Monday, June 4, 2018

Toreador, en garde! Toreador, Toreador!

Sadly, the actual lyrics from Bizet's Carmen don't do the actual song justice, but it seemed an appropriate title for this.

I've reviewed a few things from White Wolf on here previously, but since I'm waiting on a slim line of reserves at the library and frankly, I re bought the Clan Novels for a paltry sum a while back, I'm back into re-reading the 13 Clan Novels plus the Anthology that followed. I'll likely be reading two, then switching over to the Werewolf Tribe Novels for a volume (for some reason, the Tribe Novels came as a two for one thing) to alternate things a bit.

A brief history here. The Clan Novels started appearing not long after the Revised edition of Vampire: the Masquerade appeared. Thirteen clans, thirteen novels, and they were supposed to release one book a month, serial style. As I'm sure other folks remember, it never quite worked out that way. And indeed, given that there were several different authors on the project, the writing varies from book to book, and not all of them are particularly readable.

The series starts off with Toreador, the clan of artists. Or what passes for artists, sometimes, as our "Signature" character in here, Victoria Ash, has some talent, but one of her other clan members' artistic talent is stripping. Victoria (who showed up in more than a few other White Wolf fictions, including the Victorian Vampire trilogy as well as Gehenna) is a recent transplant to Atlanta, following the ending of the Blood Curse. (Which was a previous crossover double trilogy from when the released Vampire: The Dark Ages. I recall very small bits and pieces of that one, since it was kind of silly.) Victoria is hosting Elysium (essentially a time and place when all may gather without threat of violence) at the High Museum of Art on the Summer Solstice of 1999. Her political maneuvering prior to the event (featuring several sculptures of Cain killing Abel, since ya know, in the mythology, Caine was the first vampire) is designed to set the African American Brujah and Ventrue vampires to take out Prince Bennison (leader of the city), a Confederate officer, who by virtue of being Malkavian, is also insane and mildly racist.

Also floating around the narrative is Victoria's clanmate Leopold, who's convinced his memory has been wiped and Victoria is his creator; Vegel, a Settite functionary who's there on business from his employer (whom we meet in book 4); Rolph, a Nosferatu who has somewhere to be before midnight; and Benito Giovanni, who's in Boston, and who's narrative arc seems mostly to be told to cancel his trip to Atlanta then being kidnapped by Assamites.

Victoria belongs to the Camarilla, the most populous sect of vampires in this setting. The Camarilla is essentially feudal in nature, with a Prince having near autonomy over a city, and Six Traditions enforced to preserve the secrecy of the society. The next major sect, who appear towards the end of this, are the Sabbat, who tend to use leadership titles taken straight out of the Medieval Roman Catholic Church. The Sabbat doesn't particularly believe in the Six Traditions, although they too tend to keep secrecy from mortals.(An Inquisition that kills off roughly 2/3 of the vampire population tends to make everyone a bit cautious.)

Anyway, Rolph points out to Vegel that the Eye of Hazimel (the origin of the Evil Eye, and what is apparently a very old vampire's actual eye) is hidden within one of the Cain statues, He plucks the eye out of said statue and provides Vegel with an escape route. Sadly, an unforeseen, by the characters in this book at least, even t occurs as the Sabbat descend en masse on the party and begin the slaughter of the guests. In the confusion, Leopold gets tossed out a window, finds Vegel dead on the street, steals the eye, and cannibalizes Vegel. Oh yes, and he plucks his own eye out and replaces it with the other one. The fate of the others at the party is left unresolved at this point.

In terms of readability, this one is pretty well written, providing enough backstory that someone not familiar with the setting would be able to figure out most of what's going on. There are other bits of the narrative that won't become clear until later volumes, and honestly, have little to do with the actual narrative of this volume, but have to be included here to keep the timeline straight. Of course, it isn't until the end of the series the bits about what's under New York City become clearer. So yeah. We'll see how this progresses, knowing that somewhere down the line a few of these will likely get thrown against a wall again.

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