Friday, December 28, 2018

Talk about your fairy tales

So, on advice from an LGBTQ Horror group I'm in, I picked up the Witchbane series by Morgan Brice, and finished book 1 before work this morning.

I'm really unsure how to do this. It's not that I didn't enjoy reading it, and it's not that I didn't like it, it's just... Well, I get the sense this started like Fifty Shades of Gray, in that our two main characters are semi-analogous to Dean and Sam Winchester of Supernatural. We start with Jesse, who takes his younger brother Seth ghost hunting at the Gates of Hell, a local legend in Brazil, Indiana. Their goal is to make a YouTube ghost hunting video by doing it on Halloween. Seth ends up getting flayed alive, while Jesse gets knocked out and finds the body the next morning. He gets hospitalized, his parents die in a car crash.... Jesse is left with a motorcycle and a motor home.

Two years later, Jesee has linked up with a rather small conglomeration of monster hunters, with the goal of tracking down whomever killed his brother. The set up is something like a Warlock got lynched on Halloween, and now his immortalish disciples sacrifice a descendant of each of the 12 deputies on a twelve year cycle. Seems different disciples are on different cycles, so we start with the Disciple getting ready to sacrifice Evan.

Evan currently lives in Richmond, Virginia, having left home in Oklahoma following expulsion from his church and family for fooling around with a high school athlete. Evan works as a bartender, and has his breath taken away when Jesse walks into his bar. Jesse, for his part, is infatuated with Evan at first sight, even as he doesn't realize Evan is Evan, as he works under the name Sonny. They go on a date, which ends quickly as Evan gets called back in to the bar.

The next night, they try again, wind up back at Evan's apartment, and things happen. Followed by waking up to people breaking in with guns, which is when Jesse finds out his hook up is also the man he's been looking for in a non sexual fashion. Evan's bar burns down, his apartment catches fire, so Evan is stuck living with Jesse, only half believing Jesse's story.

What follows is a dual game of cat and mouse, as the immortal Disciple stalks Evan as Jesse tries to track down said disciple. Eventually, everyone but the disciple and his minions get a happy ending, often in more ways than one.

Now, much as I enjoyed the read, the main narrative spans roughly 48 hours. In that 48 hours, Jesse and Evan explore the Mother's Gift of Pleasure roughly (and I do mean roughly) 9 times, a few occasions getting a refraction period of around 15-20 seconds. While the smut is better written and and more of interest to me than anything Laurell K. Hamilton has written in the past 15 years, it's also really hard to read it when one part of your brain is pointing out that neither man would be able to stalk immortal disciples after wearing themselves out that much. Nor does male anatomy usually allow that short of a refraction period.  Also, given both men have emotional issues with trust, they certainly do seem to forget them with each other quickly.

Honestly, it's fun reading, just remember to put actual biology and psychology out of mind while you read it as a fairy tale.

Monday, December 24, 2018

Liberation or control?

I'm sorry this is getting buried on Christmas Eve, really decreasing my viewership, but c'est la vie.

I finished Michael Bronski's A Queer History of the United States earlier today, and I'm honestly only posting the review now so I don't forget things I want to remember from it.

The stated goal here was to recount the history of queer folks from around the Conquista to roughly 1988. While his telling has some hits and misses, it does have information I hadn't particularly considered before, better terminology for things I've observed, and some fairly interesting anecdotes. Unfortunately, he also seems to be trying to be a queer Zinn, his bias shows up a few times, particularly at the end, and most of the 15-18th century is the literary equivalent of Lady Cassandra.

AKA dry and dusty.
So, unlike modern pictures that discuss berdache, two-spirits and the like, Bronski at least has the competency to point out that thinking of the Native Americans as a united people is a mistake, as the different nations had different ideas on gender conformity, and relying entirely on racist European observations isn't exactly accurate. That they did exist is one thing, but their treatment in their nations was really reliant on that particular nation. 
Then we get in to the fact that what is now considered queer identity didn't really exist in such terms as where we are now, so really we're chronicling the emergence of an identity as it evolves into forms we now recognize. Yes, we can document same sex relationships in historical figures, but would they have recognized themselves as queer under the current definitions? It's not that homosexuals, transgender folks, aces, aros, and nonbinary folks didn't exist, the language and the recognition of such an identity really didn't exist until fairly recently. As such, particularly during the colonial period, it's not like people were recording their felonious sodomy for future generations to get titillated over. On the other hand, the Puritans of Boston make for a good starting point of showing one of the major threads in history, that of societal control and social purity. 
As we move into the 19th century, we get more into discussions on the changes in gender identity and  how what was masculine and what was feminine changed over time. How the rise of cities and urbanization lead to less living with the family and created a thriving culture for single people. We delve into the World Wars, and how the military helped gays and lesbians to find themselves less alone. We discuss the anarchism of the labor movement (tear down the oppressive society and replace it with a more fair and just one) and the Civil Disobedience of Transcendentalism (make ways to fit into society) and how they influenced the modern movement. (Indeed, he draws in other civil rights movements , and how they also influenced the Gay rights movement, and how long it was until they actually started sort of working together.)
The last chapter mainly deals with the Lavender Menace, the Briggs Initiative, the Dade County Anita Bryant drama, and AIDS. (I'm skipping over some discussions on Hollywood presentations for the sake of brevity.) we end with Queer Nations (and a few other organizations) protest at st. Patrick's Cathedral in New York, leading to an epilogue pointing out that Gay Marriage is truer to the idea of Transcendentalist (and alignment at redefining Social Purity) than Queer Liberation. It's actually a discussion that deserves more space than what it got, and it really needed to mention Gen X, rather than discussing Millennial and Boomer Queers.  
Ultimately, his conclusion is that the movement is a mixture of both the Control and the Libertine impulses of society, and we can find people at either pole within it. Which has been true for a lot longer than I think any of us really know. 
 I enjoyed reading this, even with the occasionally dry stretches. The footnotes would be invaluable to someone chasing down more information of our queer ancestors. While flawed in a few places, it's not fatally so. Well worth perusal for those looking for our roots.

Monday, December 17, 2018

Killer Clowns for Outer Philly

Finished the last few pages of R. S. Belcher's King of the Road prior to clocking in this morning. While I will say his Golgotha series is probably my favorite of his ongoing series, all of them are really good reads everyone should pick up at some point.

What we have here are two major plots and one which wiggles through the narrative, setting up something we'll likely be returning to in future volumes. The major ones involve road witch Lovina and Builder Max pursuing a cult of alchemical harlequins that like to murder people as well as Jimmie and Heck trying to fix problems with the Blue Jocks Motorcycle Club, currently dealing with Cherokee Mike's drug running with as of yet undefined supernatural entity Viper. We also get hints that the Benefactors and the Builders have been working on a project involving the Road (and the Rail) that the Brethren do not know about that would likely cause a civil war if it got out.

So, we'll peel off and start with the clowns. That plot deals with a group of killer clowns run by seemingly immortal clowns recruiting from the ranks of juggalos not happy with the more wholesome ranks of juggalo culture. As such, they join up with the Harlequins, who get special face paint that does tend to make them longer lived, although it becomes addictive over time. This, in turn, leads to special ritual murders related to the Cleveland Torso Murders and the Black Dahlia in LA. Which also gets wrapped up in hobo culture and the idea of the Rail, which predates the Interstate. When Lovina dreams of a specific victim who's mother lives in Louisiana now, she winds up in Coalport, Pennsylvania, where the victim vanished from. This winds up involving Emmet, a hobo clown who got involved in tracking down one of the clowns in the 30s, and Dusty, who's a modern hobo, as well as Max, who enjoys field testing theories. Towards the end, Max gets more involved than she bargained for, and winds up proving herself more capable than she likely imagined.

Meanwhile, in North Carolina, Heck, who is still Jimmie's squire, is dealing with the Jocks falling apart, since no one has stepped up as President as of yet. While Heck is likely to do so, he has to finish his Squirehood first. Given the uncertainty, the jocks are splitting off, with Cherokee Mike leading stragglers away from the club to do more illegal activities, like Meth. Part of this is done with Viper, who seems to have magic of his own, and the aid of dark fairie creatures. The Viper Mike alliance also is trying to start a war between Heck's faction, and the Bitches of Selene, a female led MC filled with were creatures, including a transgender Werebear who is 50 shades of awesome and deserves their own spin off now.

The plots wrap up in good fashion, leaving you satisfied and wanting more.

I think the real appeal to me with his various series is that while I may not be as far out on the fringe as his characters wind up being, I'm also a bit beyond the hem in real life, so I can relate to the feelings of not being part of the main body of society. That and the fact his stuff is well written makes for an author I'm keeping alerts open for new material from.

Friday, December 7, 2018

Goodbye, crazy people

I'd been looking forward to Night Fall by Simon R. Green since the advertisement for it at the end of his last Secret Histories novel, since it meant the characters from that series were going to finally share space with his earlier Nightside series, which evidently ended before I started this blog.

A quick rundown on the Nightside...

Nightside is kind of a pocket reality hidden in London, kind of an adult version of The Phantom Tollbooth. Normal reality goes out the window in Nightside, where sin is available to all seekers, timeslips bring in people from all over the universe, aliens, alternate dimensions, etc all exist within. The Nightside is supervised by The Advisors, who in turn are represented by someone with the title Walker. At the start of this volume, Walker is John Taylor, who was the narrator of the Nightside series. Trying to to spoil too much, John is the child of the supernatural entity that formed the Nightside, is married to Shotgun Suzie, and is about to become a father.

Edward Drood, on the other hand, is still working with the Drood family, who are bound and determined to save humanity, whether they like it or not. So, when the borders of the Nightside start expanding for reasons they can't easily discern, the Droods send Eddie in along with Molly Metcalf to figure out what's actually happening, violating ancient pacts that have kept the Droods out of Nightside.

