The Rift Walker is a very good follow-up to the first novel in the Vampire Empire trilogy.
At the beginning, it’s a bit mopey and moves far too slowly. Adele is longing for her love (although, granted, I still think their love came about really instantaneously in the last book, and I would have liked a little more development of HOW they came to be that into each other; Adele really didn’t have as many struggles with the fact that the beloved Greyfriar was a vampire as she should have, and it all seemed a bit too easy). She is waiting to be married, and dreading her union with the boisterous Senator Clark. She starts learning about the powers she’d discovered in book one, and it becomes clear that Adele is way more powerful than anyone could have ever imagined.
However, the book really picks up about a hundred pages in when on her wedding day, Greyfriar saves the day, pulling her out just before the wedding is truly finalized because his evil brother, Cesare, is planning to kill her. They escape Alexandria, eventually joined by Adele’s loyal guard Colonel Anhalt, and exciting adventures ensue! Murders, magic, political uprisings, secret identities revealed, and lots and lots of violent battles.
Like the last book, The Rift Walker has a great balance of romance, adventure, darkness, fantasy, steampunk, and just a little bit of humour. Unlike the last book, the pacing was a little off; the beginning was very, very slow, and could have used some whittling down, while the last half was completely action-packed; there were no dull moments, and the writers really know how to keep readers turning the pages.
The magic touched upon in the prequel gets a bigger part in this book. The concept of geomancy was much better explained, and I felt it was extremely creative and unique. I loved the idea of rifts, and the way the writers described the magic in itself. I do hope there’s going to be more of an explanation in the third book as to why Adele is so insanely powerful, though.
Which leads me into some problems I had. Some of them cross over from book one, while some of them are only issues that I really considered after beginning book two.
First: Adele is a little too powerful. She’s a brilliant Empress, and that’s what I like best about her character. She is charismatic, commanding, strategic, and knows exactly what she needs to do to motivate people and rally them. But the problem is that aside from being a genius at politics and also being the surprisingly powerful geomancer who puts all other geomancers to shame, she is somehow an extremely fantastic warrior woman who somehow has learned to do battle better than many other people. She knows how to fence absurdly well, and is a master of hand-to-hand combat. There’s no real reason as to why Adele is so great at everything; I cannot imagine that her upbringing, which seems exceedingly typical of female royalty, would allow for her to train her skills in battle.
Second: I absolutely adore the idea of vampires being a completely different species. But that poses a couple of problems. These problems are typical things that arise from vampire books, but in most vampire books they AREN’T problems, because in most mythologies, vampires have once been human and have died. One thing that almost always happens in these books and movies and TV shows is that the lead romantic vampire often identifies with humanity in some way; in Twilight, which I hate but still provides a pretty good example, the Cullen family becomes “vegetarian” because they seem to prefer humanity over other vampires. That makes sense, in a strange way; even though they are themselves vampires, they were once human, and identify more with that part of themselves than the monstrous part.
In Vampire Empire, vampires are a completely separate species from humans, like tigers are completely different than house cats. Same genus, different species. House cats don’t sit around wondering why they’re not like tigers. Therefore, it doesn’t make sense why Gareth wants SO BADLY to be human. Because … he never was a human. He never will be human. While I do understand why he might be fascinated by human culture, I cannot possibly understand how he could hope to be a human; how he could side with humans over vampires. I need a good reason as to why this is happening, why he’s fighting his kind secretly.
Third: I don’t like how quickly the whole situation between Gareth and Adele was resolved. I’m not talking about just the relationship; I’m talking about the fact that when Adele finds out that her growing powers can actually seriously hurt Gareth, even when she’s not intentionally using them, she just ups and says “Oh, okay guys, I guess I’ll never deal with my powers again, I’m just going to live with you forever and ever and ever,” and it literally lasts one paragraph or two. I cannot imagine that situation could even possibly have a solution in that short amount of time. I needed more depth there.
I loved a lot about this book, too; there are a lot of twists and turns in this installment; lots of betrayals, some unexpected deaths, and some forays into the more exotic aspects of the world the Griffiths have so deftly created. I especially enjoyed the fact that several other characters find out Greyfriar’s true identity in this one; it upped the drama and the stakes quite a bit. But it is also important to note that while the books so far are fun, well-written, and very compelling, some important aspects, like the motives or the whys, are somehow absent.
I’m looking forward to reading book number three!