Rousing pulp action and steampunk come together in a spellbinding story of high adventure and alternate history. In the year 1870, a horrible plague of vampires swept over the northern regions of the world. 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. 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. The first book in a trilogy of high adventure and alternate history, the Vampire Empire series brings epic political themes to life within a story of heartbreaking romance, sacrifice, and heroism.
About the Author
Clay and Susan Griffith, a married couple who have written and published together for more than two decades, are the authors of the Vampire Empire trilogy—The Greyfriar, The Rift Walker, and The Kingmakers—and the Crown & Key trilogy, as well as the first Vampire Empire: A Gareth and Adele novel, The Geomancer. Their credits include numerous short stories featuring noted genre characters like Kolchak the Night Stalker and the Phantom and comic books including The Tick and The Simpsons. They've also written scripts for the television/web show Monster Creature Feature. They live in North Carolina where they play World of Warcraft and struggle to entertain their cat. Visit the authors' website at clayandsusangriffith.com/ and www.facebook.com/#!/vampireempire.
Read an Excerpt
"Thank you, Colonel. I believe I'll stay on deck a bit yet. It's quite warm. That should keep the beasties quiet. Yes?"
Princess Adele noticed a slight smile on the dark, chiseled face of Colonel Mehmet Anhalt who stood close to her, as was his habit. Under her gaze, the short but powerfully built Gurkha officer covered his bemusement by clearing his throat and offering his brass telescope.
"In that case, Your Highness, would you care to have a look?"
"Yes, I should. Thank you, Colonel Anhalt." Adele crossed the quarterdeck of H.M.S. Ptolemy and leapt with girlish pleasure down three steps to the ship's waist. A crowd of redjackets from her household guard parted to make a path to the port rail. A stiff breeze rolled the heavy skirt around her calves and whipped the ends of the scarf that struggled to restrain her long auburn curls.
Adele snapped open the telescope and steadied her booted feet expertly against the airship's sway. The distant clouds were turning brilliant orange and bruise purple in the darkening eastern sky. Five miles off the port beam Adele spotted two figures floating silhouetted in midair.
The young Princess felt a delicious thrill spread through her. Vampire cadavers were displayed occasionally in the streets of her home, Alexandria, and she had even viewed the purported preserved head of the clan chief of Vienna, but she had seen only a few living specimens in her days. These two lay spread eagle on the air, vibrating in the drafts that buffeted their nearly weightless frames.
Adele felt a tingle of horror when one turned its head and, she thought, stared at her, looking in her eye with its cold glare. She closed the glass with a sharp breath, going pale. Frustration swept through her that the creature should startle her so. It was not as if the beast had truly been looking at her. It merely had looked toward the ship. Struggling to regain her composure in front of her guardsmen, she resumed strolling the quarterdeck.
A young boy suddenly exploded up out of the main hatch. His face was red from the exertion of racing up the companionways, as indeed he raced everywhere he went. He was barely twelve years old and still round-faced as a baby with darker hair than Adele's, cropped short. A flowing striped cotton Bedouin robe over breeches and sandals made him look like a ragamuffin from the alleys of Cairo.
He scampered to Adele's side, shouting, "I heard there are two of them out there!
The Princess Adele cut a very different figure from her wild younger brother, Simon. She was the heir, the future Empress, and her very proper traveling garb was chosen for reasons of state. Today she wore a long velveteen skirt covering high leather boots, a heavy cotton shirt, and a leather jacket with a Persian sash. In the sash, she had her prized weapon, a jewel-hilted Khukri, a broad-bladed dagger that had been a gift from her mother. More, it was a Fahrenheit blade, with chemical additives in the scabbard that gave the steel an intense chemical heat when exposed to air, making it more destructive than a normal blade.
The blade was not all Adele received from her Persian mother. A light veil wrapped her head and shoulders to protect her against the sun and wind. Unlike her brother's red-cheeked visage that he got from their father, the Emperor Constantine II, Adele had olive skin and the distinctive nose of the late Empress. Her appearance was a subject of murmured derision among the northern-featured courtiers who dominated the imperial Court in Alexandria.
"They're very far away, Simon." Adele put an arm around her brother's shoulders. While two lone vampires posed little threat to a heavily armed Ptolemy, she still would have preferred her brother locked safely below.
Prince Simon looked disappointed. "Can I look at the vampires, Colonel Anhalt?"
"May I look at the vampires," Princess Adele corrected with a light cuff to the boy's shoulder.
Anhalt was perspiring in his tightly buttoned uniform. "Unfortunately it's grown too dark for observation, Prince Simon. And Khartoum has blocked our view." He bowed stiffly to the eager Prince, indicating a 32-gun frigate maneuvering through the gathering clouds four miles off the port quarter. H.M.S. Cape Town, Mandalay, and Giza were putting on or taking off sail, struggling to answer the signals to form the nightly cordon around the flagship.
"And you've seen vampires before," Adele argued to Simon.
"So?" The boy craned his neck, straining to peer into the east through the billowing sails of Khartoum. "It's probably the most interesting thing that will happen on this trip."
Adele noticed a stony glare on Col Anhalt's face as he looked in the direction of the vampires. It was unusually harsh and uncharacteristic of the man.
"Something, Colonel?" she asked, handing the spyglass back to him.
The Gurkha blinked in surprise, then flushed with embarrassment. He studied his polished boots. "No, Highness. Nothing."
"Your expression said otherwise." She stepped closer to him. "Feel free. Have I done something wrong?"
The Colonel looked up suddenly, mouth agape. "No! I would never—never—"
"Easy, Colonel." Adele smiled warmly and laid a hand on his forearm. "You merely looked angry. Is there something wrong?"
He wrestled with his thoughts for a moment, and then said, "Forgive my bluntness, Your Highness, but I think it unwise to send you so far north on tour."
