THE RIFT WALKER (Vampire Empire #2)
Clay Griffith & Susan Griffith
Received from publisher for review
Warning: Contains spoilers from The Greyfriar
After being forced to separate from Gareth, the vampire she loves who also masquerades as vampire hunter the Greyfriar, princess Adele of Equatoria is struggling with returning to the life of an heir. Forced into a relationship she doesn't want with senator Clark in order to form an alliance with the Americans, she's truly dreading each day that brings her closer to her wedding.
When plans for her big day go awry, Adele finds herself reunited and on the run with Gareth, fighting to stay hidden from both human and vampire enemies. The political situation in Equatoria becomes increasingly intense with the battle-loving Clark vying for control and her father the emperor reluctantly agreeing to his plans, so while she cares for a weakened Gareth she's also sets out to find a way to make her father understand what's at stake.
As if politics weren't enough for her and Gareth to deal with, they also find danger in the form of Adele's ever-growing powers–what lives inside her having the potential to destroy all vampires in her path should she lose control of it–and no vampire is closer to her than the one she loves.
After introducing us to a world of astounding technological advancement and creativity combined with the nightmarish yet innovative portrayal of creatures of the night in The Greyfriar, we find in this installment an increased focus on the truly labyrinthine world of politics. Navigating the twists and turns of Equatoria’s political maze is fascinating, and we read with our noses pressed to the pages as the desire for power blinds some to the cruelty of their actions, while those who have little desire to assume what is theirs by birth rise to the occasion. The Griffiths do a brilliant job of building their characters, writing in degrees of villainy and heroism so that nothing and no one is ever easily definable or clear cut, but rather everything exists somewhere on the incredibly long spectrum between black and white. The words “human” and “monster” hold little meaning in this tale, with humanity proving it can be every bit as brutal as the vampire race, and certain vampires proving the numbness of their long lives has not reduced them to beings enslaved by only the basest of urges.
Adele shows remarkable growth both physically and mentally from book one, refusing to fully cow to the demands her status as heir places on her and rising up in defense of the man, the people, and the country she loves. While Greyfriar repeatedly came to her rescue in rather brave and daring fashion previously, it is Adele who is protector and defender in this tale, caring for Greyfriar as he struggles with the heat of the southern regions while she contemplates how to make her father and senator Clark see reason with regard to the impending vampire war. Though her thoughts and opinions sometimes get lost in the churning sea of testosterone surrounding her, she remains steadfast and persistent in what she believes, and we can’t help but be excited about where this attitude will lead her moving forward.
This story is by no means a romance, but the relationship between Adele and Gareth is one that never fails to bring a smile to our faces, the tension and distrust prevalent in The Greyfriar melting away and leaving behind a comforting camaraderie consisting of genuine affection and witty banter. Though their situation is often dire and the reasons why they can’t be together increase in number and significance, they still find time to tease or share a gentle touch that reminds us of all the reasons they should fight for what they’ve found in one another. Things for them are never easy, but both are confident in their feelings and in their purpose, making them a couple we will to succeed with all the strength we possess.
Though the number of characters and stories running parallel to one another in conjunction with some epic political maneuvering can be just a touch tedious at times, the richness of this world never fails to enthrall. The separate plotlines, though numerous, do come together beautifully–cogs in a bigger machine we can’t wait to see revealed in all its glory in the final installment. This series is an absolute joy to read, and something we long to experience again and again during the wait for book three.