This doesn't go well, and we follow both men as a war inevitably starts breaking out. Eventually, the Droods use Alpha Red Alpha to shift the entire manor into Nightside for what they assume will be a bloodless coup.

Which doesn't happen.

Along the way, characters from both series pop in and out of the narrative, along with JC from Ghostfinders, who eventually helps end the war towards the end. In the end, we get resolution on just about everything, although the final wrap up is kind of abrupt. (It also conforms that Ishmael Jones is not part of this universe.)

I really enjoyed seeing John and Edward sharing the same pages, since they're really two sides of the same character. They do end up pulling a Kirk meets Picard towards the end, which honestly had me cheering while eating my lunch today.

I'm sad to see the world end, but what a ride it was. Although you never know how permanent such endings are, sometime things do come back even in a cameo.

Sunday, December 2, 2018

I'm glad I had insulin on hand.

So, I had ran across Beck Albertalli and Adam Silvera's What If It's Us at the bookstore, and decided to find it at the library, since even if I'm not in the target audience, I find it behooves me to keep current on Young Adult books that center on gay characters. Which is good, since, other than two characters who came out towards the end of Christopher Pike novels, they pretty much didn't exist when I was in the age range. Now when we get YA (and adult) horror novels with openly gay characters, we'll know we have arrived.

We open with two narrators telling us about a chance encounter at a post office between Midtown and Uptown Manhattan. We start with Arthur, a 16 year old musical obsessed Jewish kid who grew up in Milton, Georgia. Arthur is in New York for the summer, interning at his mother's law firm. Mom is working on a specific case, while dad is searching for work in Georgia from Manhattan. He meets a hunky guy with a box outside of a post office between Midtown and Uptown. A brief conversation ensues until a flash mob marriage proposal ends the conversation. Switch to Ben, a 16 year old Puerto Rican guy from Alphabet City who's trying to mail a break up box to his ex, Hudson.

Both walk away attracted to each other, but without exchanging information. Like names.

So we spend the first third of the novel with them trying to find each other. Which through a series of plot devices, they do eventually manage to find each other and arrange a first date. The second third concerns their series of first dates and the reactions of their friends to their relationship. Given that the friends helped them find each other, it's fairly positive, even though the friends have drama of their own. The last third deals with the consummation of their affair and the end of Arthur's summer in New York.

It's all very sweet and saccharine, what with even their parents loving the boyfriend and being very supportive of the children. And unlike Albertalli's Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda, the ending is a bit less fairy tale and more realistic. Now mind you, my frame of reference is a lot different than that of the authors or their characters, so the near break up over Hamilton tickets seemed a bit silly to me, but upon further reflection, when I was that age and my boyfriend won the lottery for front row seats to see Phantom of the Opera at the Majestic then managed to lose them by being 15 minutes late to get them, I might have horribly overreacted as well.

As nice as it is to see fairly normal teens with supportive families fall in love, and as much as I can hope this is actually what's happening in the world, my own upbringing wouldn't let me fully share the fantasy as presented. I can hope that this is becoming truth, but I chalk this up as a stretched thin fantasy that remains rather charming despite the thinness of the reality attached.

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

I'm a Djinn in a bottle baby

Finally getting a chance to return to Benedict Jacka's Alex Verus series, with Marked finally showing up. Again we're knee deep in politics, but hey, it's fun.

Basically, with Alex's boss Morden in prison, Alex has been given Morden's position as Junior Councillor on the Light Council. Which really does paint a fairly large target on his back, since 3 of the 7 voting members want him dead.

The problems start arising when Anne, Alex's Life Mage love interest, starts showing signs of being possessed by a Djinn from a raid on a magical artifact vault in previous volumes.

Well, that, and an attempt to get Morden to cooperate to bring down Richard Drakh, Alex's former mentor, who's currently trying to get the adepts to unite with the Dark Mages against the Light Council.

Essentially, none of this works out well for anyone involved, particularly when we start seeing signs of Anne's "other half" coming through again. (Anne has pretty much channeled all of her aggression and anger into another personality that has a life of its own.)

It's a good read, although this series is becoming rather hard to read as stand alone, given the amount of metaplot being woven in. On the other hand, given Jim Butcher's glacial release schedule these days, I'll happily lap up a similar series that's just as involving.

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

I'm beginning to get the jokes about Florida Man

Evidently I picked up Dark Light by Randy Wayne White at one of the many book sales I've hit over the past few years. As I was waiting on reserves to come in, I ended up grabbing it of of one of the unprocessed bags I have floating around full of used books.

Now the cover suggested supernatural, but but the prose itself is fairly grounded in reality, other than standard wish fulfillment, as our main character, Doc Ford, is a marine biologist who's also trained in 30 ways to kill a man.

Which will come in handy, as Sanibel Island, off the coast of Florida by Sarasota, has just undergone being in the eye of a Category 4. This sets up plot thread one, as the Indian Harbor Marina is currently defrauding customers by claiming all the boats were destroyed by the storm then keeping all the boats that weren't to either use or sell. Plot thread two involves one of the locals finding a ship that's been unearthed on the bottom of the Gulf that has some fairly valuable salvage.

Then Doc meets Chestra, a fairly young elderly woman living in an estate by the water with a story to tell about a relative of hers who died during a hurricane that passed through in the 1940's. Her story intersects with the story of Bern, who owns the Indian Harbor Marina, who's also been raping and killing young women on the island and back in Wisconsin.

All of which gets wrapped up in a story involving World War II escaped Nazi POWs who were in southern Florida, which explains the diamond encrusted Nazi emblem from the wreck of the Dark Light.

I will say the book kept my attention, made me seasick in a few points, and remained readable. But... it also was really odd in its resolution (whether or not Chestra was who she said she was), and the narration keeps switching from first to third person, which also means most of the bigger secrets are already revealled before other people know them. I may check out some of the other volumes at some point, but not right now.

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Unfinished business

The copyright on Raven Hart's The Vampire's Revenge dates back to 2009, which would suggest that we're not going to see another book in the series, which is too bad, since this volume leaves several story lines unfinished.

After the really major events of the previous volume, we're down to just Jack narrating the emergence of the Slayer (his sort of girlfriend Connie), the war with the double-deads, and the joys of his grandsire Reedreck, greatgrandsire Ulrich, and his maker's mortal wife now evil vampire Diana.

Connie is still quite crazed as the Slayer at the outset, taunting and teasing Jack as they hunt down the vampires who managed to return from Hell during the brief opening of the gates in the previous volume. As we found out in the previous volume, said sould had the option to return to their own remade bodies or switching bodies with a mortal. Eleanor, Jack's sister in vampirehood, is one of the latter, having thrown one of her previous employees into a crow.

Eleanor has an agenda beyond Jack, she's out to get Diana for taking William away from her. Which means she's switching bodies right and left to get her revenge. Problem being, many of the double dead have similar ideas, leading to a really confusing St. Patrick's Day. This gets fixed with Olivia coming back briefly to summon two Celtic deities to take care of the problem.

Then we get Diana and Ulrich trying to poison the water supplies of both South Carolina and Georgia with radioactive waste.

And Connie trying to kill Jack, until about halfway through, when he manages to flip her human switch. Doesn't change that she's shacked up with his friend Seth.

Oh yes, and people who aren't dead or dying are leaving. We lose Melaphia and Renee to Melaphia's ex husband early on, then towards the end, the Egyptian were sogs take off. Add to that the return of Will, who loses his cool over the loss of his Dad and Connie and Seth likely trapped on an island that inspired Brigadoon... Yeah, I'm a bit sad that the series never continued.

It's been a fun series, and I will hold out hope it eventually comes to a better conclusion.

Friday, November 9, 2018

There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.

I feel like this review of Whitley Strieber's Communion would be incomplete without digging out this old chestnut. 

For those who maybe weren't around in the 80's, or not paying attention in the 80's, this is Mr. Streiber's account of his history of being abducted by these guys.

Indeed, while the tales of the Greys might have predated this book, it did make them a quite popular image of possible extraterrestrial life.

So, what's interesting to me about this is that most alien abduction stories have the big reveal at the end of the story; even in nonfiction accounts such as this, we normally hear about missing time, strange dreams, and disappearing rednecks long before we get the money shot of 4 feet tall beings with giant black eyes that like to probe humanity. Not so here. Streiber recounts his October 1985 kidnapping within the first few pages, then spends the rest of the book discussing how he came to recover memories of other visitations as well as a rather lengthy discussion of what these visitations could possibly be and possible evidence of alien visitation throughout history towards the end.

Summed up, Mr. Streiber undergoes hypnosis with doctors who have no idea at first what it is he's digging at, recalls not only two encounters in 1985 but visitations at 5 years of age and a few others at other points in adolescence, recounts a group therapy session with other abductees, and involves trying to verify specific events with other possible witnesses. These include his wife, who also undergoes hypnosis, although they try not to involve the son. Despite that, his son does have a few recollections that line up with the events as described.

While Streiber spends all of this describing himself as agnostic towards the reality of the experience, it's fairly obvious he things something happened, although he's not totally convinced its actual aliens, because it could also be future humans traveling through time, or alternate dimensional visitors, or any number of things that aren't a bit of undigested roast beef.

I think the big question any reader of this is going to have revolves around whether or not it's all made up. I can't answer that question. While I tend to give some credit to the idea of Visitors, it's not something I can speak to from personal experience. I can, however speak from personal experience on people claiming I made something up, that I must be misremembering, etc. I also find myself dealing with the old argument about recovered memories, which largely gets brought up against more normal things like people remembering sexual abuse or Satanic rituals at daycare.