Adele nodded in consideration. Anhalt continued. "And to send both heirs. I don't know what the court was thinking. It's irrational."
"Politics aren't always a matter of the most rational path. I am happy to be here, forging good will." Adele, in fact, was thrilled to be away from Alexandria, on board this tossing ship. The alternative was to be at home, immersed in court tedium. When Lord Kelvin, the Prime Minister, suggested the tour, Adele leapt at the opportunity. But she couldn't just make the argument that she enjoyed the adven- ture. There was a purpose and it was one that was important to her aside from escape. "It's imperative that the independent city-states on the frontier, such as Marseille, see the future empress of Equatoria. The connections I can make on this tour could be very helpful. There is a war coming."
This was a fact both Adele and Col. Anhalt knew well. Within a year, conflict would begin that would reshape the world in blood. Adele was no warmonger, but she knew the fight was necessary.
It had been one hundred and fifty years since the vampires rose. The monsters had lurked quietly among humanity from the beginning of time, but one dark winter night in 1870 they came en masse intent on subjugating human society. It was not known why they chose that moment to attack. Perhaps a great leader had inspired them. Perhaps they sensed a particular weakness in human culture as it teetered between faith and science. And clearly, humans were not prepared; they were taken totally by surprise. Most people had even given up their beliefs in the existence of such creatures as vampires.
The vampires struck at the hearts of the Great Powers of Europe, America, and Asia. They decapitated governments and armies as well as destroying communication and transportation. Order was replaced by horror, panic, and collapse. Within two years, the great industrial societies of the north were cadavers and the vampire clans divided the old world between themselves.
At that time, no one had understood the true nature of the vampires.
Few enough did, even today. Adele, however, had the benefit of the dons of the Imperial Academy of Sciences in Alexandria to teach her what was known, or thought was known, of the biology and culture of humanity's greatest enemy. Myths about these creatures had grown up over the centuries; myths that were based on truths, but not the truth. Vampires were far more dangerous than the old legends could have imagined.
Most respected men of science stated with certainty that vampires were not the resurrected corpses of humans. The creatures were now classed as a parasitic species that thrived on human blood and they had been categorized Homo nosferatii. Vampires and humans had disturbingly similar anatomies and physiologies, except that vampires had sharper teeth, retractable clawlike fingernails, and eyes acutely adapted to nocturnal hunting. Four of their five senses were magnificent; sight, smell, hearing, and taste were well beyond the level of a dog or cat. However, vampires had a stunted sense of touch making it difficult for them to manipulate objects or use simple tools. Anatomy lessons conducted in the gaslit chambers beneath the Imperial Academy of Sciences in Alexandria had demonstrated that vampires seemed to feel no pain and rapidly healed from even the most horrific wounds.
It had never been demonstrated convincingly that vampires created new vampires by infecting humans. Scholars debated with great vigor how, or even if, vampires propagated. There were many theories, but the current dominant belief among the learned was that the creatures lived forever and there were as many now as there had ever been or would ever be.
Vampires had never been seen to transform into bats or wolves, but they could travel on the wind by amazing control over their density, which was not yet fully understood. Specimens rarely lived long enough in captivity for satisfying experimentation. Sunlight did not turn them to dust, but they were pathologically susceptible to heat, which made them weak and lethargic. Hence, their tendency to come out at night and haunt northern climes.
Certainly none of this latest scientific knowledge had been available to the terrified victims of the Great Killing in 1870. After those attacks, hundreds of thousands of humans fled south towards the equator where they sought refuge in colonial possessions and fought savagely for land in a great frenzy of cultural collapse and coalition. Eventually the shell-shocked remnants of northern humanity blended with local people and set about trying to recreate new versions of their beloved societies based on steam and iron in the wilting tropical heat where vampires rarely tread.
Prince Simon scrambled to the rail again. "I think I see them!" He looked back at Col. Anhalt with a pleading gaze.
The Gurkha offered the young Prince his spyglass before turning his attention back to the Princess, his hand resting on the hilt of his Fahrenheit saber, an officer's weapon. "I still think it's foolish to waste your time currying favor with the border states. There are only two sides to this war. Human and vampire. What's the purpose of diplomacy with those who will need us once the fighting starts?"
Adele sighed cheerfully. "You're just argumentative. You know it isn't that simple. We will need the independent states on the frontier as much as they need us. We will want their ports and facilities to move our armies into Europe. Isn't it better to have an understanding beforehand? No one expects a human state to side with the vampires, but the border states have self-interests too. And there will be opportunities for the Empire to expand as we roll back the vampires. Our world is about to change forever."
Adele's world was very different from the one her great-grandfather would've known, and which she read about in history books. There were new Great Powers that were like the resurrected corpses of the world powers at the time of the Great Killing. Her own Equatorian Empire was built on the ruins of the British Empire. It stretched from India to South Africa, with its great capital set amid the dusty mosques of Alexandria. The American Republic was a republic in name only. It was ruled by an oligarchy of wealthy families from its center in the torrid quietude of Panama with firm control over most of Central America and the West Indies, and growing hegemony over the southern region of the old United States. When the vampires attacked Japan, that Emperor removed himself to Singapore and spread his power over the green temples of Malaya and much of Southeast Asia. The world over, a dizzying array of semi-independent city-states struggled along the vampire frontiers where warm summers made it difficult for the monsters to extend their power on a permanent basis.
Those who traced their heritage to the north remained galled by the vampire clans' continuing domination of the old lands. They always talked of returning "home" and driving the vampires back into the darkness.
Now that moment was at hand.
The human states believed they were sufficiently reorganized to strike and had the proper technology to counter the swift, savage hordes of the vampire clans. A brutal War of Reconquest would begin with the coming of spring in the north.
