The VAMPIRE EMPIRE series is an interesting combination of almost-steampunk, alternative history and fantasy all wrapped together. Clay and Susan Griffith have used a solid mixture of adventure, intrigue and world building to create a vibrant tapestry as the background for the story. In The Kingmakers all of this grows more and more intense as war rages and the battle for the survival of two different races grows more desperate.
Adele, now Empress of Equitoria, has unleashed her armies on the European continent despite the setbacks in the seasons and the loss of some of her more important weapons of war. Gareth, in his Greyfriar persona, is in the midst of the fight and doing his part to help the humans drive the Vampires back from the South of France. The weather, which favors the vampires, has not helped and things are growing more and more desperate for Adele’s trusted retainer Anhalt, the commander of the Equitorian Forces.
Clay and Susan Griffith have done a really good job of creating a flow of events that seems natural. Adele and Gareth have been given clear choices about what they can do to control their lives. The challenge going forward is that now that Adele is Empress, the rash, often foolhardy choices she made are unacceptable. This makes for interesting considerations because some risks, in spite of her authority and power as the monarch, are simply too great to be undertaken.
Senator Clark, Adele’s jilted former intended, wages war on the North American continent with his typical disdain for the ethical constraints that would impair his ability to succeed. Truly, for him, the ends justify the means and if a few innocent lives are lost in his path to glory, that is an acceptable price to pay. The underpinnings of his massive egotism are never discussed, but I was left wondering what trauma or neglect he might have endured to be so wrapped in his lust for glory and power that he can brook no argument. The phrase “if you are not with me, you are against me” resonates in my head when I think of Clark.
The Kingmakers is a worthwhile addition to the VAMPIRE EARTH series. The story is fraught with danger, intrigue and a romance between two people who have no business being together — though, to be honest, the relationship between Adele and Gareth began to be almost cloyingly sweet in this book. There are some arguments for political and social constraints that are being set aside as superfluous that to me don’t stand the common sense test. Setting that annoyance aside, the themes of loyalty, revenge, greed and obsession are writ large and make the story something exceptional. To what lengths would a man go to avenge the slaughter of a dearly loved child and spouse at the hands of a predatory race that preys on his own? That’s one question among many that permeate this novel and make The Kingmakers profoundly good despite some logical flaws.