The Clan Novel Saga: Ventrue

Clan Novel: Ventrue covers events that happen between June 25 and August 27, 1999. It is Book 5 in the original clan novel saga, and was published in August 1999. It was written by Gherbod Fleming, who provided five of the thirteen novels in the set. It picks up just before the displacement of the Ventrue prince of Washington, D.C. and follows the second phase of the war where the Camarilla attempt to defend territory and the Sabbat consolidate and slowly advance.

This book strongly follows the meta-plot, and follows the machinations of the different factions trying to defend or take territory. The major strategic change is the withdrawal of the Camarilla from Buffalo and ceding the city to the Sabbat. However, the details of this campaign are much more effectively covered in the Lasombra novel. Oh, and the Gangrel quit the Camarilla because the Ventrue ignore Xavier’s plea to stomp the grease out of the Tortured Artist with the Artifact who mopped the floor with him in the Gangrel novel.

We see more florid love letters to the Tzimisce Vykos from our mole “Lucius,” and receive our first hint that she does not know the identity of her secret admirer. This campaign in Buffalo reveals there is a mole feeding strategic intelligence to the Sabbat, and the political machinations of the Camarilla find roost in this. Everyone hides motives and political actions, so no one trusts anyone else. While several other books follow a signature clan member or two, this paranoia due to political maneuvering is the signature mark of Clan Ventrue.

The best aspects of this book follow the mercurial Victoria Ash, who has taken refuge in Baltimore. She has become more monstrous and hungry from her experience with the hospitality of the Tzimisce. She wears the mask of Helpless Damsel, but the reveals of her as monster and manipulator are effectively presented. By the end of the book, she has healed from nearly all of the physical modifications gifted by the Tzimisce, though her mental wounds linger. She also is unable to eliminate a tattoo-like mark of the Tzimisce clan symbol from her throat, implying that she may be unwittingly be in thrall to the Sabbat.

She couldn’t face anyone. Not tonight. She couldn’t stand the thought of anyone looking at her. She couldn’t face even her own eyes. And she wouldn’t have to. Not now. Every mirror, every vase with a reflective surface, every glass face from the pictures on the wall lay shattered on the floor. The drapes were pulled, the lights smashed.

Her right hand traced the line of her jaw, brushed over the tiny scar shaped like a serpent swallowing its own tail.

Some of the worst aspects of the book follow the “tactician” Jan Pieterzoon, sent over from Europe to save Baltimore and the Camarilla. This cold professional tactician makes a lot of emotional decisions, allowing the Sabbat to make an almost-successful assassination attempt on him while he aimlessly wanders around town, relatively unprotected. While this scenario stretches verisimilitude, it leads us to the best sequence with Pieterzoon. In the game, the curse of the Ventrue is to have a specific diet, and Pieterzoon can apparently only feed from victims (possibly of sexual violence). In the assassination attempt, he lost all of his entourage including his meals-on-wheels. Now he must manufacture a victim, upon which he can feed. This whole sequence and its fallout is dark without prurience, and an excellent depiction of the loss of humanity.

Representation is worth noting in this book. While most of the book focuses on males, Victoria Ash is one of the most effective players. There’s a number of non-white characters, most notably Brujah Archon Theo Bell, who excellently pulls Ventrue asses out of fires throughout the book. There is also an openly gay, polyamorous relationship presented without evident judgement. However, the presentation of the Malkavians in the war council in Baltimore is problematic and trite. Disability is mainly played for humor, rather than pathos. So, like much of the 90’s, it’s a mixed bag.

The initial post: The Clan Novel Saga: A Revisitation

The next post: Lasombra