And Princess Adele, standing windswept on the deck of Ptolemy, was a lynchpin in the strategy. It was her birthright to be part of the bloody struggle for the future of the world. She was the matrimonial prize that would unite the two greatest human states into an allied war machine.
Adele regarded the imposing figure of Col. Anhalt and laughed at his worried scowl. "Thank you for your concern, but surely nothing will happen. We are far south of clan territory. Marseilles hasn't been attacked in—what—fifteen years?"
"Seven then. And the weather is quite warm. As our meteorologists predicted."
Anhalt grunted in tepid acceptance of her logic.
"And I have my White Guard around me." Adele smiled at the furrowed brow on the dark face before her. "You'll keep me safe, won't you, Colonel Anhalt?"
There was a sudden and surprising glisten of moisture in Anhalt's hard eyes. "With my life, Your Highness."
Adele replied, "Dear Anhalt. Where would I be without you?"
"I pray you never have to find out." "I as well."
A nervous young naval officer stopped and bowed. "The Admiral's compliments, Your Highness. He says we will have chemical lights momentarily, and perhaps you should consider moving below decks."
The Princess replied with proper formality, "Thank you, Lieutenant Sayid." And she noticed his surprise and pride that the imperial heir recalled his name. "I think that two vampires would hardly dare attack an imperial capital ship of one hundred guns."
"One hundred and fifteen guns, Your Highness," the boy responded stiffly.
"Indeed?" Adele smiled. "Impressive. But, in any case, since vampiric vision is reputed to exceed a cat's, surely they could easily perceive the better part of a regiment on deck."
Lieutenant Sayid raised a knuckle to his brow in salute and immediately turned to pass orders to the bosun's mates with a less nervous voice. Then he pulled appropriate signal flags and stuffed them into hardened gutta-percha cylinders. The foot-long cylinders went into shining copper pneumatic tubes and were shot to the platforms high in the ship's rigging.
Princess Adele watched as gangs of sailors clambered up the shrouds and ratlines toward the gigantic, gas-filled dirigible overhead. The dirigible was encased in a tightly crosshatched metal eggshell designed to protect it from enemy cannon fire. A row of three wooden masts extended laterally from each side and also along the top spine of the steel frame. Sails were set in concert with filling and evacuating parts of the multi-chambered dirigible, to propel and steer the massive airship. It was an intricate ballet; a wonder to watch.
Simon glanced at his big sister. "You want to be up there with them, don't you?"
A startled Adele began, "Don't be silly . . ." Then she stopped and responded honestly, "Yes. And so do you."
The boy laughed and nodded his head vigorously, craning his neck to get a glimpse of the fearless sailors. Adele dropped her arm around her brother's shoulders and followed his gaze upward, feeling a powerful desire to climb the quivering lines alongside the sailors and scale the dizzying main topmast swaying high above the airship to feel the clouds on her face. She envied those simple men who shouted, laughed, and even sang in the wind-ripped tops with only the sureness of their grip separating them from a long but certain death.
On the blustery quarterdeck, Lt. Sayid interrupted her thoughts by touching the brim of his cap politely. "Your Highness, if you would please step to this spot between the carronades. I would be loath for you or the Prince to be struck by an inconsiderate falling airman."
Simon immediately planted himself and stared up at the swelling sails forcing Adele to tow his rigid form against the rail. She began to say something to the young officer, but he was already engaged in another duty.With a heavy sigh, she leaned against the hard mahogany gunwale, content to monitor her restless brother in the gathering darkness.
A maid appeared from below with Adele's heavy cape and a coat for Simon. The weather was too warm for a cloak, and Adele would have refused, but the maid was only following orders. If the poor girl returned below with the cloak still in her possession it would create a crisis that would envelope Adele's entire staff. The maid confidently informed Adele that dinner was in exactly twenty minutes. Then, on her way below, the servant exchanged light, bubbling words with the handsome Mr. Sayid. Adele watched them, fascinated by the mix of hesitance and boldness; a young woman, a handsome officer. Such charming simplicity.
A sudden flash of moonlight reflected in the ostentatious diamond ring on Adele's left hand and forced her to remember her wedding was barely a month away. It wasn't so much a wedding as the starting gun for the war, the signal that Equatoria and the American Republic were one. All the linen, china, and warships would be bound to the same household. Adele thought of the beautiful gold locket that held a picture of her Intended. Senator Clark.War hero. Vampire killer. Scion of a great American house. Undeniably handsome. He had the open brashness of an American which, in another situation, she might have found attractive.
Still, the young woman had generally refused to think about the Impending Event because the thought of a stranger's weight on the other side of her bed caused many sleepless nights bathed in a frightened sweat and shortness of breath. She couldn't conceive of how her Intended's war-roughened hands would feel on her skin, nor did she want to. Her spy inside the Office of Court Protocol had confided to her that the issue of sexual commerce was still under negotiation and, although it probably could not be eliminated completely, it would at least be kept to the minimum necessary to conceive an heir. The marriage was a political necessity and, therefore, Adele's duty, but she doubted it would ever be more than that.
Adele reached up absently and through her heavy blouse damp with perspiration she felt the small stone talisman hanging around her neck. She wore it instead of the beautiful gold locket with a photo of her Intended which was buried deep in her luggage. Her revered mentor, Mamoru, had given her the religious stone talisman for protection and it gave her a sense of solemnity and calm. But Adele kept it hidden; no one could know that their Princess wore such a superstitious item. Members of Court already suspected that her youthful exu-berance was a dreadful portent of her failure as Empress. Surely they didn't need to know that she had a penchant for the occult and miraculous. The "better" class of people in Equatoria put religion and magic in the same category. Churches and mosques and temples still existed, and services were still held, but those who attended were viewed as quaint at best and deranged at worst. Mamoru was a very spiritual man and Adele found that part of him fascinating. He claimed that spirituality and naturalism, as much as steel and steam, would destroy the vampires. It was only a matter of firm belief and correct practice.
