The Rift Walker (Vampire Empire, Book 2) - Clay Griffith I don't know what I was expecting when I first got into Vampire Empire, probably something light and fun given its vampire and steampunk concept. But I have to say though, this is shaping up to be quite an impressive series. Somewhere along the way, these books have gone beyond simply being candy for my mind, to the point now where I find myself emotionally invested in the story and its characters in particular.

After the events in The Greyfriar, Princess Adele finds herself back in the heart of the Equatorian Empire, trying to put off her dreaded marriage to Senator Clark of the American Republic. Unfortunately, her husband-to-be is eager to get on with sealing their vows so that the new human alliance can start waging war on the vampire clans of the north. His battle plans, however, involve committing atrocities Adele would have no part of.

Besides, her heart still belongs to mysterious swordsman and great vampire hunter known as the Greyfriar. While I would by no means categorize these books as pure "Romance", the relationship between Adele and Greyfriar is still a strong element in this series, and I want to highlight it again because it was what struck me in the first book. Theirs is probably one of the most well-written and engaging love stories I've encountered in my reading, which I think is why the romance still manages to shine through here amidst all the action and adventure. There is just so much chemistry between these two characters.

To put it into perspective, take this one minor scene in which Adele puts on some inconspicuous clothes as a disguise and asks Greyfriar offhandedly how she looks. His response: "Strong. Determined." THAT'S how Greyfriar always sees his beloved! And the world of significance behind his simple two-word answer is like the biggest turn on ever. In any book, the fact that two lovers can originate from vastly different backgrounds but still be able to stand together and treat each other as equals is a very important thing for me.

Quite honestly, despite the various action scenes in the first quarter or so of this book, I find I could not enjoy myself to the fullest until the the two of them were reunited. After that, I was happy and relieved, even if they did get themselves into more than a few harrowing situations, and as ever the vampire clans are a constant threat.

In these books, vampires are a whole separate species from humans, with their own civilizations and desires to expand and conquer. With the humans driven south, a lot of this series takes place in an area of the world not frequently seen in vampire fiction. The seat of Equatoria is in Alexandria, and with the displaced people from all nations and faiths coming together as one to defeat the vampires, I also loved the diversity in the cast of characters.

With secrets blown wide open, the war with the vampires raging on, and Adele and the Greyfriar's future hanging in the balance, I have a feeling there's a lot in store for me in the third book. Can't wait to read the conclusion to this trilogy!

Note: I received a review copy of this book compliments of the publisher, in exchange for my honest opinions. Thanks, Pyr/Prometheus Books!