Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Early Review - The Kingmakers (Vampire Empire #3) - by Clay and Susan Griffith

A war to the death.  Empress Adele has launched a grand crusade against the vampire clans of the north. Prince Gareth, the vampire lord of Scotland, serves the Equatorian cause, fighting in the bloody trenches of France in his guise as the dashing Greyfriar. But the human armies are pinned down, battered by harsh weather and merciless attacks from vampire packs.  To even the odds, Adele unleashes the power of her geomancy, a fearsome weapon capable of slaughtering vampires in vast numbers. However, the power she expends threatens her own life even as she questions the morality of such a weapon.  As the war turns ever bloodier and Adele is threatened by betrayal, Gareth faces a terrible choice. Their only hope is a desperate strike against the lord of the vampire clans—Gareth’s brother, Cesare. It is a gamble that could win the war or signal the final days of the Greyfriar.  The Vampire Empire trilogy rushes to a heart-wrenching conclusion of honor and love, hatred and vengeance, sacrifice and loss.

Release Date: September 4, 2012
Publisher: Pyr
Genre: Steampunk, Vampires, YA, PNR, Science Fiction, Fantasy
Pages: 374
Purchase at: Amazon or Barnes & Noble

***Spoilers from the previous two Vampire Empire books***

He was the Greyfriar, the mysterious swordsman of the north.  He was the consort of Empress Adele.  

Review:  First, let me begin by gushing about this cover.  All three of the books in this epic series, The Greyfriar, The Rift Walker and The Kingmakers are gorgeous.  These are some of my favorite covers to view.  I love how both main characters are portrayed.  It's a shame that this series was penned as a trilogy, because I would love to see more of these covers (not to mention read more of this story!).

The Kingmakers begins with a lengthy war scene.  The Greyfriar/Gareth is fighting alongside the Equatorian military as they are pushing northward into vampire territory.  Prince Cesare, the vampire King of England, has made it clear that he plans to overrun the Equatorians.  The Americans, led by Senator Clark are making progress in the new world, but the Equatorians are facing heavy losses in northern Europe.  The Greyfriar is excellent help in scouting and strategy against the vampires, but even with his skills and talent, the Equatorians are facing a major defeat.

Empress Adele can no longer sit idly by while her soldiers are dying by the masses.  She takes it upon herself to help save her men.  Of course, no one is happy about this turn of events, but this is one of the reasons why Adele is such a powerful and compelling heroine.  Adele will not sit by and watch destruction.  Although she knows that her powers could possible injure The Greyfriar, she travels to the war's front lines on her own, and takes matters into her own hands.  She doesn't ask Garreth for permission, and she doesn't let fear dictate her actions.  She understand the risks involved, but she is a consumate head of state.  She will do whatever is best for her people, no mind the risk to herself.  Adele has grown up a lot since the events of The Greyfriar.  When she first met Garreth, she was a teen-aged princess, not accustomed to ruling the world.  By the events in The Kingmakers, she has lived through political and personal betrayal, grown into her powers, become a leader of her nation, and followed her heart.  She has learned that she has a greater responsibility than to just her own happiness.

Her hair was unencumbered and went chaotic in the wind.  She was lovely, but not stunning.  Still, she exuded a personal authority that demanded attention.

The relationship between Garreth and Adele is one of the sweetest and most dedicated romances I have had the pleasure to read about.  Garreth and Adele are only really whole when they are with one another, yet both feel a larger responsibility to their people and their places in the world.  Adele has the power to destroy Garreth, and many times, after using this power to protect her or her men from Ceasre's vampires, Garreth cannot even be in the same room as her.  Garreth's family and old acquaintances would love to see Adele dead.  This is not an adult, sexy-time book.  There are romantic scenes, yet the physicality of their relationship is not what this book is about.  It is about these two powerful people, from very different backgrounds, who love each other more dearly than anything else in the world.  I really could go on and on about their relationship, but it would be best for you to read about it yourself!  It's hard to put into words how awesome this couple is.

