Vampire Empire - Books 1 and 2

My mind, the part of it that appreciates a good book, was rather wary and numb of mainstream portrayal of vampires and their kin. It's too much glitter and falling into arms of an immortal one who will protect the helpless heroine for all eternity going on there. It may be what makes them read by all and produce a senseless fan gathering, but it has not allowed imagination grow. Therein lay my mindset when I picked up Vampire Empire by Clay and Susan Griffith. The blurb on the back of book set my expectations - as simple as it seemed. I was so pleasantly taken in, hooked and surprised.

This trilogy, titled Vampire Empire, written by Clay and Susan Griffith, begins with the premise that the Great Killing of 1870 pitted the entire world into a horrifying war. A plague, if you will, of vampires. Millions of humans died at the hands of the parasites while the aftermath ensured the death of more. Empires were brought down and humanity driven to the edge of despair. Vampires settled into the northern, colder regions of the Earth, while humans fled to the tropics. Shattered in their beliefs and urged by the drive to strike back, humans flourish, still under threat of the savages, building their kingdoms, filling it with technology, knowledge and the will to reclaim what they once knew as theirs.
The center of this epic trilogy is the kingdom of Equatoria, Alexandria serving as its capital under the reign of Constantinople II, and the powerful vampire clan of Britain, under King Dmitri. It should be known now that history, from the late 19th century on, involves vampires. Everything until then is almost exactly as we know it to have been.

Princess Adele, heir to Equatoria, is engaged to be married to the 'butcher', Senator Miles Clark, an American soldier who fought and won several battles in America. She departs just a month before her scheduled wedding on a tour of her European provinces. Right at the beginning, her convoy is attacked and she is taken captive by Prince Cesare, second in line to the throne of Dmitri and the king's right hand man. Cesare is aware that the whole point of the arranged union between Adele and Clark is to unite human establishments and combine forces to declare war against vampiric clans all over the world. Portrayed as a ruthless, power-hungry king, who has literally usurped his father's throne (Dmitri, an eight hundred year old king, is leader in name only), Cesare believes he will frighten humans enough to prevent them from launching an attack which will only cause more ruin among those living. The Greyfrair, a legend and crusader of sorts for the humans - and one whom you would suspect to be either a super-human or a vampire - rescues Adele, loses her, then rescues her again, falls in love with her, makes her fall in love with him, reveals his true identity, fights for his right, saves the princess and lives to return to his kingdom. It isn't as confusing as I made it sound. The essence of the story from the point that Adele is captured by Flay, Cesare's war-chief, is that Prince Gareth, Lord of Scotland and the rightful heir to the British throne, is opposed to his brother's view of the world. He takes Adele under his wing and proves to her that vampires can be good too. That there is a possibility of co-existence if only each of their species would pause and try to understand the other. Clark, Adele's betrothed, attempts to rescue her and succeeds but not before Adele has fallen in love with Greyfrair a.k.a. Gareth. Gareth, in the process of his blossoming romance with the fair princes realizes that she will be the death of his kind.
The book ends with Adele returning to her beloved kingdom to be married as soon as she is well, Gareth returns to pretend to forge an alliance with his younger brother, Clark plans his revenge on the vampires, and the world prepares for victory or utter destruction.

Months after her rescue from the hands of Cesare's minions' brutality, Adele puts off her wedding to Senator wanting understand what powers she holds. She realized, through instances in the first book, that she is capable of harnessing powers of the earth and using them against the vampires, something that her tutor Mamoru, from the house of Asian human rulers, wants to train her in. He cautions her against these powers realizing that she can wield them better than most as they can be destructive beyond all measure. No one understands them.
Senator Clark pushes for the wedding to take place just so that he can begin war and Adele is forced to yield to her father's wishes and marry the man she does not love. On the day of the wedding, however, Gareth, who while fishing for information from his brother finds out that he intends to kill Adele and the Senator on the day of their nuptials, swoops in and rescues the princess in a very 'knight in shinning armor coming to the aid of his damsel in distress'. Except it rings true. They escape the city and make for the mountains of Katanga in central Africa. There Adele gets in touch with a burst of the power she truly has, acknowledging in that moment of exhilaration that she would kill Greyfrair with it. She returns to Equatoria - which has been ravaged by vampires under the guidance of Flay in a surprise attack at the very heart of the empire. The personal and political consequences of this do not sway Adele and she, recovering from a close range attack on her person, takes over as Empress Adele. As Adele ascends her throne, Cesare, in a moment of blind jealousy when his father calls out to Gareth instead of him, does away with the old king and takes over his clan.

Why was I drawn by this series, still somewhat hidden from mainstream (thus in my eyes insincere because they don't know of vampire history except from the pop-culture ones I mentioned at the very beginning of this review) fans?
The blending of human history, the allusions to ancient cultures and civilizations, upon which our current society is based, the unique descriptions of geographical locations, be it the mighty Nile, the mountains of current day Congo, the Mediterranean, England and Scotland. Everything, as recent as the early 19th century exists in Adele's world, the British Empire, the kingdoms of Asia. The portrayal of vampires as parasitic creatures without the existence of other supernatural beings is a welcome relief. While the depth of characters might be lacking in some situations, there is enough detail in geography, society, culture, and humanity that makes this series standout.
There is the essence of an actual kingdom - the trust between a royal ward and his or her guard, which in ancient times was true because they probably saw more of their sitters than they did their own father; the political leaders who have their own agendas - very reminiscent of the Roman empire; the heritage and old-fashioned hierarchy which can only exist in a monarchy. There is also the touch of modernism in the form of inventions - air ships, use of chemicals in warfare, proper machinery - proving that the industrial age did happen.
I suppose the only thing that confused me was the clothing. I know it sounds silly, but in my mind's eye I expected flowing robes, from medieval times in fact. But the picture painted is of, almost, 19th century England with a high sense of fashion. Steampunk, I believe the term would be, so I guess it explains it.
The writing, though it begins a little uncomfortably, picks up pace about a third of the way into the first book and keeps with it. There aren't complicated story lines or high standing words that would want to make you rush and look up etymology or meanings. The plot, while essentially new, is a bit predictable, but nothing more than "I knew that would happen". It keeps the pages turning.
The characters are alright too. Adele does get a bit annoying but she grows up pretty quickly through the book. The pace of movement of the story between the characters is perfect in that you don't get bored with them.
I was slightly turned off by the repetition of certain nouns over a few pages until a synonym is found; like, young woman, prince and princess. It bothered me because you'd come across the person presented to you with the same noun preceded by a definite article at least three times in a four line paragraph. Apart from these, just peeves of mine, it is a well written series that sets it apart from, what is considered these days, normal vampire fiction.

The authors, a husband & wife pair, have accomplished in creating a world of urban fantasy where the two extremes of beings are dealt with in an almost amiable fashion - monster versus man where the monster could be vampire or human as could the man. The balance between the two worlds, hinged mainly on their own ignorance of the other, is given due recognition.
Anyway, I'm quite surprised that not many people are obsessing after this series; but then again, a reader of this series would enjoy it more if he or she were somewhat aware of the history of the world and could accept vampires to be the creatures that they were originally written to be. That said, I'm hoping that the third book, The Kingmakers, lives up to my expectation of story telling.

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