Ptolemy began to glow with the quavering blurs of chemical bulbs. The other ships in the fleet appeared as vague yellow smudges in the night sky. Far beneath the ship the earth was hidden in a swallowing blackness that had fascinated and terrified Adele since they had left the civilizing lights of the Empire for the vampire frontier of southern France.
Prince Simon's urgent voice interrupted Adele's thoughts. "Do you think we'll meet the Greyfriar out here?"
Adele shook her head with confusion. "What? The Greyfriar?
What in the world are you talking about now?"
"The Greyfriar! He's a hero who fights the vampires in the north."
"Oh, yes. No, of course not. He's not even real, Simon. Just a story to make people feel better."
Simon narrowed his eyes at his sister's ignorance. "He's not a story. He's real. I saw pictures in a book. He carries swords and guns and wears a mask. People say he killed a hundred vampires in Brussels. A hundred!" The young Prince began to wave his arm around as if he had a sword, striking and slashing. "He's a master fencer with all blades! His swords move so fast vampires can't see it! Whoosh whoosh whoosh! Their heads are rolling before they even know the Greyfriar is there! Hah! Col. Anhalt, you believe in Greyfriar, don't you?"
The soldier said over his shoulder with mock solemnity, "Indeed I do, Your Highness. I heard he killed a hundred vampires in Brussels too."
"You see, Adele! I told you!"
Adele replied, "Simon, be still."
"Why can't we meet him? I'll bet if we told him we were coming, he'd meet us. We're the royal family of Equatoria."
"We can't see him because he's not real! Now stand still and mind me!"
Simon huffed. "Well, then, will they let me command the ship?"
"No, of course not," Adele snapped irritably. Then she blinked and said more softly, "Not now. Perhaps tomorrow when it's light."
Adele wanted to nurture Simon's youthful curiosity and excitement, not stifle it. His enthusiasm was important. The Empire needed men like Simon, brazen and curious. Currently at court, to her dismay, there already were far too many of the venal type of man he would become if the palace drudges got their talons on him.
"Why not?" Simon wandered from her side, intent on exploring the ship's wheel where blazingly bright copper pneumatic tubes gathered to form something like a Baroque organ. Prince Simon was due to become an officer in the Imperial Navy and this idea excited him. Col. Anhalt coughed commandingly at the young Prince as small hands played over the pneumo tubes.
Adele darted from the rail and grabbed her brother's arm. "Simon, don't get in the way!"
"I'm not going to hurt anything!" the boy retorted. They were interrupted by the clack of a pneumo arriving from the tops.
With his back straight, Col. Anhalt said to Simon, "Would Your Highness care to retrieve that signal from the chief of the top mizzenmast?" With a yelp of joy, Simon lifted a round copper flap and a rubber cylinder dropped out into his hand along with a splash of dark liquid. "Euew. What's this?" He lifted his stained fingers into the yellow light.
Oil or grease, Adele thought with mild exasperation, automatically reaching into her pocket for a handkerchief. Anhalt stared at Simon's hand with furrowed brows. He pulled the pneumo cylinder from the boy's grasp and sniffed it.
"Blood," the rough soldier murmured. Abruptly his stern visage turned on a horrified Princess Adele. His voice was firm and demanding. "Your Highness, take your brother below, if you please." Adele put one hand instinctively on the hilt of her dagger and with the other tugged Simon toward the main hatch as Col. Anhalt gazed up at the vast dirigible one hundred feet over his head as if trying to see through it to the invisible topmasts above. Several naval officers on the quarterdeck stopped chatting among themselves and watched with growing interest.
Suddenly the airship lurched. Adele grabbed a pneumatic tube for support and pulled her brother back to his feet. In the rigging high above, she saw a figure tumble sickeningly, flipping this way and that, unable to grasp a safe hold until he shot past the deck into the black atmosphere below the ship. Before Adele could understand that sudden tragedy, another man fell and then another. Then she saw strange shadowy things moving with unnatural agility down through the lines, pulling hand over hand towards the deck.
Two dark cadaverous figures settled to the deck amidships with no sound and lifted their bloodstained faces into the light. Adele saw true savagery for the first time. These vampires were not stories or frightening figures in the distance; they were real, covered in blood that glistened in the lamplight. She clutched her brother close.
Sailors stared at the horrific intruders. A squad of redjackets raised their rifles and opened an erratic fire. One vampire was blown off his feet. The other streaked forward, a blur in the half-light, and two soldiers screamed. The wounded vampire then bounded to his feet and also rushed into the fight. It was a short, bloody affair.
Two other vampires dropped onto the quarterdeck, hissing like cats, only yards from Adele and Simon. One leapt at Simon, too fast for Adele to scream or react.
The vampire's head exploded and the body tumbled.
Anhalt appeared at Adele's side with a smoking revolver extended and Fahrenheit saber in hand. "Get below! Quickly!" He fired twice, hitting the second vampire in the head who dropped palsied to the deck.
"Form square!" Anhalt bellowed over the staccato gunfire erupting across the deck. "Fix bayonets! Up and out! Up and out!" Soldiers scrambled for the quarterdeck and gathered into a ragged square around the main hatch. The men fumbled with bayonets and tried to work their rifles as they'd been drilled, each trooper alternating their aim out or up to cover both ground and air. Some young faces were blank, others stained with horror and blood.
