The Rift Walker
Clay Griffith & Susan Griffith
Published 2011 400 pages
Summary (from book jacket)
Princess Adele struggles with a life of marriage and obligation as her Equatorian Empire and their American Republic allies stand on the brink of war against the vampire clans of the north. However, the alliance's horrific strategy for total victory drives Adele to abandon her duty and embark on a desperate quest to keep her nation from staining its hands with genocide. Reunited with her great love, the mysterious adventurer known to the world as the Greyfriar, Adele is pursued by her own people as well as her vengeful husband, Senator Clark. With the human alliance in disarray, Prince Cesare, lord of the British vampire clan, seizes the initiative and strikes at the very heart of Equatoria.
As Adele labors to bring order to her world, she learns more about the strange powers she exhibited in the north. Her teacher, Mamoru, leads a secret cabal of geomancers who believe Adele is the one who can touch the vast power of the Earth that surges through ley lines and wells up at the rifts where the lines meet. These energies are the key to defeating the enemy of mankind, and if Princess Adele could ever bring this power under her command, she could be death to vampires. But such a victory will also cost the life of Adele's beloved Greyfriar.
The Rift Walker is the second story in Clay & Susan Griffith’s epic Vampire Empire trilogy. Needless to say it is necessary to read The Greyfriar, the trilogy’s opening novel before starting The Rift Walker. If you haven’t read The Greyfriar then I’d highly recommend doing so, I’d also recommend not reading this review any further since it may spoil your surprise with The Greyfriar… Still here? Then I’m going to assume you’ve read The Greyfriar and spoilers be damned!
Now, I’m always wary of the second parts of trilogies because they usually go one of two ways. They are either dreary continuations of events, tales with no defined beginning and no clear end, or utterly brilliant stories in their own right. There seems to be no middle ground and many experienced authors (both award-winning and bestselling) have fallen into the trap of writing the ill-defined sequel that only acts as a bridge between the start and end parts of a long story – forgetting that the middle part of a trilogy should be a story in its own right. Thankfully, The Rift Walker is at the utterly brilliant end of the scale and this second instalment of the Vampire Empire delivers plenty of action and adventure while furthering the development of the Vampire Empire universe and its characters in meaningful ways.
The opening pages of the story show Princess Adele running out of excuses to postpone her wedding to the brash American war-monger Senator Clark. Her personal distaste for the man amplified to new levels of loathing when she discovers his plans for genocide against the pitiful humans of the North. Plans that he intends to carry out under the flag of the Equatorian Empire. These are the same humans who helped her escape from England when the vampires kidnapped her but her observations of the North and objections to genocide are dismissed as the ravings of a hysterical female.
In the North the vampires are planning an offensive of their own against the Empire but the depths and subtleties of the vampires’ planning are only revealed as the story progresses. Greyfriar catches wind of the vampires’ plot to stop Senator Clark’s war plans by assassinating Princess Adele on her wedding day. He swiftly dons his sword and mask and rushes to rescue his secret love. This is classic swashbuckling pulp fiction at its best.
The fast moving plot swiftly transports the action from Alexandria down the Egyptian Nile and into the jungle and mist shrouded mountains of Katanga in deepest central Africa. There are airship skirmishes and battles with vampires – so no shortage of opportunities for heroics from Greyfriar and Princess Adele. At the same time the readers’ knowledge of the vampire clans’ intrigues and the political manoeuvrings of the Empire’s wannabe leaders is slowly expanded – adding layers of complexity to the story.
Hardcore Steampunk fans may be a little disappointed in the general lack of technological set dressing. Aside from the dirigible airships and the chemical blades of the Fahrenheit daggers there is little real Steampunk in the story. However, what the story lacks in Steampunk in more than makes up for in pulp action and impossible romance. Populated with vividly drawn characters, The Rift Walker is an epic adventure of vampires and alternative history. The book’s thrilling ending is satisfyingly conclusive yet sets the stage for the trilogies final act. I can’t imagine where the authors will take events and characters in the Vampire Empire’s final instalment, I don’t know how they can top what they have already achieved with The Greyfriar and The Rift Walker… yet I can’t wait to find out!
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