Audiobook Review: The Rift Walker by Clay and Susan Griffith

25 03 2013

The Rift Walker by Clay and Susan Griffith (Vampire Empire, Book 2)

Read by James Marsters

Buzzy Multimedia

Length: 13 Hrs 35 Min

Genre: Fantasy Adventure

Quick Thoughts: The Rift Walker is a grand adventure so fun and fast you almost forget about the depths and detail that the authors built into the world. It not just a worthy follow-up to the first novel, but an exponential expansion of what made that novel work. The Rift Walker should please fans of work as diverse as Game of Thrones and The Scarlet Pimpernel or just anyone who loves a strong Princess and the masked hero at her side.

Grade: A

Today, I want to talk about a specific literary type that has been increasingly driving me crazy and that is the douchebag. It seems every book nowadays has to have a douchebag in it. Now, for those of you who aren’t as accomplished in the vagaries of literary terminology, a douchebag is a character that is on the same side as our hero, tends to be skilled and useful and has a great potential to become a true leader, yet ruins it all by acting like a complete assnozzle. This person often has earned the respect of a key group, yet manages put all that respect in jeopardy by acting like a pretentious shitbird. This person is typically, but not always, a male character of an adult level who instead of taking valuable information provided by someone who was placed in a specific situation to gain such information chooses not to utilize or believe it because it comes from someone who they just can’t find it in their heart to believe because they are a women, or a teenager, or someone from a lower class or differing ethnicity, but in reality it’s simply because it conflicts with their own beliefs and may prevent them from taking an action, no matter how potentially disastrous, that they have already decided to take. Basically, they are a condescending bigoted asshat wasting their potential because their minds are just too small to consider anyone else’s opinion valuable particularly by those who they have simply decided are unworthy for arbitrary reasons. I hate douchebags. I seethe with a righteous anger every time they make their totally despicable bombastic and ultimately stupid pronouncements. What’s worse is, often times, the douchebag has the potential to redeem themselves, but then continue in their own douchebaggy ways, and when this way leads to disaster for them, they are shocked. They are amazed that this person they discounted doesn’t wilt before them, giving into their bullying ways. What makes it worse is, this person could have everything, if they just treated people with a bit of respect, and when they don’t they blame it on the person they bullies, badgered mistreated and overlooked. This is why, often when the truly evil character gives it to the douchebag, you sort of end up cheering for the bad guy, because everyone likes to see the douchebag get got.

The Rift Walker is the follow up to the Audie nominated The Greyfriar, the first book of the Vampire Empire trilogy. As The Rift Walker begins, Princess Adele, still longing for The Greyfriar, is set to marry Senator Clark to cement the alliance between Equatoria and America for the upcoming war with the Vampires of the British clans. Clarke, who is, well, a bit of an arrogant jerk, is frustrated with her delays, and pushes for a quick wedding. When The Greyfriar learns Vampires are planning to attack the wedding, he must act thus setting off more potential for adventure, and daring do. The Rift Walker is another rip roaring action packed novel that blends modern day fantasy with the classics, creating one of the grandest adventure tales today. Honestly, The Rift Walker is just pure fun. Sure, there’s drama and intrigue and a little bit of that kissy kissy romance stuff and I often found myself frustrated by character’s actions or enraged at another shocking betrayal, but the underlining feel of the entire novel is fun. As I followed The Greyfriar and Adele on their adventures, I couldn’t help but reminisce on those days watching movies staring actors like Errol Flynn where our heroes threw themselves into every adventure, but with just a bit of style that you don’t seem to find anymore. Add to that political maneuverings like a Game of Thrones-Lite, yet still full of brutality and twisted evil. The Rift Walker moved us away from the savagery of the Vampire Courts and showed us that the remnants of humanity can have just as much animalistic brutality. The action took us from the cities of Equatoria to the mountains of Africa, with individual daring, large scaled epic battles and unleashed magic galore.  We met new clans of both humans and Vampires expanding the already fascinating world the Griffiths had created. If you can’t tell, I absolutely loved listening to this audiobook. There were moments I simply wanted to cheer as if I was in a packed movie house, forgetting I was simply an audience of one. One of the things I love is how it turns the whole masked hero and damsel in distress trope on its head, even poking fun at it at times. Adele does just as much rescuing as her supposed champion, and is full of a power even greater than any man within these pages. She is the true hero of this tale, and any man who dismisses her, does it at his own peril. The Rift Walker is a grand adventure so fun and fast you almost forget about the depths and detail that the authors built into the world. It not just a worthy follow-up to the first novel, but an exponential expansion of what made that novel work. The Rift Walker should please fans of work as diverse as Game of Thrones and The Scarlet Pimpernel or just anyone who loves a strong Princess and the masked hero at her side.

There is only one thing that is keeping me from grabbing the print version of the third book of this series, The Kingermakers, which is currently available in print and that’s the excellent narration of James Marsters. Really people, I want to know what happens next, but I must wait until the tale is in the more than capable hands of Marsters. Marsters makes the action of this novel simply leap off the page, and right into my brain. He has a way of bringing the story alive, making me feel as if I was flying through the air with the vampires, or slogging my way through the dangerous mountain overpasses with the human armies. One of the things I find interesting about this world is how all the traditional ethnic understanding is thrown for a loop. Due to the migration after the Great Killing, where the great kingdoms of humanity moved into the tropical regions to escape the vampires, Equatoria becomes a hodgepodge of ethnic groups, of European, African, Middle Eastern and South Asian descents. This gives Marsters a bit of freedom and creativity in the blending of accents and he makes great use of it. Each locale is given its own bit of flavor, with Indian, Middle Eastern and African tilts as well as the traditional European standards. Marsters creates so much out of the canvas the author’s provide, creating a beautiful and unique twist to this fantasy world. His true gift is in his pacing, creating a cinematic feel for this story. The Rift Walker is a wonderful production, a great blending of content and performance and definitely one of my top listens of this year.