Again, this blog is no place for the discussion of validity of such things.

Suffice it to say, the last chapter dealing with philosophy and possible Visitor interaction  throughout history is interesting, although it really goes far afield from the rest of the fairly straightforward narrative, as we discuss things like the meanings of triangles in relation to eternity; indeed, three becomes a magic number.

So yeah. In the end, I feel about as agnostic towards the entire recounting as Streiber himself claims to be.

Thursday, November 1, 2018

When Angel met Buffy.....

There are a lot of things going on in Raven Hart's The Vampire's Betrayal. While not all of them are original ideas, they're still quite entertaining.

As we sort of saw at the end of the last volume, Renee and William are home following events in England, arriving just in time for Connie to cross the line between life an death in an attempt to meet up with the soul of her son and ex husband. Since Melaphia has no intention of bringing her back, since she's the Slayer prophesied in a few ancient traditions, Jack invokes Papa Legba and goes to the other side to bring Connie back. While he's there, he witnesses the angels giving Connie her marching orders.

William, on the other hand, is a bit busy with issues of his own, such as dealing with ongoing plots from the vampire council and dealing with the fact that killing off one of his children has made her a sluagh, as vampires who die get special punishments, and this child in particular holds a grudge like a Sicilian.

Anyway, most of the focus in this one is on Jack, who's trying to reconcile his love of Connie with the fact that she's destined to kill him and every other vampire. He resigns himself to killing her before she comes into her powers, but stops himself when he hears a second heartbeat in her womb, which means he's just sired a baby dhampir, which is likely going to also be a bad thing. (Dhampirs are traditionally children born of a vampire parent and a human parent. Usually they get really coolk vampire hunting powers.)

As everyone could have guessed, Connie finds out about most of the backstabbing, then gets hit with her activation at the worst possible moment. We also have a few fairly major developments in the lifestyles on the Savannah Vampires, which should make book five that much more interesting.

As I stated at the outset, none of this is particularly original, and I had to remind myself these were written in the early mid 00's, thus all the 2012 references. However, it's well written and well paced, which makes most of the egregious sins quite forgivable. 

Sunday, October 28, 2018

Land of Illusions

I technically finished Land of the Dead by Andrew Bates on Friday, however, lazy is taking over.

Any way, we're again sort of focused on Thea the Hunter (who's friend Jake stick around for most of the book), Sforza the Mummy, Carpenter the Zombie, and Beckett the Vampire (who honestly doesn't do much in this novel. One wonders why he even got inserted in.)

So, Sforza starts the book off returning to Cairo and giving the readers a run down on Amenti politics and powers. Which mostly consists of other Mummies pointing out that Sforza's cult is not as well respected as their cults.

Then we catch up with Beckett, who figures out most of Chicago's vampires are under the sway of one of two Methuselas. As such, he leaves, fearing being under the control of Meneleus. He catches up with Carpenter in New York Harbor, loses a fight over the Heart, (not without doing some serious damage to the zombie), then decides his pursuit of the Heart is likely being influenced by other vampires, so he wanders out of the narrative until the epilogue.

T'hea tracks down her mother, who informs Thea about his actual parentage and her connection with Egypt. After Sforza arrives in Egypt and manages to blow up a tanker, word gets out, leading Thea and Jake to Cairo for the final showdown.

And what a showdown it is. While no one particularly ever acknowledges their special powers to one another, Carpenter's end game involves a bunch of extra zombies being created in Saqqara, several mummies in a resurrection temple, and two very annoyed Hunters. While things work out for the best eventually, the epilogue does make it clear Thea's crusade in Chicago is far from over, Sforza getting the Heart is only the beginning of his quest to bring back Osiris, Beckett getting out from under the influence, and oh yeah, Carpenter getting back to the Skinlands.

Now, keep in mind this is the second time I've read this series, so I honestly didn't remember that much about it. However, there was one conversation I thought was in here that wasn't in here. Given that there was never that much fiction written about the Mummy line, so I have no idea where that conversation exists.

All told, it's good RPG fiction, and given the character's are continually ignoring larger plot lines in favor of pursuing personal vendettas, it does seem to be written by someone who's played one before.

Monday, October 22, 2018

They did the Mash....

After the events in the last book, I wasn't quite sure how Raven Hart was going to continue with The Vampire's Kiss. 

As it turns out, it worked out well.

 We start with William in Russia trying to get information on his now undead wife's coterie's location. Given she and her vampire sire/husband Hugo and William's bio son Will ran off with a young child and William's newly created companion at the end of the last book, this is understandable. The trail leads to London, which is convenient since Olivia's resistance is centered there.

Jack, in the meantime, is stuck tending Savannah while William is overseas. Which means dealing with a pack of meth dealing werewolves and helping Werm open up his new Goth Club, which is being refurbished and staffed by Elanor's currently displaced hookers. (Frankly, I have yet to figure out why all the vampires in this series have an obsession with burning down each other's havens.)

Any rate, the two stories never really intersect, so we keep swinging back and forth between William trying to rescue Renee (and learning more of the secret history of the vampire world) and Jack's Werewolf issues and relationship issues with Connie. (Connie asks Jack to use his Voodoo powers to open the portal to visit her ex and her son.)

By the end, we have the next volume fairly well set up, with Melaphia going off the deep end having figured out Connie's biggest secret that not even Connie knows, meeting the council of vampires, and Jack doing something remarkably stupid.

One really wonders what the end game with this series will be, given the number of plot elements floating around. But it's still a fun read.

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Anubis was a bad idea...

Bad attempts at puns aside, Andrew Bates's second installment of the Year of the Scarab trilogy, Lay Down With Lions, is a rather large improvement over the initial outing. (On the other hand, given some of the silliness in the first volume, one wonders if some of that came via play testing, because I can totally see a gaming group decide ramming a van through a security gate in broad daylight with armed security on site being a fabulous idea.)

Anyway, while this volume again focuses on Carpenter (the Risen), Nicolas (the Amenti Mummy), and Thea (the Hunter), we also introduce Beckett (the Vampire, who also would have been a better choice for Clan Novel Gangrel than Ramona), who's in Chicago doing research. Beckett gets sucked in to the current drama by virtue of the eldest Gangrel in the city, who offers to trade information in exchange for information about the Hunters. Now mind you, the eldest Brujah (Critias, who's a pawn of Menelaus) is convinced the new Hunters are in league with the Gangrel, but Khalid (the eldest Nosferatu), is aware of other things going on. (Evidently, Lodin is canonically dead in this. I forget how all that happened, since it was in the really old splatbooks.) 

So, anyway, Beckett comes in right about the time the explosion that opened book one, and promptly gets hit with Menelaus's Presence discipline that has him run all the way to Idaho. He comes back, after visiting a Mage in San Francisco, who provides him with an amulet that allows him to blend his aura in better to be less noticeable.

In the meantime, Carpenter has Sforza duct taped up like a mummy and user enchanted bands that more or less paralyze him. (Sforza designed these to hold Carpenter, so the irony is a bit thick here.) Carpenter does use some of his compulsion powers to get Sforza to open up about being one of the Undying. Which is fine, until Carpenter kills Sforza, who comes back in about 12 hours or so. (For the record, I read through the rule book once, about the time it came out. I don't really remember the mechanics.) Sforza manages to escape and set Carpenter on fire. His concern is more for the Heart, some object in a Canopic jar Thea currently has. Anyway. Carpenter comes back, goes and gets his fetter out of his ex's tomb, finds out his relic (a straight razor that crossed the Shroud with him) has a mind of its own, and goes after Sforza. (Really, one of the biggest truths about the Classic World of Darkness is that no matter how many world altering events are going on, supernaturally endowed characters will still pay more attention to personal grudges than anything that might advance the main plot.)

So, Thea and Jake in the meantime, are being hunted by various factions that want the Heart, including Sforza's gang and another gang that wants it for other ill defined purposes. They wind up being held by Critias's bully boys (and girls) in the Sears Tower. Who also wants the Heart, because Menelaus wants it. They've also destroyed Thea's roommate's will, making her essentially a puppet. End result, by the end of the book, several people go out 47th story windows, the Zombie gets the heart, and no one is happy.

I seem to recall that book three takes us to Egypt finally and everyone ends up having an English cozy moment where everyone gets revealed to each other. but we'll come back to that is another entry eventually.

Honestly, it was more fun revisiting Chicago by Night, which is likely why I enjoyed this book so much more.

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Hell hath no fury like a vampire scorned

So, Raven Hart's The Vampire's Secret has one joke that borrows a bit from the old movie Major League, then it turns into a Soap Opera.

Towards the end of the last volume, William's sire Reedrek let slip that William's wife Diana was still around and kicking. This volume starts with Olivia, the British vamp who's essentially William's nephew telling William that the Diana in her book of female vampires is not his ex wife, then telling William's childe Jack, that oops, it really is.

Which does set up some interpersonal conflict between Jack and William, particularly when Diana sails into town along with William's heretofore unknown "brother" Hugo, and as an added bonus, William's biological son Will.

But first, we have William's creation of his mistress, Eleanor, as a vampire; the assignment of Voodoun loa as patrons of the family by Melaphia, Maman Lelee's descendant; and Jack and Werm's problematic invocation of Papa Legba, that accidentally brings a character back to life that died in the last book. (That one of the offerings is a KFC extra crispy drumstick makes me think he had it coming.)

Any rate, The arrival of the bloodsucking Brady Bunch also comes with the news that a vampire killing plague has broken out across the continent in the Los Angeles colony. As such, one of the visiting New World vamps is infected. That William's son Will was the one who spread it through the colony and indeed had been in Savannah befriending young Werm prior to Hugo and Diana's arrival only adds to the suds.