The moment the door closed, he grabbed her arm and pulled her to him in a deep embrace.  She crushed against him, her mind filled only with the desire of him.  His leather glove held the nape of her neck and tilted her heard up as she pulled the cloth from his sharp-featured face so he could kiss her.  His long, dark hair brushed her face.  She thought only of the long days and nights without him, filled with worry and want.
There were so many times in this book where I thought there was no way for Adele and Garreth to survive this vampire war.  There were many close calls, and moments where I thought all was lost.  "Politics, deceit and death" were thrown at Adele and Gareth at every turn.  Adele's power is such that Garreth could very easily be destroyed.  The northern vampires are hell-bent on destroying Adele, including planting Equatorian assassins near her, so there is danger for this couple on all sides.  

"Never doubt my love for you, Adele.  How could I not love you?  Your mind and your heart never stop working; you never stop trying to find the right path.  There is always hope in you."

The side characters bring a different and layered texture to this story.  Trusted confidantes turn enemies, political allies turn to betrayal, and some loved ones do remain loyal to the Empress.  I must begin with the loyal, selfless and loving General Anhalt.   Anhalt has been like a second father to Adele.  Although he didn't originally approve of the romance between Gareth and Adele, he allowed Adele to make the decision on whom to trust.  As this book continues, Anhalt comes to respect Gareth and to see that the vampire truly does love Adele more than his own life.  Anhalt gave Gareth a chance to prove himself, which is more than anyone else in the Equatorian military would have allowed.  Anhlat also proves his loyalty to the Empress and Equatoria when he makes a selfless sacrifice in the name of all that is good.

Flay is just as evil as she has always been.  Unfortunately for Gareth and Adele, Flay is also highly intelligent and an excellent fighter.  Although she has feelings for Gareth and wants to be in a position of power, she does not take kindly to Gareth's regard for Adele.  When Gareth attempts to garner Flay's assistance, he doesn't take into account Flay's anger and pride.  It makes for a very interesting scene towards the end of this book.

Mamorou, oh Mamorou.  How you disappointed me!  I won't spoil what it is that Mamorou does in this book to make me hate him, but it was nothing that I expected.  I had an idea of what Mamorou planned, but was unprepared for the full scale of his ambition.  I liked his back story, but he always struck me as an honorable man.  Let's just say there's more to Mamorou than originally presented.

The sarcastic, sardonic humor that Clay and Susan Griffith have used in previous books is present in The Kingmakers.  This is not a laugh-out-loud type of humor, but a sneaky, intelligent humor.  Gareth and Adele are nothing if not amusing. Even during the worst of times, they tend to make observations about their surroundings or one another that had me grinning. Here is an exchange between Gareth and Adele:

"But he is a fearsome warrior.  Known far and wide as the deadliest hunter his kind has yet produced.  In fact, Gareth is credited with the killing of -"  Adele touched his sleeve as her lips quirked upward.  "Um, yes.  We get the point.  Prince Gareth is a god among vampires."  The swordsman lowered his head with a rebuked cough.  "Well, he is known to be quite impressive is my only point."
The ending of this book was intense.  It seems there is no path to happiness for Adele and Gareth, and that destruction is sure to follow them.  I was on the edge of my seat while reading the last couple of chapters, as if I were lost in a fairy tale.  The ending was satisfying, yet not my favorite type of ending.  There was an open-ended feel to it, and there are still questions I'd like answered.  The authors have said that this series was only imagined as a trilogy, but I feel they have more to explore with these characters in this lovely world they have created.

If you are a fan of fantasy and steampunk, or epic, romantic stories, or like dark and gritty fairy-tale-type books, than I urge you to pick up this series.  It is one of the most well-written and intelligent UFs that I have had the pleasure of reading.  Thanks to Clay and Susan Griffith for penning one of my more cherished stories!  I look forward to seeing what these two write in the future.

She would never stop loving him no matter where their paths led them.  Never would she have regrets. 


Herding Cats - Burning Soup said...

Wow sounds like an intense read and really fantastic. I hadn't heard of them before but will definitely add them to my tbr list. Loving the cover too. It really does draw you in and paint a picture :)

Jamie said...

I can't tell you how much I love this series. It's an epic story, written so very well, with a great love story.

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