The Kingmakers (Vampire Empire #3)
By Clay Griffith and Susan Griffith; Narrated by James Marsters
Publisher: Brilliance Audio
Publication Date: 29 January 2014
[UNABRIDGED] – 14 hours, 49 minutes
Themes: / vampires / steampunk / fantasy / post-apocalpyse /
The Kingmakers is the long-awaited climactic end to the Vampire Empire trilogy.Bogged down by winter warfare in Europe, humans are suffering crushing losses to the surprisingly well-organized vampire clans of the north. The courage and commitment of the Equatorian troops and their allies cannot hold out against the overwhelming onslaught of the enemy.Treachery from within deals the Equatorian forces greater damage than any delivered by the vampire hordes. The only weapon left capable of smashing through enemy lines and annihilating the packs is the Empress Adele herself. Her geomantic talent and skills are formidable, but she is just one person, and the very forces she can bring to bear are also slowly draining her of her life-force.Prince Gareth, the vampire lord of Scotland, known as The Greyfriar to the humans, both slave and free, is at a loss. His brother, Cesare, has outmaneuvered him at every turn. Brilliant, ruthless and without honor, Cesare is confident in his ability to control destiny. His goal is to become king of kings and ruler of the world. Unless the rightful heir, Gareth, can prevent him from assuming their father’s throne, Cesare’s unified vampire clans will destroy Equatoria’s forces and set humanity, if it survives, back a hundred years.
This is the third book of what we could call a steampunk vampire trilogy. I still like the first book the best but this one competes with the second as far as things go. The story once again carries a strong sense of Beauty and the Beast mixed with Romeo and Juliet with a strong steampunk flair. If you liked the first two books, you’ll like this book since everything wraps up rather nicely in the end. One ding I had was that I still didn’t think there was a satisfactory explanation of why Gareth is different from the other vampires. More on that…
This book is very similar to the previous two books to the point that they kind of blur together in my mind when I think back on it. The steampunk aspect is kicked up a notch with some mech suit / tanks in this one but you’ll mainly see lots of swordplay, gunfire, goggles, and airships again. These are some of the things that kind of run together on me mainly because many of the same characters are involved in similar scenes but the overall plot obviously moves forward to a satisfactory conclusion.
Don’t get me wrong – there are many good things that have carried over from the previous two books. The language and prose used in the previous books still give the feel of characters stuck in the past caused by the vampire attack. The action is crazy and fun with lots of epic battles ranging across Europe. The characters are likable for the most part, although Gareth can be a bit one-dimensional sometimes (His primary motivation seems to be his love for Adele to the discount of everything else).
Speaking of Gareth, I still don’t understand why he is different from all other vampires (I guess you could say his manservant shares his values but he also seems kind of like he’s reluctantly dealing with a neurotic master). There was this whole explanation about how Gareth’s father didn’t like wasting things but that doesn’t seem to explain how he could go from seeing people as food to loving a human to the level he does. Even his friend in Paris held similar values but not to the extremes Gareth does. I’d hoped for something like what happened with Angel on Buffy but it was kind of left out there.
As for the audio side of things, I still enjoyed James Marsters’ performance this third time around. He speaks well, uses recognizable voices, and is a pleasure to listen to. I would say that I’d go out looking for books narrated by him, but that’s why I listened to this trilogy in the first place ;-).
Posted by Tom Schreck
Vincent Price hosts this adaptation of J. Sheridan Le Fanu’s classic vampire story. The setting is changed, moving the events up to 1922, and placing the action in Vienna. Price begins the program quoting these lines from Lord Byron’s 1813 poem, The Giaour:
Bur first, on earth as Vampire sent,
Thy corse shall from its tomb be rent:
Then ghastly haunt thy native place,
And suck the blood of all thy race;
Sears Radio Theater – Carmilla
Adapted from the novella by Sheridan Le Fanu; Performed by a full cast
1 |MP3| – Approx. 47 Minutes [RADIO DRAMA]
Broadcast: March 7, 1979
[image by Dean Kotz]
Posted by Jesse Willis
Told as if from 70 years after the events, this adaptation of the classic of Gothic Fiction, is very very good. For more opinions check out the comments over on the CBSRMT.com page for this episode.
CBSRMT #0318 – Carmilla
Adapted by Ian Martin from the novellette by J. Sheridan Le Fanu; Performed by a full cast
1 |MP3| – Approx. 44 Minutes [RADIO DRAMA]
Broadcast: July 31, 1975
In 20th century Austria, a young woman and her widower father are charged with the welfare of a female ward. The two girls grow up like sisters but a terrible secret in the orphan’s past threatens to tear their lives asunder.
