In the year 1870, a horrible plague of vampires swept over the northern regions of the world. Millions of humans were killed outright. Millions more died of disease and famine due to the havoc that followed. Within two years, once great cities were shrouded by the grey empire of the vampire clans. Human refugees fled south to the tropics because vampires could not tolerate the constant heat there. It is now 2020 and a bloody reckoning is coming. Princess Adele is heir to the Empire of Equatoria, a remnant of the old tropical British Empire. She is quick with her wit as well as with a sword or gun. She is eager for an adventure before she settles into a life of duty and political marriage to man she does not know. But her quest turns black when she becomes the target of a merciless vampire clan.
This book was fantastic! It made me want to giggle like a freaking school girl at times and then five minutes later I wanted to reach into the pages to claw at the villains myself. I got it off the shelves of the library, where I was literally grabbing up every book that had vampire in its title. Lately I have been reading a ton of YA, which is awesome, but I have been feeling the itch for something a little more adult or just different. I definitely found different with this book. I seem to have accidentally popped my steampunk cherry with Vampire Empire, and what a fantastic popping it was lol. Of course, I'm assuming that because of the whole vampire thing it is more of a mixed genre type book but that’s cool. I love mixing things up a bit. I had no clue this was steam-punk until I realized that the ship the characters were riding on were airships...also the fact that there were words like "dirigible" and other things that I've never heard before but all seemed vaguely steam-punky. In addition to all that steam-junk (lol) there was Action! Mystery! Romance! All sorts of good stuff to get any book lover's panties in a twist.
Setting/Imagery/Background: The book started off right away with some action. Fights, muskets, possible deaths, and kidnappings! What a way to start off a book. The subsequent chapters did drag a little as they tried to describe the world as it exists in the novel, but I feel like without a description I am left in the dark, grasping at what the world is like, and that is a feeling I find much more irritating than a few lagging pages of description. I loved that for almost all intents and purposes, these vampires are evil/predators/killers. Seriously. If you were a 300 year old vamp, would YOU be moping around crying about your pathetic existence? I feel like it is human nature (and yes, vamps were once human...) to evolve, to roll with the punches, to do whatever and I mean WHATEVER it takes ot survive. So when I get a sexy group of vampires that kick-ass, take-names, and aren't afraid to get their fangs and/or claws wet, I am in reader-heaven. I also thought it was a really great take on the whole "coming out of the coffin" issue. For real, take a minute and think from the Vamp perspective. Sure coexisting seems to be a good idea to us humans...but would you really like to live in a world where your food were your equals? Take cows for example. It would be like humans going off to co-exist with our hiefers in their natural environment. And then you had to obey their laws, because they said so...Um...hells no...we'd have those moo-ers corralled, fenced, and butchered in ten seconds flat. Which, for a matter of fact, we do already. If you are a race superior in speed, intelligence, agility, and just about everything else, then you would not want to share power with your food. I like how this book actually did a more realistic take on the vampires coming out. They wouldn't put themselves at risk to humans, they would just kill us all.
Characters: I really enjoyed all of the characters in Vampire Empire, whether they were hero, villain, or any other role in the story. Each character had motivations, emotions, behaviorisms that all came together to create wonderful and three dimensional characters. The Greyfriar seemed a little flat at first, but then grew into a very deep and well fleshed out character. His motives are kind of hidden, but that leaves for a freaking awesome twist a little later in the story. Cesare is a great villian. I hate it when villains are portrayed as idiotic bumbling fools. Typically villains are very crafty and require great skill to overcome. Cesare and Flay both create fascinating characters, both in their good looks, and in their shared penchant for betrayal.Adele was a strong, stubborn female character, sometimes too strong. Her prejudices are understandable, but frustrating as she refuses to alter her world view despite gaining more knowledge about the vampire world.
Plot: I loved the originality of the plot.The characters helped move the plot along. it wasn't non-stop action, but it wasn't boring either. Eventually it ended up being one of the more romantic books in the genre/sub-genre that I've read. Sure there are the sexy vamps, the funny vamps, the angsty vamps...but Gareth is just...heart-breakingly innocent. He wants. Adele and his love story isn't rushed, or climactic( yet...heh heh heh) but it is wonderfully romantic.
Rating: I give this fantastic blend of steam-punkery, adventure, paranormal, and awesome a solid 9 out of 10 airships. Woo!