The Rift Walker by Clay & Susan Griffith – review

THE RIFT WALKER (Vampire Empire, book 1) by Clay & Susan Griffith
Pyr, 2011, 399 pages, 978-1-61614-523-1, Trade Paperback, $16.00

Genre: Fantasy/Steampunk

Once again, the Vampire Empire has brought me something entertaining to stave off the mediocre-book doldrums. This second book, while it starts off slightly slower than the first (though hardly by much), does exactly what I hoped it would do for the main characters while also illuminating some of the secondary characters and setting the foundation for book three.

Princess Adele returns to Equatoria only to enter a situation arguably more difficult than the one she faced fighting vampires in Britain. Her wedding to Senator Clark looms overhead, and she comes to realize that not only are her reports and opinions being ignored by Clark and the Commons, they’re being ignored by her father as well. Her life is quickly falling out of her control, and she worries about the upcoming war in the north. Meanwhile, in Britain, Cesare is proving to be a remarkable strategist, and his plans to combat the Equatorians and Americans are well under way. He also has plans to target the royal family, and the first target on his list is Princess Adele.

One of the nice things about this book is that we get to see exactly what I’d hoped to see in terms of setting–namely, more of Equatoria. The last book focused largely on Britain, since that was where Adele and Greyfriar were located for the majority of the story. Book two shows us the city of Alexandria, where the royal family is located. It’s a rich city with everything you would expect of a developed civilization plus a secret crypt or two. We see several other locations as well, including the bustling Cairo.

There’s political intrigue to spare. A lot of it comes from the Equatorian side, though the vampires have their own as well. I expect we would see more of that if Gareth could be bothered to get involved, but he has his hands full as it is. This intrigue leads to a surprise (at least it caught me off guard) that I think other readers will appreciate as well. It certainly forced the story to take a different turn.

But if it wasn’t for that turn, I don’t think Adele would have developed so quickly. She really is one of my favorite female characters to date. She struggles a lot with the obstacles around her, but her determination is admirable. She’s not afraid to take risks, and her strength continues to grow with each problem she overcomes. Luckily, there are people around her who recognize and appreciate that strength. Without them, I doubt she’d be able to do what she does.

Obviously, one of those people is the Greyfriar. And you might think, oh, but we know that already. And, yes, it’s clear that he sees power in Adele (and not just of the mystical sort). But even in moments when ordinary men might try to get in her way or stop her from doing what has to be done, he supports her instead. Since they both descend from royal lineages, he no doubt understands the pressures she is facing, and the strength of her determination to help her people, much as he helps the people of Edinburgh.

The other person in Adele’s court is Colonel Anhalt. In book one, I got the impression that I would like Anhalt if I saw more of him, and that definitely turned out to be true. He’s staunchly loyal to Adele, willing to drop everything to aid her, and generally an amazing guy for innumerable reasons. I’m sure other readers will find reason to love him as well.

Add to that the adorable Simon, who’s every bit the brother I wish I’d had, and Adele is surrounded by probably the best cast possible.

As for you, Mamoru, all I can say about your attitude right now is…. For shame, sir. For shame.

Regarding other details of the story, I enjoyed the idea of theatrical productions and penny dreadfuls that over-romanticize the adventures of Adele and the Greyfriar. That they both realize how terrible the books are, and how unfaithful to reality, is all the better. We also see more of Mamoru’s cadre of mystics, and we find out just how widespread the group really is.

For sure, The Rift Walker is a set-up for book three, but it’s also a major character builder on top of being enjoyable overall. It makes even more evident the trouble Greyfriar and Adele will face should many people become aware of his identity. As a reader, I can’t help but wonder how the story could possibly end well given that obstacle–which isn’t to say that I assume book three is meant to have a happy ending. But if it did, how would it come about?

A great addition to the trilogy, and I’m looking forward to the last installment.

Thank you to Pyr for providing a review copy of this novel.

~

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