The Clan Novel Saga: Toreador

Clan Novel: Toreador covers events that happen on and around the attack on Atlanta on the evenings of June 20-22, 1999. It is Book 1 in the original clan novel saga, and was published in February 1999. It was written by Stewart Wieck, who also wrote the Malkavian novel (please let that one be stronger).

This story is divided into three parts. Part 1: Leopold primarily follows a very young Toreador vampire, and events related to the planning of a big Summer Solstice party at the High Museum of Art in Atlanta. Part 2: Victoria spends more time with the leading Toreador vampire in the city, and the early political machinations of this Summer Solstice party. Part 3: The Eye focuses on the unfriendly Sabbat vampires attacking the party, along with a subplot related to an artifact of great power, The Eye of Hazimel.

I started my read-through with the first section of the Nosferatu book, followed by the first section of the Tzimisce book, which brought me to the Toreador novel. There must have been something in the water in 1999. Because clearly what we wanted in a Star Wars film that opens a multi-part epic was a plotline about trade negotiations. Just like the opener to a Vampire series about the end of the world should be about party preparation and existential ennui. Practically nothing happens until section 3. It’s good that I didn’t start here, because Leopold is more annoying than peak whining-Louis. I know that he is the neonate vampire mechanism for us to be introduced to the World of Darkness, but if I started here, I would not have the fortitude to continue. I cannot wait until the soft and squishy angsty vampire Leopold dies horrifically. Please let it be sooner rather than later.

This novel is so 90’s. The first chapter opens with artfully displayed nudity followed by splashes of blood and then an artist’s self-flagellation for being such a monster by feeding on humans. The second chapter opens with a Mafioso surrounded by original Chagalls and matched sets of katanas and wakizashis – peak Blade bad vamp tackiness. While including the Giovanni scenes in Boston show that there are other things happening in the world, it really has no impact whatsoever on the rest of the events in Atlanta.

There is little that I remember of this whole series, and the farther in I go, the more I suspect I just kept buying the books with good intentions, yet never actually made it past the first one or two. The first piece that I recall having memory of is when one of the Malkavians sinks into one of the statues and gives it a maniacal expression. The next was the sculpture of the fetus Cain slaying fetus Abel by strangling him with his umbilical cord.

Representation is pretty good with a distinctly non-binary character visible on the periphery. There’s also a fair number of black vampires both visible and important. It’s good that at least one of them is shown to be a Ventrue, because otherwise we skirt into iffy territory with most of the blacks being Brujah and the only visible Malkavians being white ex-Confederates.

I was generally impressed by the representation of Atlanta in the late 90’s. It was nice to see a cameo from the Plaza Theater and Majestic Diner, as these are landmarks representative of counter-culture in this town. I was also excited to see the use of the former steel mill brownfields that have been Superfunded and redeveloped into an artificial neighborhood – I’d love to see the metaphors that could be woven into a story set just a tiny bit later. Including The High Museum of Art (famously included in numerous films such as Manhunter and Black Panther) and the Fox Theater just seems easy, and whatever the opposite of subversive is. At least we weren’t subjected to Mary Mac’s and The Varsity, bastions of tacky tourist treachery. The one detail that I found particularly off was the inclusion of Leopold’s meal of a young white female hooker picked up from Ponce. This is another missed opportunity to be subversive and true to real hookers on Ponce in the 90s, to only pick one of “young” “white” or “female” instead of all three.

I hate Victoria Ash, the other Toreador, almost as much as I hate Leopold. While she doesn’t use the term carpetbagger to describe herself, she is interested in Reconstruction of this modern Atlanta. I know we’re supposed to like these two characters and empathize with them, but I can’t help but look forward to their inevitable horrible dooms.

The best part in this book is the short two-page segment where Victoria and the Prince’s wife so full-on Southern on each other, and nasty politeness oozes off the page.

The Toreador primogen approached her Ventrue counterpart. When she neared, Eleanor gave Victoria a hug in greeting. Or rather, the Ventrue made it plain she was favoring Victoria with a hug.

When the Kindred separated, Eleanor said, “This looks like a wonderful party, my dear. You must be very satisfied.” Her face was animated with all the false sincerity she could muster, which was enough to fool and flatter anyone but one as perceptive as Victoria.

Victoria wanted to gut the bitch right here, but she knew she had to be careful. On the other hand, too much care might alert Eleanor as much as a blatant warning, so she had to play along with the Ventrue’s double-entendre politics.

“Well thank you Eleanor. Such compliments certainly mean something when they come from you.”

I expect to find myself cheering for the death of a number of characters throughout this series. I won’t lie; I grinned with glee in Part 3 when Leopold got smashed by a tentacle of shadow in an Avenger-Hulk-Loki-style and then was unceremoniously tossed out the window. Sadly, both Toreadors walk off at the end of the book. On the plus side, they are both much worse for wear. Leopold appears to have been subjugated by the magical artifact, and Victoria has been captured by the creepy torture-porn vampires.

The picture I used as the cover for this blog post is a giveaway of a sample of the first book. It is noteworthy that the sample that splashes TOREADOR across the front instead focuses on the Setite who is chasing the magical artifact in the sub-plot. It’s like they knew in advance that the best part of this first book was towards the back of the book and in the background of the events. I’m glad that White Wolf was committed to this experiment, because this first book does not stand on its own, and only has value in setting up other events and future books.

The initial post: The Clan Novel Saga: A Revisitation

The next post:Tzimisce