Indeed, Connie, the possibly Mayan goddess Jack's in love with gets to make some bubbles of her own, flirting with a human servant of one of the visiting vamps, then getting a crash course in Jack's nature when Will eats the human servant in front of Jack and Connie.

The entire novel winds up with a bit of a cliffhanger, with William at odds with his entire brood and alliance, Jack annoyed at everyone, and everything up in the air as to where everyone will land in the next installment.

Fun read, really soapy. While the focus is still very hetero romance, there is a bit of homophilial scenery when Will Jr. goes a hunting.

Saturday, October 6, 2018

Are you my Mummy?

So, in order to break up the blue vampires of Savannah series, I reached back on my shelves to find the Year of the Scarab Trilogy by Andrew Bates, Heralds of the Storm being the first.

Anyway, to give some background here, since this was really an odd series from White Wolf at the time...

Not long after they released Hunter: the Gathering (a table top Role Playing Game wherein characters are normal humans who suddenly get imbued and realize their are actual monsters all around them) during the Year of the Reckoning, they started a year themed Year of the Scarab, wherein most of the released materials had to do with Egyptian settings, characters, etc. The capper was of course Mummy: the Resurrection, a retake on previous books concerning mummies.

Anyway, this particular trilogy concerns mummies and their interactions with other denizens of the World of Darkness, particularly Hunters and the Risen (ghosts returned from the Shadowlands inhabiting bodies.)

As such, we meet Thea, an Egyptian American hunter who's mother works for Pentex through subsidiaries. Thea is a Hunter, working with a group of other Hunters on the North Side of Chicago. When we start, said group is busy stalking a vampire on his estate. Unfortunately, as we find out, someone else is working with them without their knowledge. That would be Dennis "Carpenter" Maxwell, a gangster who has come back from the dead to exert his revenge on the family that killed him. Problem being one of the grandchildren whom Carpenter had tried to take care of took a fatal wound but survived. (Yay! Mummies!)

Sadly, when the book ends, readers are aware that Nickolas Sforza is something, but not what. Nor do the Hunters, nor does Carpenter.

Instead, the reader has suffered through watching Hunters die, fight, and generally bicker; watched Carpenter extract revenge on the vampire that killed him in the 20's, and met Sforza, who kind of sounds like someone adopting traditions that don't belong to him.

It's readable, but it's also kind of silly and there were other fictions being released around this time that explored similar dynamics within the setting.

Sunday, September 30, 2018

Hard Hearted Hannah

Ok, so I recently won 5 volumes of Raven Hart's Savannah Vampire series, and I just finished the first volume, The Vampire's Seduction. Really debating on how to review this, since it was more Jackie Collins than Bram Stoker or Anne Rice.

We meet William, who was turned centuries ago by Reedrek, who proceeded to kill William's family in front of him. William has been in Savannah almost since the founding, having run away from his Sire and the old world vampires. Now, in Georgia, he ships younglings from Europe to the New World in the great hopes of creating Western Clans that can resist the European Dark Sires. In the mean time, he has a child of his own, Jack, who he turned during Sherman's march to the sea. Jack these days runs an all night car repair shop, drives fast, and has a crush on Connie, the Police woman who was adopted into Savannah Society after being found on the steps of a Mayan temple.

William spends most night at a local bordello, feeding and being tormented by the Madam. He also has two immortal dogs, both of whom become human at night. He also has a Mambo on staff, descended from Maman Laylee, a Hougan of some repute.

This is all well and good until one of William's ships comes in empty, remains of dead Alger on board. Using some rituals left behind by Laylee, William figures out Reedrek destroyed Alger and is loose in Savannah. Which leads us to Olivia, Alger's child, who mainly exists to explain the fun of female vampires. Who can actually drain their male counterparts during intercourse, along with something about this being nature's way of evening the score for losing reproductive capability once turned.

Anyway, Reedrek plays hard, manipulating every party involved to get what he wants, while William contemplates ending his take out his Sire. (Evidently one cannot kill one's own creator without joining them in the afterlife.

And so it goes, as we see the creation of two new vampires through the novel, although one does fail.

I enjoyed it, as I normally do with vampire novels, since I enjoy seeing how various people play with the myths. I did feel that it was starting to cross into a Supernatural free for all, what with some shifters, ghosts, and all the voodoun coming in to play, but mostly, it stayed focused. My only minor gripe is one I have fairly often with Urban Fantasy, in that none of the characters are people I particularly identify with. Which is fine, I'm sure I'm not the target audience of the series. And I can enjoy it as it is, just wishing alger would have been more developed to give me someone to cheer for in the closing.

Monday, September 24, 2018

Salt and moonlight

I'm happy Seanan McGuire hasn't retired October Daye yet, and Night and Silence is more evidence that the series still has legs 12 volumes in.

We pick up not long after the events of the last volume, with Tybalt and Jazz (October's fiance and her fetch's girlfriend, respectively), unable to process being kidnapped and locked into their animal forms at the hands of October's mother. Her Liege, Sylvester, is still unhappy about his brother Simon. And, as we open this volume, October's estranged daughter has been kidnapped again.

We find out about Gillian's kidnapping when October's ex husband and his new wife Miranda show up on her doorstep not long past dawn. What we have is a blood filled car, vandalism of both Gillian's car and her residence, and a really intrusive roommate. Oh, and all of Gillian's stuff at Berkeley has sachets of anti-fae herbs, making everyone in the party sick.

Along the path of tracking down Gillian, we meet a Baobhan Sith who had been trapped as a booby trap, and find a place that shouldn't exist that features a house on chicken legs.

Oh yes, and we get more on how the Roane became Selkies and Maeve's Last Ride.

All in all, othe rthan the villains being from out of left field, it's an excellent addition to a fabulous series.

Monday, September 17, 2018

Prophecy of the Phoenix

And at last, the Tribe novels wind down with Black Spiral Dancers by Eric Griffin and Wendigo by Bill Bridges, the last double Werewolf feature in the series.

For The Spirals, we focus on Arkady, the long disgraced Silver Fang long rumored to have become a traitor to the Gaians.  We spend much of the first part retracing his steps on the Silver Spiral as he tries to confront the Wyrm in the heart of its realm. This has a few odd consequences, such as his decent into Malfeas and eventually redeeming the White Howler's totem.

By far the biggest part of this is Arkady's eventual redemption by Falcon, and the gift or a duplicate Silver Crown. In the end, Arkady rallies the ghosts of long dead Silver Fangs at the lair of Jo'Cllath'Mattric and leads them into battle.

Then comes Wendigo, as John North Wind's Son meets his daddy before the North American moot to figure out what to do about the Lore Banes.

Essentially, King Alberecht leads the Silver River Pack and a large number of North American werewolves into the Umbra to the lair of the memory eating dragon. While several folks die, none of the major names do, and we're left with the lore at the heart of the dragon, one that states that the Apocalypse is nigh, and the Gaians will die in short amounts of time.

The Tribe Novels thankfully have been much less disjointed than the Clan Novels, but they've still had their issues here and there. on the bright side, props for the downer ending.

The Bloodsucking Brady Bunch

So, I'm running behind, because last week was a kilter. I technically finished Clan Novel: Anthology edited by Stewart Wieck over a week ago.

Anyway, this closes out the now 14 volume Clan Novel Saga, mostly checking in on characters after the Camarilla takeover of New York city, with a brief moment or two to talk about the fall of hour Goratrix in the Sabbat, as well as a brief reminder that [Tzimisce] is now fitfully dozing under Manhattan, instead of being fully asleep. Also shows that while Anatole might have undergone Final Death, it hasn't slowed him down much.

Most is it is about what you'd expect, with a few of the stories following an artist beloved by both Toreador and Tremere clans, who's final masterpiece is carved into the back of a Nosferatu. Said Nosferatu meets his end in the last story, encouraged by Anatole to fly through the gates of hell and feed the thing under the city in hopes of putting off its awakening. 

Some of it, like Fatima's entry, show how the characters have grown since their novel. (In this case, The path of Allah takes precedence over the path of Ur Shugli, who speaks for Haqim.) Or showing Ramona whine more about not being able to save her Sire and the Buffalo Gangrel.

While it really doesn't do much beyond tie up a few loose ends, it's a fitting conclusion to the occasional disjointed saga.

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Signs and Portents

Robert Jackson Bennett's new trilogy starter, Foundryside, again shows his love of world buildingand giving readers delicate morsels of that world, whetting the appetite for more answers. In this particular case, though, the major protagonists are just as in the dark as the reader.

Given the characters all refer to the world as Earth, we'll assume we're in a much altered timeline. The action, however, centers on the city of Tevanne, and the four major corporations that run the city and its colonies. Our main character, Sancia, live between the Corporate campos in the foundryside, where laws don't particularly matter. Indeed, Sancia makes her money thieving,  and we meet her as she's trying to break into a warehouse on the docks to steal something from a safe.

Her rather improvised methodology for the break in introduces us to the concept of Sigils and the Scriveners who write them. Essentially, with the right signs, one can rewrite reality around objects. Things like making a arrow be convinced it's much more dense than it really is, and has been falling for several more feet than it actually has. (They get deeper into the physics later in the book, but for the sake of ease, we'll define the system here as symbols convince objects to be something they aren't.)

Eventually, and with a small bit of unexpected issues, Sancia gets the box and makes her way back to her safe house. Curiosity gets the best of her, which is when we meet Clef, the talking key that can open just about anything. Having a talking key can be a bit challenging, however, Clef does manage to drag Sancia out of her shell a bit, showing us her upbringing on one of the colonial islands and the forbidden act that frees her. (Briefly put, in a normally fatal proceedure, they insert a scrivened plate in Sancia's head that mostly lets her hear scrivenings.)

