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.