Adele sent her brother down into the companionway. She saw the rigging over her head was full of vampires, perhaps a hundred of them squirming and crawling, like a dead tree full of caterpillars. Then the two royals were below where soldiers and sailors raced frantically through the corridors. Officers shouted orders and counterorders that were lost in the din of tramping feet. Anhalt dropped quickly through the hatchway and detailed five soldiers to accompany Adele and Simon into the bowels of the ship.
They went down and down, past the acrid-smelling chemical room, into the reeking orlop deck. They were taken to a small dark chamber, fore or aft Adele could no longer say, inhabited by goats, pigs, and crates of chickens.
"You'll be safe here, Your Highness." A soldier shoved the royal siblings into the manger then slammed the door shut.
For a long time, neither Adele nor Simon spoke in the blackness. She hugged her brother, noticing that he was shivering, his unblinking eyes staring at a small goat that stood in the straw nearby. They strained to hear traces of the battle, hoping for hints of victory. Surely, the finest troops of the Equatorian Empire could defeat vampire raiders. The vampires would flee like vermin once they realized that this was not a lazy merchant vessel that had strayed too far north.
The room shuddered and made a heart-sickening lurch to starboard. Simon screeched and squeezed Adele as they tumbled across the manger. Trying to cushion Simon's body, she hit the bulkhead amidst a pile of chicken crates. Adele lifted a crate off her brother and brought him closer.
After several frightening minutes in the dark, the door flew open and Col. Anhalt appeared with a horrid gash marring his dark face, his tunic torn and drenched in blood. He carried a trooper's carbine and his saber, smoking with boiling blood. "Highness, quickly if you please. The ship is going down."
Adele climbed to her feet. "Lifeboats?" "No." Anhalt shepherded the royal pair from the room. "Too unsafe." Airship lifeboats were small gondolas attached to chemically inflated balloons; easy prey to vampires. Three soldiers moved ahead and four fell in behind. As the group climbed to the gun deck the chemical lighting went out, plunging the ship into pitch black. The hallway was listing at a rough angle and footing was treacherous. Ahead, sailors were filling a room with mattresses and rolled hammocks. Anhalt indicated for Adele and Simon to go inside. "Stay here, Your Highness. And don't worry."
Adele pushed Simon to the floor where he stayed compliantly. Sliding her hand off her brother's stiff shoulder, she moved back to her trusted Gurkha colonel and whispered, "What's our situation?"
Anhalt hesitated, but after staring into the steady eyes of the young woman he admired, and again realizing why he admired her, he said, "The vampires have destroyed most of the sails and damaged the dirigible. And can no longer stay aloft. The White Guard is losing the deck."
"How is this possible?" she asked, incredulous. "Raiders don't –"
"These aren't raiders, Your Highness. This is a full-scale attack by clan packs. They mean to destroy this ship. Perhaps the entire convoy."
"That's incredible! Surely we have the firepower to stop them."
"I hope so. Vampires are desperately hard to kill. The monsters do not know they are injured until they are in pieces. Even with a Fahrenheit blade, you have to destroy a vital organ or sever their head."
"How many are there?"
He shook his head and hefted his red saber without outward emotion.
"How many men have we lost?"
"Many," Anhalt answered and turned to leave.
Adele noticed the bloody footprints left by the Colonel and his four White Guardsmen and anger raced through her. The door closed and she knelt beside Simon, dragging a mattress over them. She sang softly to her brother, a lullaby she used to sing to him when he was a baby.
Adele heard a strange sound mixed with her own voice.
But there was so much noise enveloping the ship that at first Adele dismissed the sound as just part of the battle. Then it came again from just by her ear. It was coming from the other side of the bulkhead. She strained to hear. Men running? The creaking of stressed timber? Rats scurrying for safety? There was something about it that didn't seem to fit any of those.
"What is that noise?" asked Simon in a small voice.
"Nothing," Adele responded. "It's nothing." But the anxiety inside her wouldn't go away. She shifted and eased Simon away from the wall. From within her cape emerged her Fahrenheit Khukri dagger. The glow from the blade gave her some small comfort, but couldn't stop the wild pounding of her heart.
Then the wall started to break apart.
What People are Saying About This
" I LOVE this book. It's epic and lovely, heartbreakingly romantic (in every sense of the word) and an incredibly satisfying read, both for the characters and the richness of the world." --(Marjorie M. Liu, New York Times bestselling author of the Hunter Kiss and Dirk & Steele series)
“I have read 117 vampire novels in the last fifteen months. Some were great, some mediocre. But I LOVED this book. The Greyfriar is an extraordinary character. I put the book down wishing I could read the sequel immediately. The writing is lyrical and poignant. And like all of the truly best vampire novels, issues of morality and the use and abuse of power are paramount.” --(Margot Adler, author of Drawing Down the Moon and Heretic’s Heart; creator of the “Hour of the Wolf” radio show on WBAI, New York City)
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
In 1870, vampires came out of the coffins to attack western civilizations in the northern temperate zone. Instead of leading a counterinsurgency, human leaders fled south while their former subjects became food for the conquerors. A century and a half later, the world remains divided between the vampire and human zones. A party led by Senator Clark of the American republic stunningly takes back St. Louis from the vampires. At the same time, Equatorian Empire Princess Adele is on a state visit to Marseilles when British vampire Prince Cesare kidnaps her in spite of the efforts of the mysterious freedom fighter Greyfriar. These two events bring a treaty between the two human superpowers and a plan to attack jointly the vampires. The first Vampire Empire fantasy is an exciting thriller that grips the audience with the divided world concept that feels like a supernatural Cold War with heated incursions. The story line is fast-paced though it behooves the reader to ignore the plausibility factor; especially of the limited lack of major difference on how minorities are treated yet react radically different to injustice in both camps. Mindful of Phil Ochs' Ballard of William Worthy "But somehow it is strange to hear the State Department say You are living in the free world, in the free world you must stay". Still this is an exciting paranormal futuristic spin to the Cold War. Harriet Klausner
This is my first steampunk novel, and it didn't disappoint. Loved it. This is on my favorite list. Right away you will love Adele, the Colonel, the Greyfriar, Flay, and all of the other villains and heros! Action, mystery, revenge, and a trace of romance...it has it all. I especially loved the slow build of relationships. I like it most when an author can make you feel hate, revenge, fear, or love - instead of just telling you that this character really hated that one. This novel is masterfully written and is a must read. Stop wasting time. Go. Buy. Read. You won't regret it.
