Dimitri, then beggars can’t be choosers, although I have to quibble that while Britain, nay, most of the Northern hemisphere is awash with vampires, Scotland only has two, we demand more vampires, I say!

While you can never judge a book by its cover, I did think Steampunk as soon as I saw the illustration; and the reason for all this Steampunkishness? For a start it’s a Pyr book – are they getting typecast? Secondly, we are slightly in the future, in 2020, but it is a world not as technologically advanced as our own, as most of the scientific and technological discoveries of the last one hundred and fifty years have not happened, resulting in largely steam-driven societies, although those crafty Americans have been dabbling with different forms of energy and have a whole range of nifty gadgets for their on-going fight against the vampires. The reason for this state of affairs is the uprising of 1870 when the fang folk that had lived in the shadows rose up to decimate mankind and take over most of the world. I say 'most', because while the vampires are lean and mean and fast and bloodthirsty (Cesare and his vampire general, the aptly-named Flay, have wiped out every living man, woman and child on Ireland) they don’t like the sun – not the daylight as vampires would traditionally avoid – but because of the heat. In the world of 'Greyfriar', heat makes vampires slow and lethargic and vulnerable, meaning they have decided to live in Northern, more colder countries, although they do have a decided advantage in being able to control the density of their bodies, giving them the power of flight. While the vampires stick to more cooler climes, the rest of the world belongs to the humans in various nation states, the most powerful being the Equatorian Empire, styled on the former British Empire.

Princess Adele is the heir to that Empire, and on the verge of marrying Senator Clark, all-American hero with his own airship army at his disposal. Bringing together these two major powers will create a new world order with the capability of destroying the vampire menace once and for all. However, the headstrong Princess has decided on one last tour of the colonies before her impending nuptials, thinking she is perfectly safe in the hands of loyal Colonel Anholt and his White Guard, but the vampires have other thoughts, and soon her airship is attacked, and heading earthwards. Stumbling out of the wreckage she finds that most of the soldiers have been slaughtered, and her younger brother, Prince Simon, lies broken on the ground and is possibly dead. Her only hope is to put her life in the hands of a mysterious legend, namely the masked swordsman known as the Greyfriar who comes to her rescue, but he has a secret of his own.

Thus begins an adventure that is fast, and furious, stopping only for an occasional little bit of info-dumping on the side as the authors explain the rise of the vampires and the political machinations of this new world order. Fortunately that doesn’t get in the way of some solid action, adventure, horror, and dare I say it, romance, as the major characters develop in some interesting ways. Think Zorro meets Pride and Prejudice meets Dracula, with several sub-plots bubbling away nicely underneath. All in all, I enjoyed Greyfriar immensely, and wait, somewhat warily, to see if book two will live up to the promise of part one, which is already a tough act to follow. 6 out of 5, yes, I really did like it that much.

Ian Hunter

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