The Rift Walker (Vampire Empire #2) by Clay and Susan Griffith
September 20, 2011; Prometheus Books
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 Walker is 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. (courtesy of Goodreads)
The Vampire Empire series is one of those rare creatures where almost everyone who gives it a chance falls head over heels in love. It is probably the most sophisticated, action-oriented, and romantic vampire series I've read to date. I had high expectations for The Rift Walker after reading Greyfriar and luckily it did not disappoint.
Greyfriar and Adele are even better characters in The Rift Walker than in Greyfriar. I liked that the authors avoided the common second novel theme in which the happy couple is torn apart and remains separated throughout most of the novel. In The Rift Walker, Greyfriar and Adele begin the novel apart but are soon reunited. From that point, they are a team.
Adele and Greyfriar are definitely a partnership in every meaning of the world. Adele is increasingly coming into her own knowledge of geomancy and able to use the powers to possesses. Moreover, she is a stronger person - more mature, more determined, and more morally certain. Greyfriar is definitely my favorite character. Unlike most male heroes, Greyfriar is not too proud to let Adele lead. Throughout much of this novel, Adele was at the advantage. The climate, terrain, and people were much easier for her to manage than Greyfriar. He had no problem in allowing her to take charge. Certainly he wanted and tried to protect her, but he recognized that she was no shrinking violet.
The side characters become increasingly complex in The Rift Walker. Colonel Anhalt is ever the loyal support. He places Adele's interest above all else, including his country. Mamoru is harder to characterize. He truly cares for Adele, but his desire to capitalize on Adele's geomancy powers leads him to take actions that seem deplorable. Senator Clark continues to be a somewhat cardboard foil to Adele and Greyfriar's love. He becomes even more odius in The Rift Walker. The main political characters in the novel, Lord Aden, the Emperor, Cesare, and Flay, also play an important role. The political and power-wielding machinations grow more complex and nefarious on both sides.
Edinburgh Castle is almost entirely absent from The Rift Walker. I missed glorious Scotland and characters like Morgana and Baudin. However, I admire the Griffiths for introducing a new setting. Adele and Greyfriar were on the run for most of the novel - running south. The book was full of tense scenes as they barely escaped their pursuers or faced enemies head on. The pacing was a little slow in the beginning, but once Greyfriar and Adele got back together so many different things occurred that the book flowed quickly.
The only criticism I can come up with for this series is that I still have difficulty understanding the idea of geomancy. It's not for lack of explanation as both books speak about it in significant detail. However, I still don't see why the rifts create energy and why Adele is able to channel that energy more than others. Perhaps it will make sense as the book goes on, but if not, it doesn't interfere with my enjoyment of the book.