Note: Thanks to Buzzy Multimedia for providing me with a copy of this title for review.





Audiobook Review: The Greyfriar: Vampire Empire Book One by Clay and Susan Griffith

20 03 2012

The Greyfriar (Vampire Empire Book One) by Clay and Susan Griffith

Read by James Marsters

Buzzy Multimedia

Length: 10 Hrs 41 Min

Genre: Alternate History Steampunk Vampires

Quick Thoughts: The Greyfriar is a rollicking fun start to a series with great potential. With a lot of vicious Vampires and adventurous derring-do, the first installment of the Vampire Empire lives defies expectations and breaths new life into the Vampire subgenre. Marsters’ narration combined with the fun feel of this novel makes its translation to audiobook seamless, and should win the authors whole new slew of loyal fans.

Grade: B+

2013 Audie Nomination for Paranormal

I’ll admit, I never heard of The Vampire Empire series or of Clay and Susan Griffith until last summer when it was announced that James Marsters was going to narrate the trilogy. I had just been coming off the 7 stages of grief due to Marsters scheduling conflict that left him unable to narrate the latest Dresden Files audiobook, finally accepting that John Glover’s performance wasn’t a sign of the apocalypse, I gasped aloud when I read the words Marsters and audiobook in the same sentence. When I read the description, discovering that the first novel The Greyfriar was an alternate history Steampunk Vampire novel, I was all “meh.” Not that there is anything wrong with alternate history Steampunk Vampire novels. I am a big fan of alternate history, especially the works of SM Stirling and Harry turtledove. While Steampunk isn’t my favorite, I have read and enjoyed works by Cherie Priest and Theodore Judson. It’s the Vampire thing that holds me up. I don’t hate Vampires, one of my all time favorite novels, I am Legend is about Vampires, and Stephen King’s Salem’s Lot was a novel I read multiple times as a teenage. In fact, there are plenty of books where Vampires play a supporting role in that I love. Yet, recently books featuring Vampires have disappointed me. Sure, everyone cam complain about those sparkly vampires, and if it was just those I would be cool, but it seems like every time I get excited by a novel about vampires I get let down. I found Guillermo Del Toro and Chuck Hogan’s Strain trilogy to be ho hum. I enjoyed The Passage, but they are about as far away from Vampires as you can get in fiction. Even Stirling, who can typically do no wrong in my opinion, put out an Urban Fantasy Vampire novel that I found just dreadful. So, despite my excitement of a new series narrated by Marsters, I went into my listening of The Greyfriar with many reservations.

In 1870, Vampires, believed to be only figures of myth and Legend, rose up in mass to slaughter the majority of the world’s civilization. The surviving humans are driven South to the tropical climates where the Vampires aversion to heat keeps them from going. Now, 150 years later, as the two Human Great Empires of Equatoria and America begin contemplating an alliance to bring War to the clans of Vampires occupying the great lost cities, an ill-fated mission to the borderlands leaves the Princess Adele in the hands of the most vicious of Vampire rulers. Yet, the legendary Greyfriar, the champion of the free humans will risk his life, and secrets to rescue the Princess and bring her to safety. The Greyfriar was not what I expected in the least. For some reason I had expected an intricately detailed political saga, with the major players maneuvering themselves for an upcoming war. Instead, The Greyfriar is an exciting, almost pulpish action thriller full of wonderful characters and harrowing adventure. The Greyfriar is not A Game of Thrones with Vampires, but instead has an old time feel of classics such as The Scarlet Pimpernel, the Zorro pulps and Dumas’ The Three Musketeers. To make things better, Clay and Susan Griffith have breathed new life into Vampires. These are not the undead Euro-Vamps you see too much of in fiction. These Vampires are a living, breathing subspecies of humanity. In stripping away much of the mythos of Vampires, the authors make them even more monstrous. Even the exception, the one Vampire who is fascinated by humanity and sympathetic to their plight, only highlights the brutality of his kind.  Some of the characters fall victim to a bit of cardboard stereotyping, with the pompous American blowhard, and the priggish bureaucrat, yet even those characters have potential for interesting development in the upcoming sequels. The main character of the story Adele is a fun update to the classic damsel in distress trope. She is a strong, yet often frustrating woman full of secrets even she is unaware of. The Greyfriar is a rollicking fun start to a series with great potential. With a lot of vicious Vampires and adventurous derring-do, the first installment of the Vampire Empire lives defies expectations and breaths new life into the Vampire subgenre.

I was quite interested in how James Marsters narration would play out in a third person, multi-character novel. For me, he has become the signature first person voice of Jim Butcher’s Harry Dresden character. His ability to become an engaging first person voice was what impressed me most about his narration, and kept me listening to a series with some rough spots. Marsters’ performance in The Greyfriar truly displays his growth as a narrator. He reads the prose with a confidence voice, handling the early world-building exposition smoothly, guiding us quickly into the meat of the novel. His pacing on the many action scenes is crisp, and never rushed, allowing us to fully envision the scenarios the authors had set up. He handles the multiple accents well, giving Princess Adele an exotic flavor and filling the bombastic of Senator Clarke with an almost sardonic humor. Marsters narration combined with the fun feel of this novel makes its translation to audiobook seamless, and should win the authors whole new slew of loyal fans, including me.

Note: A special thanks to Buzzy Multimedia for providing me with a copy of this title for review. This Audiobook will be released March 22, 2012.