Investigating her break in, is Gregor Dandolo, son of the Founder of House Dandolo. Gregor is a former soldier, hero of the Enlightenment Wars, and called revenant for surviving a siege that killed off all of his men. Gregor has a thirst for justice, regardless of whom is guilty. Almost getting killed while trying to arrest Sancia gets him more wrapped into this adventure, that eventually leads to Orso and Berenice, the Master Scriviner of House Dandolo and his assistant. Who eventually all wind up with the Scrappers, folks who are scriviners not affiliated with a Corporate House for whatever reason.

There's a lot going on here.

We hear legends of the Hierophants, giants from prehistory who used the sigils (those which God used to create the world) to recreate the world in their image, and how the wars of the Hierophants left deserts and destroyed parts of the world. We hear of a God in a box used by one of the Hierophants. We even get inklings about certain Founders who are trying to regain the powers of the Hierophants through their artifacts.

By the end, we have an inkling of two sides of the forthcoming conflict promised in subsequent volumes.

It's very interesting, and thankfully, there really isn't any long Jurassic Park style passage were we get told the principles of the concepts involved. I mean, yes we get a few explanations here and there, but there's not a 10 page treatise on how all of this works. Much like his last series, most of the themes involved here deal with the nature of the freedom of man, and thinking of one's self as an item rather than as a human. I look forward to the next book, and hope it's more of a direct continuation than the Divine Cities trilogy gave us.

Monday, August 27, 2018

Wow, that's an ugly way to wrap things up.

So, the Clan Novels proper end in Gherbod Fleming's Nosferatu, the ugliest clan in the Final Nights. (Technically, there are a couple of blood lines that are just as ugly, but Nosferatu remain the undisputed champions of beasts under the bed.) According to clan legend, the clan's Antediluvian was beautiful and vain, so when Caine cursed his grandchildren, he got cursed with with uglies. Mind you, he had one child he couldn't destroy, so he created more to go hunt them down and destroy those he couldn't find. Thus why half the characters in here are convinced there's a Niktuku living under Manhattan. They're incorrect, and what's under Manhattan is just a teensy bit worse, although we don't find out what's under the city quite yet. (I think that particular reveal is in the Anthology that serves as the last volume.)

So, our signature character here is Calabros, the leader of the Camarilla Nosferatu of New York. (Sabbat aligned Nosferatu aren't generally enemies of the main clan, clan generally takes precedence over sect affiliation.) We've met Calabros a few times in previous volumes, as he directs his clan mates and collects information to type out on an old typewriter in the NYC sewers.

As such, we spend much of the book flashing back through the 12 preceding volumes, filling in gaps in the narrative as to what's actually been going on. Such as Benito's kidnapping back in Toreador. Seems old Benito was one of those involved in the death of the Nosferatu Justicar Petrodon a few years prior, and the original intent had been to kidnap him in Atlanta for information. When he cancelled, they were forced to kidnap him in Boston.

As events proceed, we find that Nikolai, one of the very few Sabbat Tremere (technically House Goratrix) to survive the ritual in Mexico City, is actually Leopold's sire, embraced for his part in the death of Petrodon. Given Leo was a sculptor, is wasn't that hard to brainwash him into thinking he was a Toreador and send him away, particularly since he had to talent for Thaumaturgy.

We wind up in November of 1999, in the middle of the Camarilla coup of New York, as Lucinde and Pascek are found to not be the only Justicars in the city. Indeed, Cock Robin, the Nosferatu Justicar is in town after Calabros solves the riddle of Petrodon's death.

So, let's see, Leo killed Bentio in Vegas a few books back, a really odd fight occurs in this volume involving Theo, Hesha, Ramona, and Victoria ends with the death of Leopold, and Nikolai gets burned out of his haven by Aisling, and then found in the deepest sewers by Cock Robin and Calabros, after Calabros solves one of Anatole's riddles. His death, which is almost right out of the last segment of the old movie Creepshow, is one of the more disturbing things in this book. (Frankly, there's a lot of disturbing stuff in this book, like the kennels and the thing under the city.)

End result, Victoria gets offered the title of Prince, the role she was seeking in Atlanta when this started. However, Paseck's nomination has 6 paragraphs, so she turns it down in her attempt to thwart fate. As such, Calabros becomes Prince of New York, unaware of what lurks in his home.

A good ending to the series, and probably the best entry over all. One only wishes the plot unveiled within would have been better hinted at in earlier volumes, since half of the overall plot in the series feels like they added it in after the series was already being published.

Thursday, August 23, 2018

I see a bad moon a rising.

So, as we near the end of the Tribe novels, the steam really picks up, as does the writing.

We start with Carl Bowen's Silver Fangs, which focuses on long time center of the Werewolf universe, Jonas Albrecht. Jonas, who bears the Silver Crown, is theoretically King of the Werewolves. Not that this particularly earns him respect among the other tribes, particularly those not from his North American protectorate. As such, his decision to leave his packmate's (Mari Cabrah, still in a coma after the events in Black Furies), side to join the fight in Eastern Europe, which means dealing with Margrave Konietzko and his European factions. Most of whom hate him. On the other hand, this does introduce Queen Tamara Tvarivich, the Russian Silver Fang who takes Arkady's word over Albrecht.

What ends up happening is Albrecht challenges the European leaders and winds up leading the faction leaders into battle in the Balkans where the Black Spiral Dancers are having a ritual to free Jo'cllath'mattric from the bonds that hold him. A lot of dead werewolves later, the rite is stopped with only a few bonds broken, the Europeans mostly respecting Albrect, and a worried phone call from Evan leaving us on a cliffhanger about Mari.

Then we start into Tim Dedopulos's Glass Walkers, which centers around Julia of the Silver River Pack, and picks up right after they recovered Cries Havoc's memories. The pack winds up traveling back to London (through a Moon Bridge this time, since Storm Eye has no desire to travel in a metal tube ever again) where we get to see the inner workings of an urban caern. It also allows us to see how far Julia has come, since she's now much more a pack member than a Glass Walker. However, she's still a technoshaman, which helps them track down a pack of Lore Banes hiding out in London, since they contain information on Jo'cllath'mattric. Mind you, Julia does a summoning that winds up with her meeting her Tribe's totem, Cockroach.

The fight with the Lore Banes doesn't go well until Julia invokes the trapped Story Spirits within them. (This is likely why I love this series. The idea of stories being spirits that grow in power as they're told makes me happy on some level.) This stuns the Banes, and they're defeated, releasing a bunch of stories across the universe.

Including on that gives them an idea on how to help Mari. So, we go back to the Finger Lakes, where Evan and Julia do the ritual, where the Black Spiral whom the pack dealt with back in Bone Gnawers comes back and tries to kill them all. He doesn't succeed, but Mari is now recovering. Jo'cllath'mattric is now mostly awake and thrashing at his weakened bonds, this setting up the final books in the series.

While some of these have been mediocre  at best, both of these are well written and well plotted.

Friday, August 17, 2018

Pinky swears and and dead people

I for the life of me can't remember how Shawn Sarles's Campfire got recommended to me. I normally wouldn't have read it, since it has James Patterson's name attached to it and it's theoretically Young Adult, but it was there and I read it.

We basically have 3 families on a camping trip in the Colorado Rockies, even though they're all from California. Maddie is our protagonist, along with her former enemy now bestie Chelsea. Maddie's mom died in a fire prior to the start of the book.

Maddie has a crush on Caleb, their guide for the week. Chelsea has a crush on Maddie's older brother Charlie.

Under the light of the full moon, three stories get told around the campfire, one involving a trained bar that eats people, one involving a mental patient that kills people, and one involving the Mountain Men, who also kill people.

Then people in real life strt dying in a manner similar to the tales, leading to a chase down the mountain to safety, with everyone trying to figure out who's trying to kill them.

The relationships are ill defined, and trying to figure out who's actually involved with whom isn't particularly easy. The adults are really unsympathetic, and indeed, the children are just as bad. For that matter, the ending and the identity of the killers is straight out of the original Scream.

When I originally picked it up, I was expecting something more akin to a book I remember reading back in high school with a similar set up. (I don't remember the name; I do remember it was published under the Zebra imprint and the cover featured a campfire with a wolf rising from the smoke. That one concerned a group of campfire tales told by boy scouts that started coming true, and it turned out the weird kid had been promised to Satan by his mother in a book club meeting. I still think the book would have been better if it had focused on the bowling ball that had been promised to Satan at the same meeting.)

It's readable, but forgettable. One wishes the author had gone for an adult novel and had more of a chance to develop the characters and maybe better plotted out the relationships so that it had more depth than cardboard cut outs on popsicle sticks doing pantomime.

20 years on, and it's still a mess

So, I hit one of the volumes in the Clan Novels I remember being problematic, and unlike some of the other ones, Eric Griffin's Tremere remains a train wreck from start to finish. This is not to say that Aisling Strurbridge, Regent of the Chantry of Five Boroughs in New York is a boring character or that her arc is is silly, it's more that the plotting that ensnares her makes no sense and is never particularly explained. Also, more than a few passages appear to be lifted directly from prior volumes, and the entire thing ends before the time frames previous volumes did. Which means it really doesn't progress the timeline at all. Indeed, it's almost as if it should have been an earlier release.

