Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Edi's Spotlight: The Greyfriar by Clay & Susan Griffith

Hello and welcome to my first review in 2011.
There is a story behind every book I read. Sometimes I talk about and sometimes not.Today I'm a bit "bubbly" which means you have to endure a few more words .....

In May 2010 I read following blurb for the first time:
"In the year 1870, a horrible plague of vampires swept over the northern regions of the world. Millions of humans were killed outright. Millions more died of disease and famine due to the havoc that followed. Within two years, once great cities were shrouded by the grey empire of the vampire clans. Human refugees fled south to the tropics because vampires could not tolerate the constant heat there. They brought technology and a feverish drive to reestablish their shattered societies of steam and iron amid the mosques of Alexandria, the torrid quietude of Panama, or the green temples of Malaya.
It is now 2020 and a bloody reckoning is coming.
Princess Adele is heir to the Empire of Equatoria, a remnant of the old tropical British Empire. She is quick with her wit as well as with a sword or gun. She is eager for an adventure before she settles into a life of duty and political marriage to man she does not know. But her quest turns black when she becomes the target of a merciless vampire clan. Her only protector is The Greyfriar, a mysterious hero who fights the vampires from deep within their territory. Their dangerous relationship plays out against an approaching war to the death between humankind and the vampire clans."
Vampires, alternate history and steampunk in one book? Could that work? Vampires - to be honest not my favorite species. But together with two genres I like it a lot - steampunk and alternate history - it sounded like an intriguing mix. Of course I ordered a copy in advance. I canceled the order in October because I won a copy in a giveaway which finally arrived end of December 2010.
Fortunately I found time to read, enjoy and review the first novel in the Vampire Empire series: The Greyfriar (2010, US) [ISBN-13: 978-1616142476] by Clay and Susan Griffith.

Let me start with the biggest issue I found:
I wanted to continue reading but The Greyfriar ended after 301 pages divided into 32 chapters.

Of course I know that this is not a real issue. What does this mean?
I need to find proper words in order to express why I liked The Greyfriar so much.
Be warned: The following babble is the insufficient try to explain the magic and fascination of The Greyfriar.


yells a chorus of four voices in my head. I'm dumbfounded.

KotM: "Ye mighty readers. Some of you may know us. We are Bona, Fide, Bona Fide and KotM (Keeper of the Minutes). Poor ediFanoB has to share his brain with us. Today we return more powerful as we were when we left several months ago. I cordially apologize for this unexpected interruption. But we are afraid that ediFanoB will risk his neck by writing this review.

That means we take over control and tell ye mighty readers why you should read The Greyfriar.

And this is the plan: Bona Fide will tell you something about the inhabitants of The Greyfriar's world. The world itself will be explained by Fide. It is up to Bona to give you an understanding of the story and the prose. My part is the moderation and the delivery of a summary and a subjective and snarky praisal/recommendation.

Before I hand over the pencil to Bona Fide - yes we force ediFanoB to use pen and paper for the first draft - let me assure you that we will force ediFanoB to tell you a bit more about us in the following weeks. And now it is your turn Bona Fide."

Bona Fide: "Hello, hello, its me, Bona Fide. As you can easily detect from the book title the world is inhabited by vampires and a single person named Greyfriar. That's all? No! Beside the vampires we have human beings and of course animals, especially cats. The vampires in The Greyfriar are different to the ones I knew from other books/movies. They do not fear neither garlic nor sunshine. But they can't cope with tropical heat. They don't have the ability to transform humans into vampires. They are long living creatures and their life depends totally on human blood. That means no humans - no vampires. They can fly. Their sense of touch is underdeveloped. And, and, and ... I could tell you much more which shows the effort of Clay and Susan put in their development. the vampires are represented by some characters which are important for the story: the old king Dmitri and his two sons Cesare and Gareth. They are like fire and water. Gareth's manservant Baudoin and not to forget the female Flay, who is Cesare's war chief. The humans are derived from the people who lived on earth around 150 years ago. Let me introduce some of the important representatives to you: His Imperial Majesty Constantine II and his children heiress princess Adele and prince Simon, Prime Minister Lord Kelvin, Senator Clark, heroic vampire killer and Adele's fiancé. And not to forget Adele's mentor Mamoru and his friends who will obviously play an important. Finally we have the mysterious and masked Greyfriar who opposes the vampires. From my point of view the important characters are well developed. The characterization and the development of Gareth, Adele and Greyfriar are definitely one of the highlights of the book. It is like you are part of their brains. Of course I could tell you more but not without spoiler. That means my work is done."

KotM: "Thank you Bona Fide. All in all not that bad. Now let's read in what kind of world live all these beings. Fide! Tell us about the world of the Vampire Empire."

Fide: "Hey, its me, Fide. To be honest I did not find a proof that the world of Vampire Empire is a spherical. Who cares! The the world is based on our own world around 150 years ago. It is the starting point of 150 years of alternate history which started with the Great Killing. I don't want to give you a history lesson. Clay and Susan did it in a excellent way within The Greyfriar. I would like to talk about the world in the year 2020 which differs a lot from our world. The vampire clans rule the northern hemisphere and raise human beings like cattle. On the southern hemisphere we have the Equatorian Empire based on the gone British Empire with Alexandria as capital, The new American Republic with Panama as capital and Japanese Empire. Between these great powers you find city-states and small kingdoms.
Every day there are skirmishes between vampires and humans. The human civilization is based on iron and steel. airships dominate the sky. They use a mix of weapons from swords over crossbows, pistols up to cannons and bombs. There are human spies who us partially ley lines which I found quite interesting.
Due to the story we neither get much information about America which is ruled by an oligarchy of wealthy families nor about Japan. All in all we get enough information to build up our mind of this alternate world. Anyway every travel to the northern border is an adventur and that will be part of Bona's take."