I was very skeptical of this one. I wasn’t sure what to think of it. It’s got fantasy. With history and a bit of steampunk added. Which is a great combination, but it really all boils down to the story and its’ characters. It’s certainly got a nice blend of fantasy/history as well and I liked that. I was really expecting something cheesy with a romance in it that’ll make my stomach turn. Thankfully I was wrong! I enjoyed this novel until the very last page. The action was well done, the world building was really good and well established, and the characters memorable. The blending of different genres also is nice you have a bit of steampunk, alternate history, fantasy, paranormal, and just a little bit of romance. It’s perfect. Of course what adds to this awesome book is Gareth (one of the main characters) has a castle full of cats. No seriously. That is AWESOME. I reacted the same way I did when I saw Hellboy with his room full with cats. (I squeed and squeed until I couldn’t no more) so for me, that was a major added bonus. The chemistry between Adele and Gareth was good as well. Their characters seemed perfect for eachother I really enjoyed how they got along. I haven’t gotten around to reading the second book yet, but I’m hoping it will be just as good as this one! I definitely recommend this book to fantasy lovers out there. It’s definitely worth a read through.
I loved, loved, LOVED this book! I can't remember the last time I found a book that completely swept me away like The Greyfriar did. I usually grab a book, read a bit every now and then, and eventually finish it when time permits. Not with this one. I made time for this book. It demanded to be finished. I couldn't read it fast enough! This isn't just another story latching on to the vampire hype. I highly recommend picking up this book, and get one for a friend too. You won't want to lend yours out.
This is the vampire book I’ve been waiting for. With the recent influx of touch-feely vamps floating around, I was nervous about picking this one up, but Clay Griffith absolutely blew me out of the water. The world he crafted is both huge in scope and intricately detailed, the people who inhabit it are wonderfully diverse and delightfully real, and the retro-futuristic technology was both well-crafted and believable. And the fight scenes! Oh, the fight scenes! The Greyfriar is an incredible hero, and Princess Adele was highly relatable, but my favorite character by far was Prince Gareth. I found myself sucked up into his curiosity and almost childlike wonder. This is a great book for vampire lovers and fans of steampunk, fantasy, sci-fi, and tales of political intrigue. I was provided a copy of the book by BTS eMag for the purpose of an honest review. I was not compensated for this review – all opinions are mine, and do not represent the opinions of BTS, BTS eMag, CBS, NBC, or ADHD.
If you like sci-fi and are looking for a vamp novel that breaks the mold, this is your book. A quick read and a guilty pleasure.
This Fairy was surprised by such a great ride!! I must tell you right away; this is NOT your average ordinary bland bandwagon vampire novel. You will see no sparkle here. The Fairy devoured this book because it was so good, yet I wanted to read slowly because I didn't want it to end. When Greyfrair finally did come to an end I honestly was sad to know I was going to have to shut the cover. However, when I did I quickly swooped up this book into a huge bear hug. I was so happy to have read a book this wonderful! Vampire Empire: The Greyfriar is a mess of genres in such a way that it works. Steampunk is why I wanted to read this book but it didn't take long to find out that it was choked full of horror, including horrid politics, action/adventure, romance, and some bloody war. I think I have to admit I'm fond of bloody wars. Yes, indeed! However, this book was not amazing just because of the genre mess... which made for different reading. Clay and Susan Griffith have a gift for stringing words together to provide minimal but optimal images. I was right there with Greyfriar the whole way! The images that were floating around in my head were amazing... if I do say so myself. Not only did the imagery of the world blow me away (& I have wings) but the fight scenes had me all up in a huff of excitement! Blood, gore, mayhem. I was in heaven. A bloody hero *sigh*. The Northern Hemisphere was attacked in 1870, nearly killing and destroying what we know to be the Western Civilization. The Great Killing! Princess Adele, the heir of Equatoria is due to wed a renowned vampire killer, Senator Clark (whom I didn't care for at all), which would unite her Empire with America. This arrangement of merging both of the biggest human empires together now posed a huge threat to the vampires that live in the northern areas of the world. Adele and her younger brother, Simon, are on their way to Marseilles when their dirigible is intercepted by a larger than normal ban of vampires lead by Flay. Her master, Cesare, is known for his human massacres & is the youngest son of King Kimitry, Flay follows his orders to capture the heir. Now the heir of Equatoria, Adele, is running from. Flay. These vampires are parasitic with very powerful physical characteristics whom roam freely in the colder areas, feedlot humans for dinner, and terrorize others so they are afraid of being enslaved by them. Classic damsel in distress, I think not. She takes out a few vampires before the hero enters. The Greyfriar swoops in to save her. I fell in love with this dark cloaked man right when he pulled out all of these weapons and started hacking up the vampires on top of him in a gory morbid way. *sigh* It must of been a beautiful sight. It is also quite a shock to Adele because The Greyfriar is a man whose stories of heroism and acts of battle are all thought to be fables. He ended up being this strong yet mysterious man who drew in not only me but our lovely Adele as well. He is mine, back off Adele! (I should mention that she is crafty with a weapon as well!) Ultimately she captured by the war crazed Flay albeit her best efforts of flight and the efforts of her masked mystery fighter, by Flay who brings her to England for Cesare. I love that the head warrior is a female. How hot is that!?! Overall, The Greyfrair was amazing, Truly. A Fairy even a Black or a Disaster of a Fairy would lie. It is a favorite book and will be forever. My copy will become greatly ragged. Get
This book was awesome! I love everything? in it. It was definitely one that brought all kinds of giddiness to my heart. The adventure, the mysterious, and love makes for a great read. This is not your ordinary vampire tale. This is a complete unique reading experience that I can enjoy over and over again. The Queen, Adele is on the run from vampire. As as heiress, with her up and coming marriage arrangement she poses a threat to the vampires and they are set out to kill her. But not before The Greyfriar come into the picture. An extraordinary man who saves peoples lives, leaving great tales of heroism behind him. The Greyfriar blew me away! I love every moment in reading it. The plots and the fights were absolutely mind blowing. I love the Greyfriar. His mysterious and good heart immediately drew me to him. He wanted change and was doing it all on his own with asking nothing in return. The romance was touching. I just love watching two people get stuck together, then fall in love right before your eyes. The way that they enjoyed each other company was one you could tell was fulfilling and relaxing. I rooted for them all the way. The SECRET!! Was OMG! Major OMG! I was so caught up in the book that I failed to notice the signs of the mysterious Greyfriar. Even to have learn his identity in the end stole my heart. I knew at that moment that this man is the man of dreams. If you have not read this book you should. The Greyfriar is a must read of 2011! I can't wait for the next book!!