Aisling runs the under siege Chantry of Five Bouroughs, complete with a Regent Secundus who's been investigating Hazimel's other eye. Said Secundus gets killed by an Assamite in the chantry during a ritual gone wrong. (A brief history of the Tremere clan. The clan got its start in a system that predated the modern World of Darkness as a human Hermetic magical order. As the system expanded, they became a House of the Order of Hermes, who were losing access to magick during the early medieval period. As such, Tremere's disciple Goratrix found a way to turn eight of the disciples into vampires. Which was all well and good, until they realized that they lost access to true magick, the Order now hated them, and the rest of vampire society hated them. The seven disciples diablerized themselves up to Fourth generation, while Tremere himself ended up eating an Antediluvian, Saulot, who at the time was Vampire Jesus. [Saulot got revamped a lot the longer the game went on. Indeed, he started becoming much less the Enlightened One, and much more sinister.] Of the Originla Seven, about 4 are still active at this point in the Novels. Goratrix joined the Sabbat in the Victorian Era, Meerlinda runs North America, Etrius runs the Clan from Vienna.)

Anyway, we do fill in gaps as to how Sturbridge got the sketch of Leopold that she presented in Baltimore. But that's really about it in the greater scheme of the plot. For the most part, she (and just about everyone else at the chantry) is dealing with Tremere internal politics and one poorly defined Acolyte who evidently has connections in Vienna.

So yeah. It's readable, but that's about the best I can say about it.

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Set, hut, kick em in the butt!

So, I technically finished Gherbod Fleming's Brujah earlier this weekend, but a birthday celebration in Cincinnati left me with few options to update on here.

Anyway, we're mostly concerned with Theo Bell, loyal Brujah archon under Jaroslav Pascek, and his defense of Baltimore from the ravaging hordes of Sabbat. Which goes better than expected, once he and Jan Pieterzoon find and kill the traitor in their midst, deal with Hesha's interrogation of Malkavians about Anatole's last prophecy, and invade New York City. That would be the big surprise in this one, along with Vykos using her Assamite turned fake ghoul to take out Cardinal Polonia, former archbishop of New York.

So, yeah, as one would expect from the rage filled clan of philosophers and iconoclasts, it's fairly action packed, with Theo trying to get around politics to get stuff done. that his boss is in town, as is Lucinde, the Justicar of Clan Ventrue, and one gets an idea Theo's in a bit over his head, particularly when Jan and Theo find out their plot was already in motion under different auspices when they arrive in New York.

At the end, they let slip that there's a third Justicar in New York, acting independently.

Fun read, and a welcome relief from some of the awkward plotting in previous volumes.

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Ha *glub* Ha *glub*

River of Bones by Taylor Anderson came in at the library, so I've been back on antiquated ships for the past week as the United Alliance of Homes and Allies has been busy fighting with Task Force Bottle Cap and hopefully soon, the Battle of Paso del Fuego. (Which has been previewed for about 3 books now. With the Army of the Sisters approaching Corazon, one hopes next book will detail this.)

Anyway, we're mostly concerned with the Zambezi River and the armored freighter Santa Catalina, who's entire goal is to head off the Final Swarm at a choke point in the river with support from the carrier Arracca. (This is not to say we don't get updates from around the world, but...) Santy Cat, as she's affectionately called, does her job admirably, particularly when Chak-At-Saab and Dennis Silva show up to relieve her crew.

In the mean time, Bradford, Bekiaa, and the Republic are busy trying to cross a river, dealing with Grik who've figured out breastworks. While they eventually succeed, it comes a bit late, after Bottle Cap grounds itself on the shores of the river.

In the meantime, evil Gravois is in the Caribbean, trying to cement an alliance between the fascist League and the Aztec meets Catholicism Dominion. Given boith parties involved (Gravois and Don Hernan) are fairly evil, one expects that alliance to last until the backstabbing begins.

While the evolution of the Grik remains fascinating to read, they're quickly hitting a point where they're going to end up retiring the field, since at this point, their offensive is ground into dust, and their goal becomes to hold the homeland.

Also, we have a German Uboat and Kurokawa's second defecting at the end, joining the allies. We also lose a few major characters, as is usual.

It's a good read, but once again, I kind of wish he'd get to George R.R. Martin levels of character control.

Sunday, July 29, 2018

Lore of the tribes

We're back in Werewolf as we tackle Children of Gaia by Richard Lee Byers and Uktena by Stefan Petrucha, packaged again in one volume.

Mainly though, we're exploring the two of the major plot lines in the Tribe Novels, as Cries Havoc seeks the Record Keeper and access to his own memories and Arkady's trip to Malfeas and how it impacts Amy Hundred Voices in Nebraska.

Cries Havoc and the Silver River Pack start us off, having been sent by Antoine Teardrop to go find the Record Keeper. Whom they don't exactly find in this volume, although they do find what they're looking for. While in North Carolina, being stalked by the Bane that ate Cries Havoc's memory in the first place, they follow a glow through the mountains that eventually leads to a Caern dedicated to memory. In here, Cries Havoc finds his memories even as his pack wards off the attacking banes trying to break into the underwater grove.

Then we pick up Amy Hundred Voices as she makes her way to an Uktena meeting in Nebraska after a large failure of her pack in Alaska. That she also possesses a relic that draws Arkady nears as he traverses the Silver Spiral is almost secondary. Mainly, the Elders of her tribe challenge her to find her voice, which ends in a big battle against a bound Nexus Crawler, which Arkady joins in at the very end, trying to steal the bone orb that plays music. He doesn't succeed.

There isn't a heck of a lot of story meat in this one, focusing more on developing characters who may or may not appear later on. It also introduces the up until now shadowy Lore Banes, vulture like spirits that actually eat the spirits of the stories the Garou tell.

So, while not the most exciting book, and indeed Uktena really doesn't add much to the overall plot, it's still readable, a bit like a tub of popcorn during some middle exposition.

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Freaking Putanescas...

So, finally finished the slog through Justin Achilli's Giovanni, which while a solid entry into the series, still involves probably my least favorite clan in the entire setting. Because, really, a clan of vampires who are financial masters, organized crime lords, and necromancers is kind of like drunken attempts at making peanut butter cups with mud and sediment.

Anyway, in this one, we're following Chas Giovanni Tello or the mafioso side of the family and Isabel Giovanni, who's a necromancer. Both of whom are looking for Benito (who got kidnapped back in book 1), and getting caught up in plugging plot holes from the previous volumes. On the other hand, it is a decent introduction to the clan that the Giovanni supplanted not long after the Dark Ages, who evidently managed to hide in the Underworld before coming back to take care of the upstarts.

But that happens towards the end of this.

Anyway, we end up in Vegas looking for Benito.

Chas's ghoul buys the farm due to Hunters from that game line.

Isabel gets involved with negotiations with the two major sects about the state of Boston, which Chas screws up by getting a secretary made parts of a concrete bridge.

Isabel tries to convince the Tremere Justicar declare a pogrom on the Ravnos before they get the bright idea to create a new Antediluvian.

Benito dies when Leopold shows up in a bathroom outside Vegas.We find out Benito knows Leopold, but Leopold is quite nuts.

Chas and Isabel track down one of the "Old Clan" in a swamp outside New Orleans. It kills Chas with a wave of its hand, but lets Isabel survive to pass on the witch hunt is coming. Which makes no sense, since the Harbingers of Skulls (aka the Cappadocians) had been going after direct lines, of which Isabel is one, verses Chas, who had no real family connections prior to becoming a vampire. (Although frankly, given he was written like Joe Pesci, I can't complain about his chump death.)

As I said above, it's a solid entry, it's just that I dislike the clan.

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

When falling into madness, DIVE!

I'll admit, back when I first read Stewart Wieck's Malkavian, I skipped chapters here and there, mainly due to the nature of one of the narrators. That would be Anatole, the so called Prophet of Gehenna. Given that the weakness of the clan is that they all suffer from some form of insanity, this may explain why this one takes a bit to get through. Particularly since one of the two major narrators is one of Anatole's personality fragments, and it's the one that actually makes sense. 

We actually get 3 lunatics in this mix, as both Prince Bennington and The General from Atlanta show up alive and well. And they indeed dance on Anatole's strings, as he has visions of them and provides them with other visions. (It's worth noting that the Malkavians have a special ability in game call the "Malkavian Madness Network" or "Cobweb" that allows them something akin to telepathy. Not quite that, but close enough for horse shoes and hand grenades.) 

So, anyway, Anatole comes to the States from Serbia towards the beginning, following his visions. (He's evidently been following them for some time, as he has the Concorde to himself, having booked the flight years earlier.) All the characters of note seem to have Animal representations in his visions, with the other puppeteers showing up as nightmarish predators. 

This leads first to New York City, then to Atlanta, where he leads the General to a newly returned Victoria Ash and Bennington to the Tremere chantry to get the robe that killed Heracles. With all the pieces in place, Anatole is free to travel to the Catskills where Leopold is still sculpting. (This is after revealing to Victoria that she sired Leopold. Which neither of them remember.) 

Anatole ends up sacrificing himself in the cave, using his own blood to scroll prophecy on the reborn Cathedral of Flesh. In an epilogue, Ramona and Hesha arrive together, wherein Ramona kill her Sire and clanmates stuck in the walls of the cathedral while Hesha takes pictures of and makes copies of Anatole's writings. 

So, upon rereading this, it's better than I remember, and the visions do make more sense, particularly since having read the series before (and reading them closer together), I actually can figure out what the heck he's actually describing. And added bonus is finally seeing Victoria use her combat prowess to take her revenge of Elford, who mutilated her so madly several books ago.

Friday, July 13, 2018

Aware Wolf

I've been waiting for Bone Gnawers/Stargazers to come up in the queue since I started this re-read, mainly because it gives me a chance to share my favorite Werewolf art/Aware Wolf meme.

That would be the cover art for Stargazers, which is actually the second book in the duology, but you know, it's a great picture.

Anyway, we start off with Bone Gnawers by Bill Bridges and Justin Achilli. (The latter is mostly known for his work on Vampire, or his time as Gangrel in the WWE. Most figure the blows to the head he took in the ring explain his take on the entire line. The former is the guy with the credit for developing the entire Werewolf game.) As such, we're following around Carlita (aka Big Sis), a Bone Gnawer from Tampa, Florida, and member of the Silver River pack. The Bone Gnawers are one of the two more urbanized tribes, although unlike the Glass Walker counterparts, they generally are poor, and protect the downtrodden of humanity.

