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The Geomancer by Clay and Susan Griffith

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The Geomancer

 

Vampire Empire:

 

A Gareth and Adele Novel

 

by

 

Clay and Susan Griffith

 

(Pyr, November 2015, 321 pp., Tpb)

 

Reviewed by Dave Truesdale

This is not your commonplace, run-of-the-mill vampire story. These are not your traditional, run-of-the-mill vampires, and the world in which they co-exist with humans is nothing you are likely to have experienced before.

The Geomancer is the first of a new series set in the same world as the initial Vampire Empire novels (The Greyfriar, The Rift Walker, and The Kingmakers), with this trilogy centered on the two main characters, the human Princess Adele, and her lover Gareth, vampire Lord of Scotland. Gareth fights clandestinely on the side of humanity through his secret identity as the cloak-and-goggled Greyfriar, a now legendary hero among underground vampire clans who support humanity's right to exist alongside vampires, and not as caged animals, slaves kept like cattle only to be exploited as food.

The saga began in this alternate history in the year 1870 when untold hordes of vampires (who have always existed) rose to conquer the northern regions of the world. It is now the year 2020 and a day of reckoning is at hand as a final war to the death is in the offing. Princess Adele is heir to the Empire of Equatoria, a remnant of the old tropical British Empire, and when targeted for assassination by a treacherous vampire clan (led by Gareth's brother) it is Gareth/Greyfriar who comes to her rescue.

As the first trilogy plays out, Adele leaves her radical American senator husband (who is just as intent on wiping out the race of vampires as much as the vampire clans are intent on enslaving humankind), and falls in love with her protector Greyfriar/Gareth. No timid wallflower of a human female, Adele is smart, strong, and willing to fight for her species—even alongside one of the sworn enemy, a vampire whom she has come to respect and love. A precarious “mixed race” relationship for both, but one that brings them closer together as their story unfolds.

By the time of The Geomancer, Adele has discovered her witch power of geomancy—the ability to sense Earth's geographical ley lines of power, and to use them (with the instruction of the powerful magician Mamoru) to devastating effect against the vampires, eradicating them from the British Isles. But not without cost to herself and Gareth, who as a vampire was also destroyed. In a dark and electric scene of powerful magic and Mamoru's help, Adele is able to revive Gareth, at the same time rendering him less affected by her geomancy, for with her victory in Britain those vampires not killed have fled to safe haven in France, and she must find a way to wield her magic to defeat the resilient hordes on the mainland, and once there she will need Gareth's full strength and cunning.

Full of palace court intrigue—powerful vampire clans have taken up residence in Paris, with its castles, subterranean byways, underground labyrinthine burial sites and stately mansions—political maneuverings for favor among the vampire clans, and Adele and Gareth's harrowing adventure as they fight their way to Paris to rally their few underground allies, a new and deadly character enters the story—the Witchfinder—a powerful human mage also skilled in geomancy who has chosen the side of the vampires for his own ultimate gain, but who has first sworn to use his power to defeat Adele, Gareth, and what remains of humanity, for his dark power can render vampires immune to Adele's geomancy while proving deadly to every human within its calculated reach. But there is a certain object the Witchfinder must first recover in order to activate the spell his magic requires, and legend has it that this sacred object resides in a vampire monastery in far Tibet. Thus, a race is begun between the Witchfinder and a cadre of his minions, and Adele and Gareth with their small number of acolytes, to recover the talisman, a journey fraught with much danger and misadventure, for it is a slow and treacherous trip by airship, and once they arrive they are in for quite a bit more than even they had anticipated, including dark secrets unveiled and an aerial battle between opposing armies of deadly, winged vampires the likes of which I wager you have never before witnessed. Good stuff.

And this section is a perfect example—one of many—sure to set the pulse to pounding of even the hardcore dark fantasy fan, for it and others throughout the book reveal a well conceived (and decidedly fresh) vision of the somewhat stale vampire mythos, here skillfully interwoven and wedded to elements of the gothic romance (the whiff of eroticism between human females and male vampires is not forgotten, and is played with low-key elegance between Adele and Gareth), the high adventure tale of warring species with the possible total enslavement of humanity a likely result, and with an overarching, brooding sense of doom, of grey skies and cold stone, of raw, scheming, unstoppable evil, and sorcerous magic pervading everything. It's quite a ride, and easily one of the most captivating vampire novels I've read in years. Fans of the previous trilogy already know what to expect, but for those considering The Geomancer as the place to begin I think you'll be in for quite a treat. Authors Clay and Susan Griffith have created a nifty new take on the vampire canon with their Vampire Empire novels, and this first entry in the forthcoming Gareth and Adele series is a winner. I was convinced that after reading decades of vampire tales, both short and long, that there was nothing much left to rekindle my enthusiasm for the Undead, but this novel proved me wrong...again. What can I say but that I look forward to reading the next one.

♣  ♣  ♣ 

Dave Truesdale has edited Tangent and now Tangent Online since 1993. It has been nominated for the Hugo Award five times, and the World Fantasy Award once. A former editor of the Bulletin of the Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America, he also served as a World Fantasy Award judge in 1998, and for several years wrote an original online column for The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction. Now retired, he keeps close company with his SF/F library, the coffeepot, and old movie channels on TV. He lives in Kansas City, MO.