And here the |PDF| of the original story.
Posted by Jesse Willis
Talked about on today’s show:
1981, to a professor of Slavic languages, H.P. Lovecraft, Robert E. Howard, Clark Ashton Smith, the “First Age”, Hyperborea, At The Mountains Of Madness, The Mound, high fantasy, monstrous survivals, “two-fisted mighty thewed”, meeting the monster, this is not Lovecraft anymore, “big speeches very evil”, the movie, HBO, the sword is a laser beam?, that thing from Krull?, like Skeletor but less impressive, D’Spayre (Marvel Comics), “I expected you to come in evening-wear”, “He’s not Hitler”, WWII, can you use evil to fight evil, Cuza, shades of grey, chancellorship, “are you with the forces of good?”, a pretty amazing book, the Adversary Cycle, The Tomb, the “Repairman Jack” cycle, Equalizer-style, ancient Hindu mythology, deeply interested in its subject, re-reads, “written with the energy and verve and economy of a pulp novel all the themes, and character and depth of a literary novel”, Protecting Project Pulp, yellow peril, “I’ve heard Lovecraft was good for sales”, Conan The Barbarian (1982), Thulsa Doom, red hair and olive skin, a mystery novel, making assumptions, is Glen a Templar?, “What’s in the box?”, Portugal, Spain, Wales, a little map, not a castle, not a keep, built backwards, go kill Hitler, The Salem’s Lot route, a mute Nosferatu, the seduction of Cuza, Glen is a morally ambiguous character, Magda is the main character, the resonance of the title, Rasalom, Hitler, Molosar, the SS dude (Kaempffer), Woermann, moving the date 1941 to 1942, in 1941 there really is no hope (as opposed to 1942), Twitter, which evil is worse?, Gabriel Byrne, Sir Ian McKellen, WWI, the Spanish Civil War, the Condor Legion, the German anti-fascist legion, “you collaborate with anti Wallachians?”, punch-ups, Germany back on its feet, dissension in the ranks, The Psychology Of Power, George W. Bush, Obama was reading Team Of Rivals, torturing folks but not prosecuting folks, John’s second book, The Beast Within by Edward Levy, The Shining by Stephen King, Dungeons & Dragons, Pnakotic Manuscripts, Cuza uses the manuscripts as a red herring, you can’t destroy knowledge, when Jesse was less sophisticated, somebody’s got to be the publisher that published Mein Kampff, Dianetics, maybe you’re not as committed to the cause?, letting the adults slide, the Hitler Youth was mandatory, excuses might have been deadly, The Machine Gunners by Robert Westall, school children were terrifying, Nineteen-Eighty Four, informing on mommy and daddy, The Cultural Revolution, Die Brucke (aka The Bridge), Volkssturm, MG-42, April 27th, 1945, Doctor Who, Beau Geste, Magneto (Marvel Comics), J. Michael Straczynski, J.R.R. Tolkien, the Vorlons and the Shadows, Chaos and Order, put these old gods to bed, maybe I can finally die, appeasement, Glaeken returns, The Strain by Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan is a retelling of Dracula and Salem’s Lot, more gloopy gloppy blood, John Carpenter’s The Thing, this book has zombies, traditional zombies, the rats, the muddy boots, the fingers, the reversal, Molosar sounds like a mid-dark age wizard or Romanian lord, Rasalom sounds like a Doctor Who character or Absalom, Mordred, Woermann -> War Man, Kempffer -> fighter, Magda -> Mary Magdalene, Cuza -> count, Glen -> valley, Glaeken -> Glaaki (Ramsey Campbell), the Fungi From Yuggoth sonnet cycle, The Courtyard, Neonomicon by Allan Moore and Jacen Burrows, Aklo,
It was the city I had known before;
The ancient, leprous town where mongrel throngs
Chant to strange gods, and beat unhallowed gongs
In crypts beneath foul alleys near the shore.
The rotting, fish-eyed houses leered at me
From where they leaned, drunk and half-animate,
As edging through the filth I passed the gate
To the black courtyard where the man would be.