There's a bit of retconning (for those unfamiliar with the term, it's the process in which what was originally released as cannon suddenly gets changed with or without explanation) in her story, since when she was introduced back in Red Talons, she stated that she was there because the original messenger got tied up with something else. Now, we hear about how a Uktena tricked her to put her in a situation where she was forced to go to New York to wind up in the pack. Any rate, The Silver River Pack flies out of New York to Spain for a Werewolf business meeting, followed by traveling to the Hungary/Serbia border in an attempt to stop the Tiza river from feeding Jo'cllath'matric. Which sort of succeeds, although Cries Havoc gets his memories eaten by one of the new banes and even Uktena's deus ex machina appearance can't fully stop the awakening.

In the meantime, Stargazers centers on Antoine Teardrop, the one who prophesied the entire Silver River Pack in the first place. When said pack returns to the Catskills with the comatose Cries Havoc, it is he who sort of figures out how to wake up Cries Havoc. He's also guarding the also comatose Mari Cabrah, and trying to discourage King Albrecht from going to Europe. Anyway, he does manage to wake up Cries Havok, and sends the pack on a quest to find the Record Keeper, who may hold the key to returning ALL of Cries Havoc's memories that got sucked out by the bat bane.

Following that farewell, Teardrop does have another vision that leads him elsewhere in the Umbra (you can tell the developer is writing, since he uses the same poetic language in the book that the rule books uses), where he comes across the knowledge of the Silver Thread. Thinking the knowledge of this path through the madness that encases the Wyrm should go to Albrecht, he follows another path that winds up leading him to the disgraced Arkady. The two work together briefly to open the path to the Silver Spiral, thus setting up Arkady's end game later on.

While the series has a few more plot holes than I remember and more than a few silly moments that you can almost hear dice rolling in the background, it still remains fun to read. It's also interesting to read the in game explanation for why the Stargazers left the Garou Nation for the Eastern Beast Courts, rather than the whole "Well, we needed ways to tie in our Eastern line to the more popular Western line, and we already removed the Gangrel from the Camarilla, so we need to have someone leave in Werewolf Revised..."

Thursday, July 12, 2018

And you thought your mother-in-law was bad

That title is a bit off, since she redeems herself in the end, but given that Thetis storms through the pages of Madeline Miller's The Song of Achilles as an almost second antagonist.

For those not versed in such esoterica, Thetis is, of course, the mother of Achilles, Aristos Achaion, Best of the Greeks, and a major player in the Trojan War. She's a sea nymph, who married Peleus, and tried to make her son immortal. That she did not succeed should be obvious. Indeed, it was their wedding that Eris crashed and threw the apple into.

Then there's Achilles himself, raised in Phthia, who won't die unless Hector does.

And how his world changes when Patrocles arrives as a foster in Peleus's kingdom following some rather unpleasant events in his father, Menoitius's, kingdom. (Namely, accidentally killing a Noble's son, and not having the presence of mind to claim self defense and prevent the outcry for a blood price.) Of course, that exile comes a bit after the journey to Sparta in a failed attempt to betroth himself to Helen. (Menoitius's idea.) Wily Odysseus, suggests allowing Helen to choose her own husband (Menelaus), and making all the suitors present pledge to defend her honor.

We'll return to that promise much later, since both Patrocles and Achilles swore that oath.

Anyway, Achilles ends up naming Patrocles his companion, much to his mother's chagrin. Their friendship blossoms, and they end up becoming lovers while studying warcraft and medicine with Chiron the centaur (who previous students included Heracles.) During that period, Paris of Troy comes to Sparta and elopes with Helen, courtesy of Aphrodite.

Achilles, or more to the point, Thetis, has no desire to involve himself in avenging the cuckold Menelaus. Thetis spirits Achilles off to Scyros, where he's disguised as one of Lycomedes's foster girls. There's a lot of drama on Scyros, as Thetis has married Achilles off to Deidamia, who in turn is now bearing Neoptolemus (or Pyrrhus) in her womb. Mind you, Deidamia is quite put out when Patrocles shows up and Achilles declares him to be his husband. Eventually, to save her reputation, Deidamia is sent off to have her child, which is of course when Odysseus and Diomedes show up. They reveal the ruse of Achilles and wind up convincing both Patrocles and Achilles to honor their oath to Helen and join the forces of the Greeks in a short little war with Anatolian Troy to get back Meneleus's wife. 

For those familiar with Homer's Illiad, you know about how well this turns out. However, with this being told in narration by Patrocles, we get much more of the human side of the war and much less of the divine interference. Not that the Gods don't play their parts, (we indeed see Athena on the battlefield once, and Apollo shows up a few times), but we're much more involved in the reasons Achilles walks away from Agamemnon and causes the rout of the Greeks in the tenth year of the siege. We also meet Briseis, who becomes a fuller character than she is in Homer, and the reason for her lamentations after Patrocles dies become clearer. (Among other things, Achilles uses his place as  Aristos Achaion to save her and other girls caught in the siege from bed slavery to the other Greeks. This is mainly Patrocles's influence.) 

Eventually, Agamemnon kidnaps the wrong girl (a priestess of Apollo) and refuses to ransom her to her father, who is a priest of Apollo. Plague breaks out among the Greeks, and Agamemnon, in his hubris, refuses to do penance to fix it. Achilles leads his army off the field in protest, which leads to Thetis petitioning Zeus to change the balance. The Trojans break through the walls and start firing ships. Patrocles, sick of seeing people he knows die, convinces Achilles to let him don his armor and lead the Myrmidons onto the field. He winds up helping the Greeks drive the Trojans back to the city, but winds up getting killed by Hector. Not that it matters, Patrocles's restless spirit remains to narrate the end game, as Achilles mourns Patrocles, takes on the River god, then kills Hector and drags his body behind his chariot. Eventually Paris takes out Achilles with an arrow aimed with help from Apollo. Achilles's son Neoptolemus shows up, dictates how his father should be buried, complains about Achilles's ashes being mixed with Patrocles's ashes, and demands that Achilles's marker bear only his father's name, condemning Patrocles to restless spirithood. 

At the end, Patrocles does gets his name added to the marker after telling the entire story to a mourning observer. Adn the final paragraph actually made me cry.

Thankfully, there are a few appendices added on to the end, complete with some fairly helpful refreshers on who all these people are, since Greek myth tends to name drop frequently. 

One thing I really enjoyed in this was that by putting it in human time frame, one gets a better sense of the depth of time involved in the myths, since they talk of Heracles being born a generation or two before where we are now, showing how the legends grew. Generally speaking, most of books containing the myth tends to run them together where this doesn't really come through. 

While it's been a while since I last delved into Homer, it seems to follow pretty well. It's well written, certainly towering over other such retelling (like The Firebrand by Marion Zimmer Bradley). And it's fairly obvious that this author has a love of Classics that matches my own.

Saturday, July 7, 2018

When paths diverge, which do you follow?

I was originally going to title this with the anglicized version of the shahada, since our signature character, Fatima, recites it several times during the course of Gherbod Fleming's Assamite, but then I figured it really doesn't have that much to do with the actual plot.

Or does it?

the Assamite clan is one that underwent several revisions as the different editions were published, and indeed, got hit again with the most recent (and likely the one getting ready to be published next month), going from a middle eastern clan of assassin vampires to a much more diverse clan with three different castes, cursed by the Tremere, and with the majority of the membership fighting to keep true to Islamic faith adapted to vampirism verses the older Path of Blood morality that is one of the hallmarks of the clan. Indeed, in the larger plot prior to this series, one of the oldest awakened, broke the Tremere curse on the clan, and started judging members of the clan based on whether or not he felt their faith was more in Allah or Haqim the founder.

It's into this situation we first meet Fatima, the first female Assamite, who's been active since the Dark Ages. Fatima is training a new generation, when she gets handed the assignment to take out her sort of girlfirend's sire as well as a reminder that Lucita (her sort of girlfriend) also is on the list of elimination. The Sire, Cardinal Monçada, nominally of the Sabbat, but honestly with one of the most twisted versions of Catholic heresy ruling his view of unlife in Madrid.

So, along the way to Madrid, we see Fatima dropping by DC to talk with the Greek Assamite (the one Vykos transformed into a copy of her ghoul back in Tzimisce), who she gives permission to kill Vykos. Then she heads up to Hartford to meet Lucita, to inform her of her plans. Lucita isn't exactly happy, since she has every inclination to beat Fatima to the punch and kill Monçada first.

Eventually, we end up in Madrid proper, where we find out Fatima's sire is up and active, and indeed, working on bringing in the Sabbat Assamites back into the main clan. Problem being, Lucita chooses the same time to come home for a visit. Which leads to a scene of vampiric sapphism, wherein Fatima and Lucita form a whirlpool, essentially drinking each other's blood while involved in other activities.

Anyway, Fatima does eventually descend into Monçada's lair, while Lucita is already inside. Eventually, Monçada's own guardian betrays him due to confusion, allowing Fatima the kill shot. We end with her letting Lucita loose in the night, while Fatima faces questions on her loyalty from her underlings for allowing Lucita to survive.

I seem to recall thinking the first time reading that this was an ok book, other than the relationship between Lucita and Fatima. While I still feel that their relationship is a bit overdone (both clans would consider such mortal passions from such elder vampires to be really strange), honestly, it's a really good read, filling in a bunch of gaps as to what's actually going on within the Assamite clan during this period. Also, the sheer audacity of taking out a longtime antagonist in the setting in such a spectacular way lends it an extra bit of momentum.

