Wednesday, March 21, 2012
Bastard Reaction: The Rift Walker by Clay & Susan Griffith
Once I finished up The Greyfriar, I dove right into The Rift Walker. As mentioned in the debut's review, an extremely fun novel, but noted some grievances I had with it. So started reading the sequel with some trepidation and leveled my expectations; I shouldn't have. The Rift Walker took all my concerns and rendered them moot. If Clay & Susan Griffith's debut was a good one, then The Rift Walker is an excellent sequel in the Vampire Empire series.
War has been averted for the time being, though concerns still remain and the possibility of retaliation is being planned. The citizenry have romanticized through numerous plays and stories the possibility of a relationship of Greyfriar with their Princess Adele. In the meantime she's set to be wed to Senator Clark and finally forge the alliance between their respective empires, and the date is fast approaching; Adele has been trying to avoid it. The vampires are on the move, and they're planning something big, maybe even catastrophic with the cunning Cesare leading the way.
I described The Greyfriar as a very fun, but unbalanced novel. It was action packed, but a bit uneven on the plot progression and some of the character interaction. I'm glad to say, that as far as I'm concerned, these issues were fixed in The Rift Walker. While still having plenty of action, it was more sparse allowing many of the underlying elements to come to the forefront to be developed. This is particularly true with how the political intrigue gets into the meat of the story and makes it that much more interesting. I've always felt that a good political intrigue, no matter how small a part it has, really has the potential to enhance a story exponentially. The misuse of it in the debut novel hurt it in my opinion, but it made The Rift Walker that much richer for me. It added another layer to the plot and actually gave it the support it needed, making it stronger.
Going back to the character interaction aspect, once again much improved, particularly with the interaction between Princess Adele and Greyfriar. The dialogue was more natural and abundant, and despite my usual reservations about romantic elements, some of it was introduced to the story which I thought was for the better. They got a good dynamic going, with its usual up and downs, but I think there are some interesting things going on between those two. I just hope that the balance that exists at the moment remains.
Outside of the two main characters great strides were also made, I thought just about every character that has been introduced in the story to this point became plenty better, a marked step in the right direction. Even Senator Clark, who I figured to be annoying in the first book. Still annoying as heck, but Clay & Susan made it work, even making fun of the character's buffoonery which is a sign that the authors know what they actually have with him. There was also Cesare, a prince among vampires and the main antagonist, who I thought was misused in the first book as his tactics were inconsistent and underwhelming, really shines in this one. Lastly, recognition has to be given to two of my favorite side characters, Mamoru and Colonel Anhalt particularly since they were given plenty of exposure, as opposed to being relegated to obscurity.
The only real complaint that I recall having through the book is that pace could have been better. This time the story takes a while to develop, and there were some slow, maybe even dull moments, during the middle portions. While I'm usually a patient man, I think the story progression could have used some speeding up, while still remaining detailed. The good thing is that through all of this we get plenty of interesting developments, plot twists and we get plenty of world building; learned about the history of the world and the place of magic in it.
Speaking of world building, once again I have to compliment of the steampunk devices that have been introduced. They fit just right with all other aspects of what has been created, making the action plenty interesting and well balanced with magic and other supernatural aspects. That said, I hope we get even more of the steampunk variety going forward, there's plenty of room for it. And of course, the magic gets a bigger focus this time around, so looking to see what more they can do with it. Lastly, the world is expanding. We're entering new territories, delving deeper into Africa and we also got a few glimpses of life in North America. Asia has been mentioned, so I wonder if we'll get there at some point too.
These books have been quite action packed, and though in The Rift Walker it was a bit less so, when the action comes it comes hard and quite violent. It can get a bit graphic at times, but not overdone. Let's call it tasteful violence. But let's just say, that the story doesn't shy away from creating a bloodbath when it calls for it. And when coupled with the improved plot progression and the numerous plot twists the novel introduced, it simply makes for very good entertaining read.
My main complaints to this point have been about characterization, about plot progression, about balance, about consistency, about character interaction. I think I've said enough to illustrate how The Rift Walker has improved upon these issues. And let's not forget that I also had mentioned about the inconsistency of how warm weather affects vampires, and that's also addressed in this one, and put to good use. The characters have been given more depth, more moral ambiguities, and simply became less predictable throughout. Betrayals and trust issues abound, never quite knowing who we can rely on, adding to the suspense of an already improving plot.
This is one of those books that I feel make a good crossover between the YA market and the adult market, in a similar vein to that of Blake Charlton's Spellwright books have been doing, but only in that context. The story is not complex, it reads simple, but not simplistic. But it's building towards something more which has me plenty interested.
I simply loved reading The Rift Walker, thought it to be an outstanding follow-up to Clay & Susan Griffith's debut. I'm still of mind that the more discerning adult readers might not find much to their liking here, particularly those who look for more challenging reads, but this is a book that I'll recommend with little hesitation, even to those that might have not found the first one to their liking. I'd have seen plenty of the aforementioned readers enjoying the heck of these books, so what do I know? It simply gave me exactly what I was looking to get out of the Vampire Empire series, and very much looking forward to the next installment, The Kingmakers.
Buy The Rift Walker from The Book Depository.
Please visit Clay & Susan Griffith's website and blog for more information.