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.