Tag Archives: steampunk

Greyfriar by Clay Griffith and Susan Griffith

Greyfriar by Clay Griffith and Susan Griffith, a husband-and-wife writing team, is the first book in the Vampire Empire series. It is an alternate universe novel, set in a time when vampires banded together and essentially took over the world in the late 1800’s. Humanity, which now lives in the cities closest to the equator where there is the most heat and sun, has finally made enough technological advances that they are prepared to start fighting back. The main protagonist in the story is Adele, Princess and future Empress of Equatoria, and land that encompasses most of the former British Empire. While on a diplomatic mission, Adele’s airship is attacked by vampires. She is rescued by the legendary Greyfriar, a human known for his ability to fight vampires. As she travels through Northern Europe and falls in and out of the hands of the ruling vampire clan, her worldview is shattered, and she learns quite a bit about herself and the vampires she has grown up hating and wishing to destroy.

greyfriar coverA unique take on the vampire lore is presented in this novel. Vampires are creatures that a born, not made from humans. They have exceptional senses of sight, hearing, and smell but feel little pain and have a terrible sense of touch that makes it difficult for them to manipulate tools – which is fine, because they are arrogant and find manual labor beneath them, forcing their human “bloodmen” to do it for them. They have retractable claws which they use as a main weapon. They can also fly – sort of? They can change the density of their body, and therefore float and move around with the breeze.

 

On one hand, I had a bunch of issues with this novel. I’m not sure I ever completely bought into the vampire lore. I respect the authors for trying to do something different, but I think it was too different. I believed almost everything right up until the change their body density to float/fly thing. I also found it unusual that the vampires had no interest in any sort of knowledge – they couldn’t read or write, and didn’t care that they couldn’t. They ruled and conquered by physical strength. Perhaps it is just because I have read far too many vampire novels in which the vampires are brilliant, rich and well-read, using the knowledge they gain by living for centuries to their advantage. The fact that these long-lived vampires had no concept of that seemed strange to me. I wanted this new and different take on vampires to be refreshing, but instead it irked me and took away from the story.

 

 

I did enjoy the relationship between Greyfriar and Adele. I felt Greyfriar appeared a bit too vulnerable at points, and it took away from the believe-ability of his character. But I thought their relationship was believe-able and well-written, and that kept me interested in the story. I figured out Greyfriar’s real identity almost immediately, and at first I was annoyed, but then later decided the writers did it on purpose and it worked.

 

There were these few and far between moments that alluded to some sort of magic. Presumably this becomes more important to the plot in the next novel? Otherwise I can’t figure out why it was mentioned. So little information about it was offered, that I found it annoying and abrupt rather than mysterious. I just wanted to get back to the action with Adele and Greyfriar. The mystery-magic either needed to be more developed or removed completely, particularly the secret meetings. I think moving them to the beginning of the next novel would have been more effective and interesting, and just left the readers wondering why Adele’s prayers have an effect on the vampires. This paragraph was a bit vague, but I don’t want to give anything away.

 

Overall, this novel was OK and I do plan to read the next one eventually, being interested in Greyfriar and Adele, and how their relationship will grow and change. I give it 3 out of 5 stars and recommend it to fans of alternate history and steampunk vampire novels. I use the term steampunk loosely though – the novel has airships, but that’s about it for typical steampunk technology.

 

Behemoth by Scott Westerfeld

Behemoth coverThis is one of those books that is tough for me to review. I was reading some other reviews to get ideas, and it looked like most people LOVED this book, which was interesting to me because I was sort of “meh” about it. I mean, it was a good story, because I had a hard time putting it down, but on the other hand, it seemed like it ended in the same place as it began. Let’s see if I can explain.

****This review will contain some SPOILERS!!****

Alek, heir-in-hiding to the Austrio-Hungarian throne, and Deryn/Dylan, midshipman on the air-beast Leviathan and also girl masquerading as a boy, have finally reached the Ottoman Empire. While Deryn is playing handmaiden to diplomat Dr. Barlow while she meets with the Sultan, Alek and his friends are looking for a way to escape the ship. The British have finally joined the war, which makes Alek and his Clanker friends their enemies. Deryn and Dr. Barlow discover that the Germans have beaten them to Istanbul and have already won the Sultan to their side, which forces the Leviathan to leave early. Alek is only able to escape with a few of his friends, Count Volger is left on the ship. Not knowing what else to do, and feeling responsible for the war, Alek joins up with a groups of revolutionaries and vows to help them stop the Germans. Meanwhile, Deryn is sent on a secret mission into the city, and when the rest of her team is captured she is stranded. She finds Alek in the city and helps him and the revolutionaries. Alek reveals to Deryn that he is heir to the throne, and Deryn almost reveals that she is a girl pretending to be a boy so she can serve in the air service, but loses her nerve at the last second. At the end of the novel, everyone is back on the Leviathan at the same place they were at the beginning of the novel, they are still at war, no one knows Alek or Deryn’s true identity, and everyone is left wondering what will happen next.

