This blog series starts here: http://pseudopod.org/2018/10/25/the-clan-novel-saga-a-revisitation/
Clan Novel: Tremere covers events that start after the fall of Atlanta and into the second phase of the war between the Sabbat and Camarilla on July 18, 1999 and continues through September 24 of the same year. It is Book 12 in the original clan novel saga, and was published in June 2000. While this book is next to last in the series, all the events within it end before the conclusion of half of the books in the series. While its placement in the series order should reveal major events leading up to the end, it never quite delivers on that promise. It was written by Eric Griffin, who also wrote the Tzimisce book.
The primary “action” is focused on the Chantry of the Five Boroughs in New York City, so we have a plethora of Tremere vampires to follow. Frankly, there’s more Tremere than should be named, as there’s a dozen named Tremere who are introduced and do nothing to advance the plot or provide development for another character. Our primary focus character is Aisling Sturbridge, the regent of that chantry.
She must remain vigilant not only against overt threats—and a fifteen-foot-tall Tzimisce war ghoul was not entirely out of the realm of possibility here, she reminded herself ruefully—but especially against the more subtle dangers: impatience, indulgence, indiscretion. These three deadly sisters would kill as surely, if not as swiftly, as any fiend.
The next focus character is Aisling’s second-in-command Johnston Foley. Foley is the Severus Snape of this vampire Hogwarts, but without any of Snape’s redeeming charm or wit.
We get many scenes repeated that were included in other books; while in nearly every case they are expanded here and more effective, they feel more like bloat than a reminder of something that occurred, for example, nine books ago. I feel there’s something I’m missing from the game’s metaplot with some Tremere offshoot traitor band of House Goratrix, as we get a number of interludes from some Nickolai in this book and others. We never get enough detail about his actions, nor do we get enough actual action, for this to feel like anything other than fanservice for something that I neither care about nor impacts the primary plot of these novels. You may notice a lack of a plot summary here, and that’s because this exceptionally passive book really seems to have little to do with the other twelve clan novels.
This book wears the trappings of A School Story, and seems to want to be either a murder mystery or a political potboiler, but fails to effectively don the trappings of either. In Act 3 it is revealed that everything has been a plot within a plot, with treachery and puppetmasters everywhere! But it feels unearned. Too often, things that should be explicit instead happen “offscreen.” This damages the plausibility of the idea of plots within plots, seeing as we have a couple dozen perspectives available to show us those plots in action. Quite often, we wander into obtuse metaphorical territory that is neither compelling nor illuminating. It also fails to advance the plot or lend adequate hints to the backbiting, webs of deceit, and puppetmastery. Only one of the interior plots is given adequate time to blossom, and that is of the beleaguered Ronald Weasley, who subtly changes the ingredients of Snape’s potion, dooming the second-in-command’s ritual to implode disastrously.
There were some high points of this book, even if it fit poorly with the rest of the series. One delightful character is Talbott, who is called the Porter, but more closely fits the role of a Seneschal – he is more keeper of the keys and the daily activities than a custodian and janitor. He tells the most delightful stories, and while they are metaphorical of events that impact this novel, they stand on their own as self-contained and entertaining.
The Devil, he smiles warmly. “Take my hand, child. I’ve a fierce stabbing pain in the head and it’s put me in a foul temper. I’ve taken a kenning to have a walk down pasture, take a drop of drink and overlook the wigglies, for I fear they’re again up to no good, if this ringing in my ear is any indication. And it usually is. And they usually are.”
Silence, she says nothing, just takes her father by the arm and leads him from his hall.
There are shining moments of prose scattered throughout for those who want to pan for flecks of gold. There’s a delightful reference to the riddle game in The Hobbit which ties to The Eye of Hazimel, the artifact used in a number of the other books that drives the secondary plot.
His eye. His eye to the Eye. That Eye is like unto this eye, he thought. But in a low place, not in a high place.
My final thoughts on this book are best encapsulated in this quote:
“All the words that have passed between you and me to this point are nothing. The empty exhalations of the grave. The muttering of the wind through two exhumed skulls.”
The initial post: The Clan Novel Saga: A Revisitation
The next post: Assamite