Monday, September 9, 2013

Audiobook Review: The Rift Walker

The Rift Walker (Vampire Empire, #2)
The Rift Walker by Clay and Susan Griffith
Vampire Empire Book 2
September 20, 2011
Prometheus publishing
399 pages
Genre: Paranormal Steampunk
Source: Audible personal purchase
Book Blurb:
Princess Adele struggles with a life of marriage and obligation as her Equatorian Empire and their American Republic allies stand on the brink of war against the vampire clans of the north. However, the alliance's horrific strategy for total victory drives Adele to abandon her duty and embark on a desperate quest to keep her nation from staining its hands with genocide. Reunited with her great love, the mysterious adventurer known to the world as the Greyfriar, Adele is pursued by her own people as well as her vengeful husband, senator Clark. With the human alliance in disarrray, Prince Cesare, lord of the British vampire clan, seizes the initiative and strikes at the very heart of Equatoria.

As Adele labors to bring order to her world, she learns more about the strange powers she exhibited in the north. Her teacher, Mamoru, leads a secret cabal of geomancers who believe Adele is the one who can touch the vast power of the Earth that surges through ley lines and wells up at the rifts where the lines meet. These energies are the key to defeating the enemy of mankind, and if Princess Adele could ever bring this power under her command, she could be death to vampires. But such a victory will also cost the life of Adele's beloved Greyfriar.

The Rift Walkeris the second book in a trilogy of high adventure and alternative history. Combining rousing pulp action with steampunk style, the Vampire Empire series brings epic politcal themes to life within a story of heartbreaking romance, sacrifice, and heroism.
My Review:

Find my review of book one, The Greyfriar, here.

The Rift Walker is a fabulous middle-of-the-trilogy book. Second books, especially when they follow wonderful first books, can be very tricky. It sometimes feels like they're just afterthoughts and filler until the final book. Not so with The Rift Walker. The Griffiths did an amazing job keeping the plotlines fresh, with many twists and turns, while still continuing the original story.

Plot: Speaking of plot, we were previously left with Adele and Greyfriar's separation due to the ever-present political issues surrounding them. Unfortunately that separation also involved the unwanted Senator Clark (or at least I don't want him) and their pending nuptials. Along with their future marriage is also the future war between the vampires. So much is resting on the court's decisions and Adele's cooperation. And of course there's Prince Cesare, who can be quite the evil genius at times and a bit batty at others, but should never be underestimated. The different scenarios and revelations kept me on the edge of my seat. When Greyfriar re-entered the scene, the story took a giant leap and things never quite settled down after that. Loyalties and disloyalties are revealed, chaos ensues, and through it all Adele must step up to the plate and become the leader she was meant to be, make the difficult decisions, and be left to deal with their consequences. Plus there are so many questions of morality and "for the greater good" questions that make the decisions of the different political leaders quite compelling in this world where right and wrong is not always obvious. Tremendous story.

World: I continue to love this world the Griffiths created. We get to visit more countries and see the cultures of more people. Along with these cultures, we also get to see more of the "steampunk" aspects of the book. I've not ventured into many steampunk novels, but I can say that I love the Griffiths' take on it. I also loved the whole mixing of technologies with nature. The whole geomancy thing itself is fascinating, and I enjoyed how the "rifts" were interwoven throughout the story.

Characters: What I love about these books is that they are so character-driven. That's one of the things that can make or break a book for me, and the Griffiths do not disappoint. I love these characters, even the bad ones, because they felt so fleshed-out. Even the secondary characters have depths and backstory. And just when you think you know a character, you learn something new about them.

Adele: She grew so much in this novel, and I loved watching her transition from a somewhat naïve princess who was told what to do, to a woman who could command those around her and men would pledge their loyalty to. She really started to come into her own, and her growth felt very organic and genuine. She had her struggles, she had to wrestle with choices and didn't always make good ones, but through it all she was real and felt true to her baseline self. She evolved and matured and was a fantastic heroine I could really get behind.

Greyfriar: He continues to be my favorite character. How could he not? He is such a mix of fierce strength, selfless loyalty, and quiet vulnerability. He wouldn't hesitate to give his life for Adele, and it shows in everything he does. For such a powerful and mysterious person, he is also gentle and kind. But make no mistake, he is also a fearsome warrior who should not be underestimated, though he is not without his weaknesses. He too is coming into his own and finding his place in this world. Throw in his dry sense of humor, tenderness, and fascination with the human world, and I can't help but love him.

Romance: I love the gentle romance between Adele and Greyfriar. These are two people who have mountains of obstacles to climb between them, yet their loyalties persist and their love is true. They have a beautiful relationship that has grow through mutual respect, genuine admiration, heart-warming friendship, shared vision, and absolute trust. There is no unnecessary angst between them. The true obstacle is the outside world - which is a huge obstacle indeed.

Audiobook Narration: Once again James Marsters narration was fabulous. I loved the voices he used for each character as well as how he interpreted the dialogue. For audiobook listeners, this is a real treat.

Bottomline: I loved book one, The Greyfriar, and I loved book two, The Rift Walker. This series has captured me with its array of fascinating characters, engrossing storyline, and inventive world. There were twists and turns, action and tenderness, terror and hope. The Griffiths have written a story that has completely captured me and held my interest until the very end. At the time of this review, there is no audiobook for the third book, The Kingmakers, yet. This, however, is not a difficult obstacle for me. I've already purchased the paperback and started it because I can't wait to see how this trilogy ends!

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