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.