There will be a slight pause in these rereads, as something finally showed up at the library.

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Bloody tricksters

So, When I finished Kathleen Ryan's Ravnos this afternoon, I found myself using unkind words towards the publisher, since I either forgot what happened when these were originally published, or missed a misprint somewhere, since Lasombra insisted that Ravnos was next at the end, but it seems in actuality, Assamite was published between the two volumes. And there's an awfully big spoiler for the events of Assamite in the discussion of the series following the text. So the clan of chicanery and trickery and illusions fooled me again.

Not that this particularly affects Ravnos, since it's almost a companion volume to Setite, also by the same author. In this case, we're following the gypsy Khalil Ravana, whom Hesha shipped off to Chicago from Calcutta towards the end of his book. In terms of the metaplot the Ravnos Clan founder woke up and was destroyed somewhere during the course of Setite, driving all of the survivors into a madness causing them to attack each other on site. Which seems to have passed by the time we catch up with Khalil getting off the luggage carousel at O'Hare.

Khalil, it seems, does have a surviving Ravnos Methuselah living in his head, one Hazimel, who's eye got this entire series started. Hazimel isn't exactly impressed with Khalil, and indeed, some of the terms he uses are unflattering to the extreme. Hazimel does manage to use Khalil to get Hesha headed back to the Eye. Which doesn't work well, since Hesha, who had the eye, ends up losing it again to Leopold in New York City in front of St. John the Divine.

He does save Liz, Hesha's childe who was chained to greet the sun at the end of Setite, but he's trying to use her and the Gangrel Ramona to track down Hesha and the eye on behalf of the voice in his head. Said voice knows where Hesha is, but can't exactly pinpoint him. (Hesha, after being attacked by Leopold with the eye, winds up as a guest with the Nosferatu under the city.) Let's see, Khalil manages to double cross the Sabbat AND the Camarilla, and winds up escaping back to Chicago without Hesha, Ramona, or Liz. Barely. And still with Hazimel in his head. On the other hand, Liz's sort of friend Kitteridge, is suggested to have been Imbued; that is, been gifted with powers in the Hunter line of games.

Not a bad book, although I will admit I'm amused that even if Khalil winds up ahead in several of his games, he's also failed quite miserably in others. This is one of the better ones in the series.

Now, the better question is how to proceed, since I had a book come in at the library today. I'll likely go back and read Assamite then continue into the Song of Achilles after that.

Sunday, July 1, 2018

I saw a werewolf at Trader Vic's...

So, as part two of the two-or-three-fer, I offer up the third compendium in the Werewolf Tribe Novels, Red Talons by Philippe Boulle and Fianna by Eric Griffin.

Red Talons are a tribe that all come from Lupine stock. None of them particularly like humans, and indeed, go out of their way to avoid or punish them. Storm Eye is no exception here, although her backstory makes her a lot more sympathetic than I would have expected. Having returned to the pack of her birth, she finds that she no longer fits in among regular wolves. Indeed, she winds up using her brother to do something she feels is right, and is rightly ostracized for it by her tribe. She seeks out her father, and winds up going to the Sept of Anvil Klaiven for the meeting that set off the Tribe Novels. (Most of this is told in flashbacks as the rest of the story progresses.) Anyway, after the events of the last volume, Karin Jarlsdottir sends Mephi back to New York with Mari, and sends Storm Eye with Cries Havok to meet up with Antoine in the Catskills. Storm Eye isn't exactly fond of metis (the entire tribe considers them anathema), so she tends to view her task as one of humiliation.

Given the Umbral storm raging as they try to leave, the Glass Walker Julia steps in and gets the 3 of them out of Scandinavia, also annoying Storm Eye, since Julia tends to use Weaver tolls to escape the Wyrm. this also leads to the three escaping to London, and taking the Concorde across the pond. (Much of Storm Eye's time in human form is played for laughs. Which does help leaven the mood, although honestly in invokes pity for her as well.) In New York, They meet up with the Bone Gnawer Carlita (aka Big Sis), who's supposed to help get them up river to the Catskills. However, first oin the City itself, and later up the road, they get attacked by a Black Spiral Dancer and his Fomori friends. Including one wyrm wolf who keeps going after Storm Eye. The four wolves end up being joined by John North Wind's Son of the Wendigo, who was sent to escort them to Antoine. A final attack happens that winds up with the group pulled into the Umbra by the totem spirit Uktena, a powerful spirit who's technically the totem of the tribe of the same name. It is Uktena who winds up forming them as a pack, the prophesied Silver River Pack. Which none of them are particularly thrilled about, but ultimately, it's Storm Eye who points out it's easier to swim with the current than to try to fight it. And with her new pack and Alpha status within, she is redeemed by her tribe.

Then we start Fianna, and we meet Stuart Stalks The Truth, the only one to speak up on behalf of the supposed traitor Arkady at Anvil Klaiven. As such, he and Arkady's packmate Victor set off to find the truth. It doesn't go well, as the place that the knockerwyrm came from that was redeemed by Dawntreader is shrouded in mist and the Gauntlet between the worlds is non-existent. Indeed, the remains of the pack that was guarding the place sort of remain, but they're basically crawling flesh bags.

Eventually, Stuart finds his way to the guardian, whom we know little of. (We know she's from Appalachia, and she sold her soul for eternal youth. In an attempt to get her soul back, she's guarding the cave Stuart is trying to explore.) He ends up besting her, and descending down the troat of the wyrm guarding the cave. There in the base, he finds Arkady, who's already destroyed 2 of the 3 glyphs on the wall, mainly because they reflect badly on the Silver Fang tribe. On the other hand, it's Stuart who suggests that Arkady can take the fight to the Wyrm in Malfeas by finding and traveling the Silver Spiral, which lies in opposition to the Black Spiral and might provide a path that won't corrupt Arkady any further.

As I've said before the Tribe novels have a much more conventional time line, while we keep returning to the initial meeting that set off the events, each story is a forward progress, and there's a lot less backtracking to the stories.

Fun books.

Darkness imprisoning me

Tonight will be a two-fer, or ever a three-fer, since the second entry is one of the 2-in-1 Tribe Novels.

Anyway, we'll start with Lasombra, by Richard E. Dansky. Lasombra could probably best be described as Venture with religion. Both tend to be highly organized, and the Sabbat's organization is largely based on internal Lasombra convention, including church titles and structures. Lasombra cast no reflection, and control the shadows, literally able to call shadows to come fights for them.  Our signature character here, who honestly is playing second fiddle to Sabbat internal politics and some Camarilla politics as well is on Lucita, Childe of Cardinal Monçada of Madrid. Lucita, who's been around since at least the Dark Ages, has more or less declared herself independent of sect and clan, preferring to work as an assassin for hire for the highest bidder, avoiding major consequences due to her Sire's intervention.

Anyway, her Sire has sent his Templar, Tully, to try to keep Lucita from taking out one of the triumvirate of Archbishops currently plotting in DC. Whom her target is among the three, along with who is employing her remains a mystery until the end.

Most of the politicking involves trying to figure out who Monçada is actually supporting in this, trying to figure out who the traitor in the Camarilla is, who in the Camarilla employed Lucita, the actual fall of Buffalo and later Hartford. Oh yeah, and the mention of our Assamite friend who shows up in more detail later, Fatima.

In the end, the Sabbat has eaten up more of New England, but one of the three archbishops is dead. And Lucita is planning a visit to Madrid to see her Sire. (I think we return to that in a few books.)

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Hello, Baltimore

Well, we've made it to one of my least favorite clans in the World of Darkness, the corporate centered Ventrue, who's story here is told again by Gherbod Fleming.

And it actually turns out ok. Hardestadt the Elder (who's actually Hardestadt the Younger who ate his sire, but that's not really relevant here. He also is one of the major founders of the Camarilla.) sends his childe Jan Pieterzoon to the States to do what he can about the Sabbat advance along the East Coast. This is after Prince Garlotte of Baltimore, who's hosting refugees from the fallen cities, asks the Camarilla as a whole for help.

So, Jan arrives into a political mess as several chefs are being stirred up by the inimitable Victoria Ash, who's again maneuvering for political gain in council. While most of the story in here centers around the murders of several Tremere within the city and how to defend the Camarilla strongholds left in Buffalo and Hartford, we get glimpses into Jan's problems of how exactly the golden childe will be treated if he fails. Not that Prince Garlotte is exactly benevolent, he kills two of his childers' associates and tortures the third for siding with Victoria.

About two thirds of the way through, Xaviar, the Gangrel Justicar, last seen getting smacked around by a Toreador in Upstate New York, shows up speaking of Antediluvians and uniting with the Sabbat long enough to take down the threat. (Which, while Leopold isn't an Antediluvian, he does possess the eye of one. The one that woke up and destroyed the Ravnos in the last book.) It's here we get the closest to cannon as to what was said that led to the Gangrel clan leaving the Camarilla. Most of this has to do with Camarilla policy being that the Antediluvians are myths, and everyone being much more concerned about losing more territory.

Jan and Theo Bell (the Brujah Archon who we get to see much more of later on) decide to evacuate Buffalo and leave an army of newly created vampires to defend it as a bluff. Which doesn't turn out well at all. By the end, Hartford and Baltimore remain the only Camarilla cities still standing on the Eastern seaboard. But, we are assured, Jan has something up his sleeve. (Which we find out details on in book 13, as memory serves.) Victoria is sent back to Atlanta, since she has some odd connection to Leopold, whom she recognized from surveillance presented to the council.)

This actually has turned out to be one of the better books in the series, even if the focus is less on the signature character and more on moving along the greater plot. Which is fine, since Jan is a stuffed shirt.