Kathy Davie's Reviews > The Greyfriar

The Greyfriar by Clay Griffith
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's review
Jun 11, 2012

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bookshelves: fantasy, urban
Read from June 11 to July 02, 2012

First in the Vampire Empire steampunk fantasy series about a world split into a Northern Vampire and a Southern Human worlds.

My Take
What were they thinking? Totally unprepared. No clue how to take down a vampire. Yet, in their smug superiority, they decide to send both heirs to the throne out on this chancy tour? Lord Kelvin definitely bears watching.

For the most part, gag. The Griffiths have a good story going with the requisite heroes and villains, but their characters do so many stupid things... The only characters I really liked are Adele, Anhalt (Simon doesn't count), Greyfriar, Gareth, and Morgana. Both kings are pretty out of it, controlled by the people around them.

After 150 years, you'd think they'd know a lot more about their enemy instead of hunkering down and cowering under the heat.

One undercurrent is a shunning of religion, the metaphysical. It's all about the science. Not that they're doing much on the vampire analysis.

interesting that Gareth is fascinated by humans. He points out that vampires "make nothing and create nothing". He's appalled by the laziness and decadence into which the vampires have fallen. The Griffiths have certainly played up the nastiness of the vampires by pointing up the filth, bones, and stench. Ragged remnants, broken windows the norm.

How stupid of Adele to slay Ghast in front of all those vampires, especially Cesare when she knows how tenuous things are between Gareth and Cesare. What did she expect to accomplish?

The bad guys---I include Clarke here---are almost caricatures. Even Gareth is in some ways---such a noble, suffering hero.

The Griffiths' writing needs a greater maturity in the sentences---those uttered by characters and as text. The scene where Greyfriar reveals himself is so hokey. As well as Adele's snide comments later. No, don't get me wrong. She's perfectly entitled to be somewhat skeptical, I would also expect that she would be intelligent enough to weigh his actions with his words.

I did appreciate the subtle difference, point(?), Gareth is making about wanting the worthy to survive. Wanting to maintain the balance of the clans. He is planning for a more honorable survival for both sides whereas Cesare wants to wash in the blood of humans.

The discussion about writing was cute between Gareth and Adele. An unexpected perspective. Oh god, it's so sad how excited Gareth is about his library. It sounds so wonderful and then Adele sees it.

Interesting background on vampire babies.

The Story
The vampires rose and destroyed humanity and its infrastructure in the Great Killing of 1870, forcing mankind to flee to the warmer climes where vampires could not follow. It's been 150 years since that cold winter night and the marriage between Princess Adele and the great American hero, Senator Clarke, will unite two of the strongest empires, paving the way to take the battle to the north, destroy the vampires, and reclaim their homelands.

Only it all goes awry with the attack on the fleet and the kidnapping of the princess. She's Prince Cesare's prisoner and he intends to manipulate his clans to war!

It's Greyfriar who disrupts those plans. The human hero and his weak brother Prince Gareth. Both a thorn in Cesare's side.

The Characters
Princess Adele is the heir to the throne, the future empress of Equatoria. Prince Simon, her younger brother and second in line to the throne, has all the desires of a little boy and he idolizes the Greyfriar, "a hero who fights the vampires in the North". Greyfriar treasures books, especially Sir Geoffrey Randolph's book on vampire anatomy.

Mamoru is a samurai who has been teaching Adele the power of weaponry and spirituality. Too bad he hasn't covered magic yet. Selkirk is a geomancer and spy for Mamoru in England. Colonel Mehmet Anhalt, a Gurkha officer, is in charge of the princess' White Guard. Lord Kelvin is the prime minister and totally and completely hung up on protocol. Laurence Randolph, Lord Aden, is one of the richest men in the Empire and his wealth is derived from coal, timber, and oil. His Imperial Majesty, Constantine II, is the emperor of Equatoria.

Nzingu Mamenna is a sorceress from Zululand and Sanah the Persian collects arcane religious rituals. Sir Godfrey and Mamoru have something going on behind the scenes.

Prince Gareth is Dimitri's heir, but prefers to live in Edinburgh in the castle with his faithful vampire servant, Baudoin. Gareth really needs to be more politically savvy. He appreciates humans, but is mystified by their absorption in art, books, reading, and writing. Morgana is a human servant at the castle who provides human perspective on Gareth.

Prince Cesare is lord of Ireland, a totally de-humanized Ireland. He actually expects Adele to tell him their war plans as well as about any spies in England. He wants to lead the clans to war so he will be acclaimed heir. Flay is Prince Cesare's war chief and is a formidable warrior. King Dimitri rules England and his barbaric, ruthless, younger son Cesare rules him.

Senator Clarke is Adele's Intended. A war hero and vampire killer. All based on one battle for one city which he lost the following year. He's only in this marriage for the notoriety and the power, using everyone around him. He arrives early for the wedding in his ship, the U.S.S. Ranger, captained by Root. He prefers show battles. Major Stoddard is Clarke's second-in-command and doesn't like the senator.

The Cover
The cover is all grays and blacks with the blackest forming Greyfriar and Adele making a stand. It's possible that it's his brother's airships hovering far overhead.

The title introduces a fantastical folk hero, The Greyfriar, almost the only hope left for humanity.
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