I have a new favorite vampire and his name is Gareth. Couldn't put this down today, what a story! Review to come.
Steampunk take two and this one was an absolute gem. Princess Adele, heir to the Equatoria throne, is on a routine diplomatic tour when her airship convoy is attacked by a strike team of vampires intent on kidnapping her. After a fierce battle, in which Adele admirably defends herself (LOVE this girl), she is almost captured before the legendary vampire slayer Greyfriar appears and rescues her. Unfortunately despite his clever and thorough evasion techniques Adele and the Greyfriar are eventually overcome and Adele is taken.
The Vampire Empire is an incredible take on alternate universe. Vampires have decimated the earth, driving humans to the warm climes which they cannot tolerate. The great cities of the North have been completely overrun; turned into massive, filthy, stinking cesspools where the clan rulers keep herds of ‘livestock’ (ie. people) for food. They are not merciful; humanity only a means to keep the stronger, more deserving race alive. And into this world we have Adele, stubbornly determined to survive as the vampires plot and her fiancée (a political match whom she has never met), Clark, the American war hero famous for his vampire kills, attempts to construct a rescue for political gain.
I won’t go into any more of the plot but to say that the most rewarding story here is the burgeoning relationship between Adele and the intriguing, mysterious Greyfriar. Not exclusively a romance (although there is some of that!) it's more a road to discovery. Who is he, where are his loyalties and what his motives? Why does he hide his identity and obscure his features from people?
Adele makes her own journey in this story. Despite being aware that she is a political pawn, she accepts the responsibilities as future ruler of the people of her empire and is never self pitying or less than strong in her convictions. But then I can’t help but mention that even the most distasteful characters are richly written and appealing in their own right. There is no mistaking who the bad guys are here but even when confronted with their brutality and viciousness I could fit it to the motivations and tapestry that is good storytelling.
This book took me by surprise. It won’t ruin anything to say that by the very end the plot gave me an emotional gut punch that I almost relished. I was amazed at how much I didn’t want to let go of this world, these characters, because they had touched me so deeply. The Greyfriar went right on my favorite list and book 2 immediately onto my very short list of what to read next!