Reviews Logo
SearchHomeContents PageSite Map
The Greyfriar: Vampire Empire, Book 1
Clay Griffith and Susan Griffith
Pyr, 308 pages

The Greyfriar
Clay Griffith and Susan Griffith
Clay Griffith and Susan Griffith are a married couple who have written and published together for more than a decade. Their credits not only include two novels for Bantam Doubleday Dell in the mid-1990s and another novel for Pinnacle Entertainment Group in 2002 but also numerous short stories published in many anthologies. They've also written scripts for television and published graphic novels.

Clay Griffith and Susan Griffith Website
ISFDB Bibliography: Clay Griffith
ISFDB Bibliography: Susan Griffith

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Nathan Brazil

'She told him softly, "There was a time when I would never have believed this. A vampire with a library. Yet here you are."

"Perhaps the world isn't what we think it must be. Perhaps someday our species do not have to be at war."'

The subject of vampires has been enjoying a renaissance in recent years, on screen and in written form, with no sign of interest waning. But, familiarity does breed contempt, and enthusiasts who are falling out of love with the angst ridden wastrels of Twilight, or the urban grit of Being Human, may find solace in Vampire Empire. This is the first book of a trilogy from a husband and wife writing team. It is very much a part one production, introducing the Greyfriar of the title, Princess Adele of the Equatorian Empire, and a colourful supporting cast within a radically different alternate history. The story is a fast-paced, blood-drenched, steampunk fang-fest, which also finds time for inter-species politics, and romance. But does its bite live up to its bark?

The premise is that in 1870 a terrible plague of vampires swept over the northern regions of the world, annihilating millions of humans outright, and condemning many more to death from disease and famine. The survivors fled south to the tropics, where vampires could not stand the constant heat. Aided by their steam-based technology and a determination to rise again, humans rebuilt their shattered societies. Princess Adele is the heir to the Empire of Equatoria, a remnant of the old British Empire. Adele is 19, and promised in marriage, for political reasons, to a man she has never met. The lucky fellow is Senator Clark, a self-aggrandizing vampire hating hero of The American Republic. America in this world being a place which is a republic in name only, but actually ruled by an oligarchy of wealth families. The colder regions of the world, including Great Britain, are now occupied by Vampires; homo nosferatii, a parasitical species, divided into loosely aligned clans. To them, humans are either food or slaves, and often both. However, in the years since the Great Killing of 1870, the Vampire Empire has stagnated, while humankind has regrouped to a point where the most powerful nations believe it is time for a campaign to rid the world of blood-suckers. The union of Princess Adele and Senator Clark is intended to unite the greatest powers, as a prelude to war. Except that nothing is ever quite that simple.

As the story begins, Adele and her younger bother, Simon, are on a state visit to Europe, when their small fleet of airships is attacked by thousands of flying vampires. The fleet is wrecked, leaving Adele and Simon alive, but on the run in enemy territory. When all seems lost, a legendary vampire hunter appears; the Greyfriar. From this point the story boils down to various permutations of cat and mouse, interspersed with conversational interludes and bit-sized chunks of exposition. Adding welcome tension is the literally bloodthirsty Cesare, younger son of the decrepit vampire King, and his ferocious female war leader, Flay, trying to catch and hold Princess Adele. Also in the mix is Gareth, Cesare's older brother and therefore heir to their father's throne. Gareth, we learn, is a most unusual vampire in many ways, who prefers to reside in Scotland, which he has claimed as his own. Cesare, Flay and Gareth form a bloody triangle, which is easily the most interesting thing in the book, and the interplay between them provides substance and depth. The other supporting characters of note are Senator Clark, a cardboard cutout figure typifying the terminally bombastic, kick-ass American archetype, and Adele's Japanese teacher Mamoru, who has instructed her in various martial disciplines, and runs a spy network in vampire occupied territory on the quiet. Unbeknown to the Princess, Mamoru has also been moulding her as his cat's-paw in a grand plan, concocted in secret with a small international group of powerful mystics. As this is the first book of the trilogy, very little is resolved, but the story does end at a natural point and is parked nicely.

I found much to like in Vampire Empire Book One: The Greyfriar. The world was well drawn, adorned with convincing steampunk technology, and a mostly realistic cast. Refreshingly, many of the traditional myths concerning vampires are tossed away, in favour of faux scientific explanations. Yet a frisson of the supernatural lingers, attached to Princess Adele herself, who toward the end of the book is alluded to be something more than human. Stylistically, Vampire Empire collides fictional worlds in a way that gives it a keen edge. Something that the authors risk blunting with a plot that is steady and workman-like, but rarely surprises. I found it disappointing that so much of what happens was exactly what I expected, and at times felt stalled while we waited for the bad guys to catch up. The other problem I had was that, while graphic violence is often portrayed, (including Adele in rather unconvincing Buffy mode), there is a total absence of sexuality and profanity, which came across as odd considering the nature of the world and those in it. There is a budding romance, although it is badly telegraphed. Had the authors chosen to involve less likely characters, rather than go for the obvious, Vampire Empire would have gone up a couple of notches in my estimation. But perhaps things will twist around in books two and three. As it stands, this first outing was a fun read that held its allure sufficiently for me to want the next installment. It's not as different as it could have been, and not as good as many gushing reviews would have you believe, but it is still a superior example of contemporary vampire fiction.

Copyright © 2011 Nathan Brazil

Nathan Brazil
If Nathan Brazil were dyslexic, he'd be the dog of the Well world. In reality, he's an English bloke who lives on an island, reading, writing and throwing chips to the seagulls. Drop by his web site at

SearchContents PageSite MapContact UsCopyright

If you find any errors, typos or anything else worth mentioning, please send it to
Copyright © 1996-2014 SF Site All Rights Reserved Worldwide