I felt like this story had the same ending as the first book. The action in the middle was different, and that was exciting, and I did like Alek better in this novel. He was much less whiny and more “take charge” in his attitude. Deryn acted a little more girly and started exploring her feelings for Alek, which was interesting. I really thought she was going to finally reveal her secret, but she wimped out at the last second, which annoyed me, because I think the relationship between Alek and Deryn would have been much more interesting if she told him the truth. I did like the addition of the American reporter. Adding an American to the mix was a nice touch, as was the mention of Americans being a cross between the Clanker and Darwinist theory. Also, and this was a little thing, considering the book was called Behemoth, I would have thought the behemoth creature would have had a slightly bigger role. It was talked about for awhile, but only showed up for a few pages. Anti-climactic if you ask me.

A lot of reviewers on Goodreads mentioned that this was an excellent example of Steampunk, and that’s why they loved it. I am not a “diehard” steampunk fan–it’s alright, but I don’t love it. Maybe if I appreciated that aspect of the novel more I would have liked it better. Again, over all it wasn’t a bad book by any means. The ending just fell flat and that was unfortunate. Perhaps the third book will redeem the trilogy.

Happy reading,

-Branwen

PS – While I’m writing this review, SyFy is having one of their infamous SyFy-Original-Movie Marathons. I love SyFy Original Movies. They’re so campy and fun to pick on, with hilariously bad CGI. The one on at this present moment is coincidentally called Behemoth. I can’t wait to see the monster, haha.

Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld

leviathan coverPrince Aleksander, heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne, is on the run after his parents are assassinated in an attempt to start a war between the great European and Asian powers. He has nothing but a few bars of gold, a beat-up war machine, and a small but very loyal crew. Deryn Sharp is a young lady disguised as a boy in the Royal Air Service of Britain. She is a spectacular airman, but lives in constant fear of her secret being discovered. Alek and Deryn’s paths cross when the air-beast Leviathan on which Deryn is a crewman crashes in the Swiss mountains near the abandoned castle where Alek and his friends are hiding. Forced to work together to survive, Alek and Deryn must learn to trust each other and accept the other’s way of life if they are to get out of their dangerous situation alive.

I wasn’t sure about the concept of this book when I first started reading. Alek is a Clanker, a citizen of the countries who build war machines and rely on machinery and technology for every day life. Deryn’s country is Darwinist. Using the discoveries of Charles Darwin, the Darwinists fabricate animals to accomplish things from every day tasks to being a large flying vehicle. I’ll admit, I thought this concept was rather strange, and I am still not convinced by the Darwinist theory, but once I got into the book it didn’t bother me so much. And the whole thing was very steampunk, which I liked of course.

I liked the characters of both Deryn and Alek. They both came from troubled backgrounds, and were each missing at least one parent, and both lost parents due to tragedies. Neither of them acted like the “stereotypical” type of character. Deryn was a girl masquerading as a boy in the Royal Air Force, but aside from some comments about shaving, this wasn’t the main focus of Deryn’s part of the story. Alek didn’t act like a normal young Royal boy on the run. He wasn’t particularly whiny, and he wasn’t perfect at being in hiding, which I thought I was a nice touch. He made decisions that he believed were right even when the adults he was with disagreed with him. At times he acted his age, and at times he acted much more mature than his age. Both characters did. I liked the characters enough to overlook some of the weirdness about the Darwinists that I didn’t quite buy in to. (Of course, I also reminded myself this is a kid’s book, and things don’t need to be explained perfectly clearly for that audience, so I supposed for a children’s book the explanation was just fine). The ending was not necessarily a “cliffhanger” but it did leave you with questions that encourage you to read the next book Behemoth, which I plan to do.

I haven’t read any of Scott Westerfeld’s very popular Uglies series, because that’s not really my kind of book, and I read the first book in the Midnighters series and thought it was pretty lame. I hadn’t even realized until I visited Westerfeld’s website that all those books were written by the same person. I don’t remember Midnighters that well, aside from not liking it, but this book was good. I like when an author can write books that are so very different that even if I don’t like everything he or she writes I can still enjoy some of his writing. I’m looking forward to the next book!

Happy reading,

-Branwen