The dark walls closed me in, and loud I cursed
That ever I had come to such a den,
When suddenly a score of windows burst
Into wild light, and swarmed with dancing men:
Mad, soundless revels of the dragging dead –
And not a corpse had either hands or head!
the headless corpse, “leave my house”, shaping Cuza, we get tricked, there’s something you’ve both overlooked, “Draculian harmonics”, old Slavonic, he can’t be both ignorant and knowledgeable, psychological warfare, Molasar is so much smarter, Cuza is super-manipulative, double bluff, the Dracula mystique, Molasar has to be telepathic, Bela Lugosi, Christopher Lee, Woermann mentions having seen a pirated version of Nosferatu, Molasar was aware of Cuza’s previous visits, he’s had a lot of time to think, bad dreams, he’s not interested in crumbs, the Popes forgot about it, the battery for the enchantment of the keep, the evil events begin on April 30th (Walpurgisnacht), the birds as a barometer of evil, no sequel possible, a blue winged bid with a beak full of straw, Moroi, Highlander, Highlander II (the worst movie ever made), “that’s the quickening McLeod”, a Spanish Egyptian with a Scottish accent, where did Highlander come from?, magic swords drinking power, a katana for cutting wasabi, 1980s movies came out of nowhere (seemingly), Elric (Michael Moorcock), Highlander: The Series, The Red One by Jack London, collecting heads, headless soldiers are unthinking soldiers, puppets of dark sorcery, vampires have the power to heal?, True Blood, did Cuza get the illness as a part of Molasar’s long game?
Posted by Jesse Willis
By Ilona Andrews; Narrated by Renee Raudman
Publisher: Brilliance Audio
Publication Date: March 2014
[UNABRIDGED] – 8 hours
Themes: / urban fantasy / Texas / magic / bed and breakfast / werewolves / vampires /
On the outside, Dina Demille is the epitome of normal. She runs a quaint Victorian Bed and Breakfast in a small Texas town, owns a Shih Tzu named Beast, and is a perfect neighbor, whose biggest problem should be what to serve her guests for breakfast.
But Dina is…different: Her broom is a deadly weapon; her Inn is magic and thinks for itself. Meant to be a lodging for otherworldly visitors, the only permanent guest is a retired Galactic aristocrat who can’t leave the grounds because she’s responsible for the deaths of millions and someone might shoot her on sight. Under the circumstances, “normal” is a bit of a stretch for Dina. And now, something with wicked claws and deepwater teeth has begun to hunt at night….
Feeling responsible for her neighbors, Dina decides to get involved. Before long, she has to juggle dealing with the annoyingly attractive, ex-military, new neighbor, Sean Evans—an alpha-strain werewolf—and the equally arresting cosmic vampire soldier, Arland, while trying to keep her inn and its guests safe. But the enemy she’s facing is unlike anything she’s ever encountered before. It’s smart, vicious, and lethal, and putting herself between this creature and her neighbors might just cost her everything.
Clean Sweep is an urban fantasy-type book with some interesting twists. Unfortunately, the narrator of the audiobook had a voice that didn’t fit the character and was so out of place that it made the book very difficult to listen to.
Dina is an innkeeper, a woman who runs a B&B in Texas. Her inn has magical properties and she has magical capabilities, her role being that of a neutral protector in a version of Earth/USA that includes normal humans but also has vampires, werewolves, and other magical beasts. The main thrust of the story is that Dina’s inn becomes the site for a showdown between two sides in a big family disagreement, though the book was more than halfway through before any of this became evident. The first half (or slightly more) of the book was world building and character introduction more than it was purely essential to the plot.
In Clean Sweep, Ilona Andrews has some interesting ideas about magic. I think I might be persuaded to read another book set in this world/series, assuming it was quicker to get to the point/didn’t do as much world-building, and assuming that I read it, not listened to it (or that the narrator was someone else). In Ms. Andrews’ world, the magical entities are by and large aliens from other worlds who find themselves on earth for a variety of reasons. What appears to be magic to “normal” people is actually uber nanotechnology or other futuristic technologies at work from alien worlds. There are many aggressive entities, such as the werewolves and vampires, but there are also places like the Inns, the Switzerland’s of the magical world. Innkeepers are to take no sides and to protect whoever signs the contract and pays to be a guest at the inn.
All of this goes awry when some creatures known as stalkers start killing dogs in the town where Dina’s inn is. At first, she believes that a local werewolf named Sean is to blame, but after killing two (with the help of Sean) and studying them, she comes to find out that these creatures may have been hired by vampires as part of a massive (and deadly) family feud. The world-building is mainly done by Dina explaining how the “magic” came to be to Sean, who knows nothing of the history of his species’ home planet or how his species came to earth. Through these explanations and through Dina’s preparations to help protect the vampires who are staying at the inn, the reader learns about other worlds, wormholes, and the true source of “magic.”