KotM: "Thank you Fide. Are you sure you covered all aspects of the world building? I found your explanation a bit thin. Don't get me wrong. You did a passable job after a long time. Maybe you're a bit rusty. Bona, wake up! It is your turn. Fit the characters and the world to the story? And what's about the prose?"

Bona:"Hä? What? Where? Ooops. So it ismy turn. Need to check my notes first. Can't find them. One moment please .... OK, found. Yes indeed, Clay and Susan Griffith tell a story.
On the edge of war the Equatorian Empire and the American Public are on the way to form an alliance. The marriage between Princess Adele and Senator Clark should be the visible symbol of the alliance. Shortly before the marriage Adele goes on a diplomatic mission to the northern. city-states and kingdoms. Vampires attack Adele's airship and take Adele as hostage. The Greyfriar rescues her temporarily. In final attempt Adele is rescued by ... You have to find out on your own. That is in a few words the story of The Greyfriar. Don't worry. There is so much more happening beneath, beside and beyond. Susan and Clay deliver a bittersweet love story, fraternal strife, betrayal and conspiracy - some obvious, some betoken, culture clash, a coming of age, heroism, politics. The most impressive thing for me is the development of Princess Adele, the Greyfriar and vampire Prince Gareth. It is like the molting of a snake combined with dialogue and inner thoughts. And you never get bored due to the well dosed action. Susan and Clay do not hesitate to use stereotypes. Senator Clark is definitely one. Exuberant self-confidence, cheeky, and brute. The one and only hero - the "savior" of the world. To be honest, I DON'T LIKE HIM!!

The prose fits perfectly to the story. Sometimes sail along softly and then hits back full of power.
Let me keep it simple: Romance is romance, you feel it at your heart; insults are insults, stay away from weapons while reading because you will challenge some characters to a duel; you feel the physical punishment and injuries. Please spare me the burden to go into details about smell.
The book......."

KotM: "Shut up!! Shut up!! Shut up!!

Bona: "Why?"

KotM: "Thank you for your explanations. But to talk about the book as a whole is my turn."

Bona: "Understood. Ye mighty readers, now the time has come for KotM's two cent."

KotM: "I read the parts delivered by Bona Fide, Fide and Bona with great interest. When you put them together, you must come to the conclusion that The Greyfriar is definitely a candidate for our best read in 2011. The characters, the world and the story fit together like a jigsaw. It is such an inimitable and irresistible mix. It is the ideal book for people like ediFanoB. He is not a fan of vampires. Romance stories are not really his cup of tea. But in case of The Greyfriar it would not work without these ingredients and the execution is extraordinary.

I know I should stick to the facts.
But I can't.
Now I could finish my take with a highly recommended ...
But I can't.
I'm agitated
Emotionally touched by romance
enchained by action
intrigued by intrigues
fascinated by steamy machines
surprised by vampires and their history
pissed off by SenatorClark

How shall I write a recommendation??

Breathe deeply, breathe deeply, breathe deeply.

Let me try again.

A car needs energy.
A reader needs books.

Depending on the engine in the car you need gas, fuel, batteries, solar energy.
Depending on your taste you read alternate history, romance, steampunk, adventure, urban fantasy.

You can't mix the energy for your car.

BUT as a reader you can choose
The Greyfriar

Enough said."

"Hello? Hello!! Its me, ediFanoB. I gained control again. Oh my good!!! What did they do? I'm sorry. I'm very sorry. I will start immediately to write my review of The Greyfriar. Where are my notes? That is not what I wanted to write!!"

KotM: "Calm down ediFanoB. We did that for you as we did it in the past. If you want to post your review today then there is no way out. You have to cope with what we wrote. Read it. And a comment from your side would be appreciated.."

ediFanoB: "I promised to post a review. Give me some minutes to read your text. ....... I'm back and I must admit that Bona Fide, Fide, Bona and KotM did a good job. In the end it is up to the readers to judge."

KotM: "Thank you for your kind words. Now please, add a comment. We are all exhausted and tired. In behalf of Bona Fide, Bona, Fide and me I say bye for today."

ediFanoB: "Bye KotM, Bona Fide, Bona and Fide."

What shall I say?
Take a ride on the steamy roller-coaster full of vampire descents, romance curves and adventurous loops. The Greyfriar is the ticket you need.

Finally I highly, highly recommend to listen to following podcast:
Episode 037 Clay & Susan Griffith over at The Functional Nerds. Patrick Hester and John Anealio interviewed Clay and Susan Griffith.


Sarah (Bookworm Blues) said...

I still need to listen to that podcast. I really surprisingly enjoyed this book. I wasn't expecting to though. I know you are rather... turned off by vampires so I've been anxious to read your take on this book.

ediFanoB said...

I hope I could express how much I love THE GREYFRIAR. Can't wait to read the next book in the series.

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