Fiction Review: The Kingmakers (Vampire Empire, Book Three)

BY CLAY AND SUSAN GRIFFITH
Publisher: Pyr
Review by Anna Burwell

[For the reviews of Books One and Two of the Vampire Empire series, go here and here]

13417066Jumping forward a sub-genre, the war arrives in a strange display of World War I tactics. Cesare has since stolen the throne for himself, which leaves Gareth homeless and friendless. Adele, in the meantime, is left to heal the rift created by her father’s death and to keep up the morale of her troops (and her subjects at large) while they’re all dying horrible deaths in trenches along the northern fringes of the empire. Mamoru’s cabal finally sets its plans into motion, only to find that Adele is not so willing to cooperate (neither is she so easy to coerce) as Mamoru expected. Someone who was once a trusted friend and confidant turns into a danger for both Adele and her supernatural lover (a fact that doesn’t seem to bother many of the other characters, strangely enough). To make matters worse, Cesare has called in allies from around the world, and the annoyingly stereotypical Senator Clarke returns, once again, to grate on the reader’s nerves. Of course, the big questions are required: Will Cesare win? Will Adele be robbed of her crown early in her reign? Will she survive what Mamoru and the others have planned for her? And, most importantly, are all pulp love scenes this boring?

Whereas The Greyfriar had well-paced action scenes and The Rift-Walker introduced delightfully troubling undercurrents for the protagonists, The Kingmakers has no redeeming factors. In fact, reading it was an almost painful ordeal. Within the first few pages, I began to question whether or not the Griffiths had actually written this. To make matters worse, a villainous monologue happened immediately after the introductory paragraphs, and brought back the predictability of The Greyfriar with a vengeance—and proved that, alas, it was the same authors. Overall, the book suffered from a narrative that was both lazy and badly-constructed. My biggest complaint, however, lies not with a plot that seems strangely inspired by a randomized search of fantasy-related tropes, but with the characters and their interactions.

First and foremost, every exchange between Adele and her lover contained two components that confused me: her lover’s hugs are much the same as what I’d imagine being in a trash compactor is like, and that he seems to want to take her by the scruff and shake her with every show of affection. It’s not that they’re both awkward lovers—it’s that the writing truly is that horrible; every love scene is identically described. The second is that almost every antagonist is identical, as well. They are all dangerously self-absorbed, and are consistently underestimated by those who are used to their treachery, and had no logical reason to overlook this flaw (in other words, perfect yet badly-executed examples of the Starscream character trope). On top of that, the woeful stupidity that ran rampant in The Rift-Walker seems to have turned into a pandemic by the time any sort of plot rears its malformed head in The Kingmakers.

Of course, the rest is pure formula as far as bad writing is concerned: lack of logical progression, plotlines that lead nowhere, over-abuse of amor vincit omnia, special snowflakes everywhere, and prose so clumsy that even the reader trips over it—while sitting still. On top of being sloppily constructed, The Kingmakers shows the disgusting underbelly (figuratively speaking) of the pulp side of its genre, and leaves the reader with a feeling of disappointment and a desire to read something of actual quality. Despite my general ambiguity toward the first two books, this one isn’t something recommended to anyone—whether they enjoy pulp fiction or not.

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One Response to “Fiction Review: The Kingmakers (Vampire Empire, Book Three)”

  1. You are hilarious. I love your quirky reviews – looking forward to the next one!

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