The Greyfriar by Clay Griffith and Susan Griffith
In the year 1870, a horrible plague of vampires swept over the northern regions of the world. 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. When she becomes the target of a merciless vampire clan, her only protector is the Greyfriar, a mysterious hero who fights the vampires from deep within their territory. Their dangerous relationship plays out against an approaching war to the death between humankind and the vampire clans.
Note: This review was originally posted in 2013 on my personal blog, Opinionated and Unabashed, and can be viewed here. I solemnly swear that it was my blog and I am not ripping off anyone else.
Ever since the immense popularity of the Twilight Saga I have had a difficult time finding a Vampire novel that isn’t about romance. I have a particular fear of Vampires. My freshman year of college I read Dracula, and it scared me so badly that I had to stop reading at night. I was having terrible nightmares about bats at my window and terrifying fogs, not to mention the monster himself. So I have never particularly appreciated the notion that vampires might be good, or lovable. I prefer for them to be, well, frightening.
Recently when shelving books I stumbled across The Greyfriar. It had the most beautiful cover, a unique synopsis, and promised to be the high-quality steampunk novel I had been searching for. The book is set in the near-future, but in a reality where the earth had been plagued with vampires in 1870, driving humans to the equator and delaying our technological advances. War is approaching as the humans hope to take their lands back and destroy the vampire race.
Sounds promising, right? In fact, for the first fifty pages I couldn’t put the book down. I loved how the Griffiths altered vampire lore to suit their purposes. I loved the heartless attack that began within the first chapter. I adored the main character, Adele, a strong-willed, brave princess willing to do anything to take back her land from the vampires. I loved the strange technologies, from the airships to the “Fahrenheit” weapons which used chemicals to heat the blades and make them more deadly to vampires. But…
A vampire was introduced that not only had feelings, but felt compassion for humans. Though he fed off them instead of rabbits and deer, he would not kill them. I don’t like to give too much of a book away, but this vampire and Princess Adele eventually form a bond of friendship.
What happened to soulless creatures? What happened to killing them all? What happened to vampires that are terrifying killers? Don’t get me wrong. As in any good nice-vampire novel there are plenty of evil killers to contrast. But it doesn’t ruin the book any less for me.
Which brings me to what’s been bothering me ever since I finished The Greyfriar. Why are Americans so obsessed with romanticizing killers? Not just vampires, but werewolves, zombies, and other monsters too? There is an entire genre of romance novels now called “Paranormal Romance.” This genre takes up a whole quarter of the young adult section of any bookstore. Even when we’re not falling in love with them we’re giving them souls. I see you Mary Shelley, creating a monster with feelings and remorse. Look what you’ve done!
And what does this say about us? About the relationships we crave? I mean, I know that ever since Rebel Without a Cause girls have been going for the bad-boy, but isn’t this taking things a little far? Twilight does the best job of demonstrating my point. Even though Edward doesn’t kill people, he still treats Bella in a slightly-monstrous way. He is jealous and controlling, going as far as to bodily prevent her from going places, to taking the battery out of her car, to tricking her to leave town when convenient for him. Many friends I have that study psychology tell me he demonstrates many traits of an abusive partner, only since he is fictional he never actually hurts Bella. Is this really the kind of men women want to fall in love with? Angry, violent, dangerous, and not in control? What ever happened to heroes like Mr. Darcy, who’s shortcomings are stubbornness, prejudice, and an inability to forgive?
Just once I’d like to find a book where the vampire really is a monster and an enemy. For me those books are so much more exciting, scary, and just plain fun.