Whew , this book spoiled me. I loved it in so many ways... But I must admit, I hadn't been quickly immersed in this book after reading the back description and I guess I was afraid by the presentation in the first few pages too because it was slightly intimidating in all it's alternative(otherworldly)history ...I was very wrong in my prediction. The promise of greatness in this read was fulfilled and there is no doubt that the on going Vampire Empire series will be epic. Enriched with wicked steampunk adventure, this read overachieves in all genres from soul-defined romance to impressive combative action. I was also enthralled by the glow of realism in the story too, it merged with the fantasy and paranormal romance aspects of the novel almost perfectly. As for the cons, I waited for the eventual cliches but the writing was so crazy good that it distracted me from any that came. The love was something else too...it was a fine twist in the vampire romance part of the novel. Clay and Susan Griffith are a fantastic duo. By the end of the book I was completely blown away and excited for the upcoming sequels. The Greyfriar is a hidden classic, a thrilling story and I hope you consider this book because this book is too good to be missed. Fav Quotes... " "Greyfriar!" His tall figure leapt, and he drew his rapier while in the air, the blade falling as he came down. A bloody head lolled to the side. The swordsman didn't stop moving but rushed the vampire Adele was barely holding at bay...Clawed hands rose to strike the man across the face, but Greyfriar ducked and thrust through the chest of his opponent, twisting the blade to destroy her heart. The body fell to the ground and Greyfriar turned to Adele." "Her hands astonished him. Her skin was so much darker than his alabaster flesh..."
I picked up this book due to All Things Urban Fantasy's 5 star rating and recommendation and it did not disappoint. This was the first novel I have ever read to be considered steampunk in any way. While the steampunk aspect is not a major part of the story it is great in setting the scene of this alternate history world. The vampires that have taken over most of the northern hemisphere of earth, or anywhere else that it is cold, are classic frightening vampires. It's hard to decide between Adele and The Greyfriar for which character I like the best because they both show tremendous strength throughout the novel. One scene in particular taking place in a "library" showed a great depth to this book that leaves you thinking. I can't say enough about this novel, and Clay and Susan Griffith are two outstanding new (to me at least) authors who have created a brilliant start to this trilogy.
Dangerous vampires, steampunk atmosphere, good characterization and fast-paced, well-written action scenes. What else could you want? This book had an original storyline and interesting mythology. An enjoyable book #1 in a series I'm looking forward to delving into.
this series is great - exciting twists and turns and very believable characters
The Greyfriar is the first book in the Vampire Empire trilogy by the husband and wife duo, Clay and Susan Griffith. You know how they say not to judge a book by it's cover, well I'm guilty of it, including this book, I'm not a big fan of the cover and so I wasn't in any kind of hurry to read it although the synopsis sounded really good, but I was given the chance to review it and I'm incredibly happy to say that I loved it! I very much enjoyed immersing myself in this world that Clay and Susan have created, the perfect combination of paranormal (I love my vampires), steampunk and action all thrown together into an alternate history set in 1870. We have a strong heroine in Princess Adele of Equatoria, engaged to be married to a man that she has never met, all for political reasons, her fiancée Senator Clark who also happens to be a vampire hunter sets out to rescue Adele after she is kidnapped by the vampire Prince Cesare, who hopes to discover the secret war plans that Equatoria have planned against the vampire race. But on their tail is Greyfriar who originally rescued Adele before she was captured, Greyfriar who is a secret identity of a character in the book, and whom I had pretty much guessed who it was before it was revealed to the reader. Held in the Tower Of London for quite a bit of time, she finds herself associating a fair bit with Prince Gareth, Cesare's brother and heir to the vampire throne, Gareth is very different to all the other vampire's around and Adele finds herself not fearing him as much as she should. After escaping she finally reunites with Greyfriar and they make their way to Scotland where Adele discovers she has powers that could potentially destroy all vampire's forever! An extremely enjoyable read that I hope to continue on with at some point.
