Title: Vampire Empire #1: The Greyfriar
Author: Clay and Susan Griffith
Narrator: James Marsters
Audiobook Length: 10 hours, 39 minutes
Genre: Horror; Science Fiction
Origins: Mine. All mine.
Release Date: 10 November 2010
Bottom Line: Not for me
“1870. A time known as The Great Killing.
The vampire clans arose and slaughtered humanity with unprecedented carnage in the northern parts of the world. Millions perished; millions were turned into herd animals. The great industrialized civilizations of the world were left in ruin. A remnant fled south to the safety of the ever present heat which was intolerable to vampires. There, blending with the local peoples, they rebuilt their societies founded on human ingenuity, steam and iron.
The year now is 2020. The Equatorian Empire, descendant of the British Empire, stretches from Alexandria to Cape Town. Princess Adele, quick witted, combat trained and heir to throne is set to wed the scion of the American Republic, a man she has never met. Their marriage will cement an alliance between the nations and set the stage for war against the vampires in an attempt to retake the north. Prepared to do her duty she finds herself caught in a web of political intrigue and physical danger. The Greyfriar, a legendary vampire hunter from the north, appears ready to rescue the Princess and return her home—but he harbors secrets of his own. As the power struggle between the vampires and humans increase Adele and The Greyfriar are caught in the middle, on the run, being hunted, and fighting for not just their own lives, but for future of humanity.”
Thoughts: The Greyfriar occurs in the future, but, as is typically the case in such post-catastrophe scenarios, life for humans is anything but modern and computerized. The vampire attacks left humans with nothing, and the only technology humans have been able to harness is steam power. Thus enters the steampunk aspect of the narrative.
The vampires are an interesting blend of myth and new creation. These vampires drink blood and survive by subjugating humans to their will. However, rather than the mythical undead, these vampires are nothing more than a subspecies of human, a parasite that exists because humans exist. There is even some question whether they are truly evil or simply selfish in their needs. This aspect of the story raises a lot of questions about origins of species all of which are unfortunately left unanswered at the end of the novel.
Most, if not all, of the characters are little more than caricatures. Adele is the not-so-hapless princess gifted with great but as yet unknown powers. Her fiancé is a braggart, the proverbial bull in the china shop and utterly incapable of nuanced thinking. There is the ineffective king and his manipulators, two kings in fact. Then, we have the one character with the potential to change everything, with Adele’s help of course. None of these characters evolve overly much, which is a shame because character development would be one way to improve the story.
James Marsters, as always, is impeccable as the narrator. He brings with him his talent for voices and uses it with maximum effect to differentiate the characters. In fact, the characters come alive under his ministrations. He captures their emotions and unspoken motivations even when there is none called out in the narrative. He takes the time to understand the characters and this care shows in the three-dimensional quality of his narration. Mr. Marsters is a natural storyteller, and any audiobook he narrates automatically improves as a result.
In fact, it is Mr. Marsters’ narration which saves the story from becoming pure drivel. Without his added emotional depth, the story would falter from melodrama and weak characters. In many ways, the story is nothing more than a steampunk spaghetti western with vampires, which is only a good thing if one likes that those genres. The narrative hodgepodge also draws on too many modern vampire clichés to be truly unique. These vampires do not sparkle, but one still manages to fall in love with a human and vice versa. The Griffiths get points for creativity, but in the end, The Greyfriar is still just a mediocre amalgam of genres and literary devices that provides nothing but superficial and highly predictable entertainment.