The book also has a side plot that was touched briefly upon, a story of Dina’s parents’ inn vanishing one day. Dina does a bit through the course of the narrative to try to find them, but it seems fairly obvious that it’s a side thread to be explored in later books/as a series arc. While most of the book is purely urban fantasy, there are also some hot and steamy scenes that are typically found in romance novels. Many urban fantasy books these days seem to have these scenes, whether they add to the story or not (in this case, not). There is also a possible threat, the local police officer thinking Dina is up to no good, but that thread is unceremoniously dropped just before the main thread of the story picks up, about halfway through. It’s not clear if this topic will be revisited in later books or if it was just an editing miss.
Clean Sweep is a fairly typical, action-packed urban fantasy story. There aren’t any deeper themes or morals to be had from it, though the idea of magic as uber technology is kind of fun. The book, once the actual plot started, was pretty quick to go through and fairly simple/straight-forward. This isn’t a book that’s going to make you think, or require lots of focused reading time to enjoy.
The only major negative is with the audiobook specifically. Dina is supposed to be a 23 year old woman living in Texas. Unfortunately, she sounds like an old grandmother from the deep south. The voice and the description of the character just don’t align. The narrator’s voices for the men were surprisingly good, but her overall voice just sounded old and tired. In parts where there was a lot of action, she actually sounded even worse, over dramatizing her voice acting. I actually thought she was going to die a few times. It was downright uncomfortable and annoying to listen to, and I cannot recommend the audiobook. If another book in this series is released, I may give it a go in print/Kindle, but won’t be listening again unless the narrator changes.
Posted by terpkristin.
The Rift Walker (Vampire Empire #2)
By Clay and Susan Griffith; Read by James Marsters
Publisher: Brilliance Audio
[UNABRIDGED] – 14 hours
Themes: / vampires / steampunk / fantasy / post-apocalpyse / humanism /
The Rift Walker is the second installment in the Vampire Empire book trilogy. Set in a post-apocalyptic world, this tale of courage, sacrifice, and heroism takes place against the backdrop of an age of steam and rational humanism, where the social elite have rejected religion and spiritualism as nothing more than quaint superstition.
Brutal Vampire Clans rule half the world keeping human herds for food, and Princess Adele, heir to the throne of Equatoria, is faced with grim choices. War is imminent and her marriage to the odious Senator Clark of America will cement an alliance uniting the Equatorian Empire and the American Republic. This integration of war machines is to be the opening volley in the campaign to reclaim the Northern Hemispheres. Unfortunately, Adele’s betrothed has a bloodthirsty war strategy, one the Princess finds as repulsive as the actions of the vampires they fight.
Moments in advance of the Princess’s marriage to the Senator, the Geryfriar, legendary champion of the human resistance, rescues Adele before vampire assassins can murder her. While on the run from the agents of Prince Cesare, the acting Clan Lord of the Northern Vampires, Adele seeks to discover a way to protect her beloved Equatoria and prevent the genocide Clark intends to implement, all while trying to free herself from an unwanted marriage. Meanwhile, Cesare’s agents have struck deep at the heart of Equatoria and will stop at nothing to keep Adele from ascending to the throne.
Treachery abounds; friendship, loyalties, and allegiances are tested. Will Princess Adele be able, with the help of her beloved Greyfriar, her devoted guard and faithful officer Anhalt, and her mentor Mamarou, to turn the tide before human civilization is forever shattered?
This review is going to read a lot like that of the first book in the series, The Greyfriar. If you read that book and enjoyed it, you’ll like this one too. Where the first book was kind of (Zorro + Beauty and the Beast + Vampires), this one kind of leans more toward Romeo and Juliet. The protagonists love each other but everyone from their respective houses pretty much hates on the other. Wrap all that up with another fantastic narration by James Marsters and this book is over before you know it.
I still like the way these books are written. The vocabulary and use of idioms gives the story an older feel that matches the semi-steam punk world where the story takes place. More of the less important characters even show a bit more depth in this story which was pretty nice. I like that there was clearly a bit of a plan in writing the trilogy and that some things were revealed in this book that I was wondering about since the first one.
I had some minor plot issues with the story but overall the whole thing went by very fast. This is in the description of the book so whatever: I don’t understand why the Greyfriar swoops in to the save the princess when he uncovers a plot to kill her and her betrothed….instead of trying to save them both or ration out the situation without making frenemies. I’m sure it’s something like “all he could think about was saving her” or “he didn’t know who to trust” but the way it was carried out didn’t really work well for me. There were a few other moments like this but they’re minor gripes at best.
As for the audio side of things, James Marsters did a fantastic job. You’ll once again hear many voices you recognize from Dresden but I didn’t have any problem keeping things straight in my head. I started this series because it’s read by him and I’m definitely not sad at the decision.
Book 3 here I come!
Posted by Tom Schreck