A Perfectly Blended Cocktail The Grayfriar is a perfectly blended cocktail of steampunk, horror, paranormal romance and action/adventure that is sure to quench the thirst of any reader. It introduces you to a unique and brilliant cast of characters. From mysterious and sexy vampires to zombies, the author has created a wonderfully detailed world at the height of steam powered machinery. The hero/heroine of the book, Gareth and Adele, are perfect for one another, proving that romance goes beyond chemistry and physical needs or desires. With well written descriptions from Clay & Susan Griffith, you are placed in the middle of the scene, experiencing every horrific or touching moment between the characters. A phenomenal and unique story, The Grayfriar is sure to delight. I was provided a copy of the book by BTS eMag for purpose of honest review. I was not compensated for this review – all conclusions are my own responsibility.
The Greyfriar by Clay and Susan Griffith is one series that I was so excited to start. Reminiscent of Blade, this is one series that readers everywhere should keep an eye out for. Set in a steampunk world where Vampires have taken over most of the world populace, and a war between the humans and the vampire kind is ready to break out. The story opens up on a sky ship, where Princess Adele, the heiress to the Empire Equatoria is on her way north to tour the lands and people when unbeknownst to her and the royal guard that accompany her, a powerful vampire clan attacks the ship with one goal in mind…to capture Princess Adele and hold her captive and use her as leverage against Equatoria for their own benefit. And it’s not just any clan. It has been set forth by Prince Cesare, son to King Dmitri, a once feared and revered vampire. As the ship goes down, Princess Adele is confronted by a most fearsome war chief known in the vampire world and Prince Cesare’s right hand man…erm…woman, Flay. And Flay will stop at nothing to get what she came for. That is until a legend appears out of nowhere, and helps Adele escape her clutches…The Greyfriar. Feared by all vampires for his ability and ease in defeating their kind…loved and honored by the humans for all he does to protect mankind. But it is not with ease that the Greyfriar helps Adele. As I said earlier, Flay will stop at nothing to bring Adele home to Cesare…lest she loses her life. And it’s with this determination that Flay does, in fact, capture the Princess. But it will not be the only time in which she will have to come face to face with her greatest challenge…The Greyfriar. And the Greyfriar will stop at nothing to keep the Princess safe, and take her home where she belongs. Okay…The Greyfriar = yum! With the way he pops up at the most opportune time, I found myself cheering out loud time and time again when he would show up to foil Flay and Cesare’s plans. I love strong male characters, and the Greyfriar is definitely one of those. Not only that, but the mystery that surrounds him had me captivated. Once his secret is revealed, you can’t help but fall even harder for him! And OMG what a secret it is. The fight scenes found throughout the book were described in such a way that I was able to see the battle unfold easily in my mind, like a movie (which by the way, would be totally awesome to see made!). The characters, be they good or bad, were wonderfully developed and all had personalities of their own, which made them even more enjoyable. I mean, let’s take Senator Clark for instance. Yes, he is Princess Adele’s Intended, and so I can see how he would be so determined to go all out and do what needs to be done to bring back his bride. But his cockiness and his arrogance had annoyed with him…but in a good way. It had me appreciate the other characters in the book even more! The twists and turns found within these pages shocked me and awed me, and had me unable to put this book down. Readers everywhere will come to love the story that develops between Princess Adele and The Greyfriar. Fans of Blade will fall head over heels for The Vampire Empire series, and I personally can’t wait to dig into book #2 to see what will happen next, and of course…to see more of the Greyfriar. And as a fun fact…do you know who narrates The Greyfriar (Vampire Empire #1) by Clay & Susan Griffith? Buffy fans! It’s non other than Spike himself, James Marsters! Have a listen!
This book is not horrible. I bought it by accident one night, and was afraid that it would be a waste of money. Lucky me that it was fairly well written. The relationship to steam punk is tennuous at best though and i was a little saddened that it tried to be so many things all at once.
Vampire Empire, Book One: The Greyfriar is a mix of paranormal, steampunk, and post-apocalyptic life. We are introduced to many of the key players that one can assume we will continue to see. Princess Adele, Greyfriar, Senator Clark, and one nasty vampire Prince who is set to take the throne as well as the whole world. You see, back in 1870 the vampires let themselves be known to all of mankind. In a well developed and plotted sweep that lasted only two years, the vampires undid the human world. Cities as we know them fell to their hands, and the people fled south to regroup. Now, in 2020, humans have been rebuilding, strengthening, and waiting for the day to start a major war against the vampires. One of the largest nations is the massive Empire Equartoria to which the Princess Adele is the rightful heir. When she is sent out on a mission tour, her air ship as well as the accompanying ships, are attacked by Prince Cesare the heir of the vampire clan in England. While his right hand woman, Flay, tries to secure the Princess, a mysterious man appears out of nowhere to save the day. Greyfriar comes to the rescue of the Princess, and tries to keep her safe. He wears a mask over his face to cover his identity, and he's armed to the hilt with guns and swords. Princess Adele feels safe by his side, but she has no idea of the deep secrets he hides. The clandestine mask he wears is only the sheer beginning of who, or what, this man is. Will the Princess and Greyfriar thwart the plans of the twisted vampire Prince? Can Adele accept what lies behind the mask? Tsk, Tsk... You will have to read it to find out! I had a good feeling about this story just from the cover. It is such a lovely cover, really. Air ships, a good looking duo, dressed to kill - literally kill! But then I opened up the book, and found myself enthralled with the story presented to me. Each page is filled with conflict, action, mystery or suspense that kept me hanging onto to every word. I think the characters are highly developed, and I loved the word painted scenery of desolate Europe. I enjoyed the descriptions of the steam powered ships, as well as the other little knick knacks here and there. If it weren't for the vampires, I wouldn't have minded living there. Then there was the end, and my heart sank just a little bit. Then I remembered, "Hey, this is only the FIRST book!" I am really looking forward to the next part of the series. If you're thing to read is alternate history, steampunk, or action then pick this one up for a downright good read. Originally Reviewed at:Mother/Gamer/Writer Reviewer: Heather