This blog series starts here: https://pseudopod.org/2018/10/25/the-clan-novel-saga-a-revisitation/
Clan Novel: Giovanni covers events that happen between June 20 and November 4, 1999. It is Book 10 in the original clan novel saga, and was published in April 2000. It was written by Justin Achilli, and this is his sole contribution to this saga.
If Tzimisce is the Saw of the series, Giovanni is the 8MM. Tzimisce is full of monster monsters, but this one is full of monsters that could simply be awful humans. This book epitomizes the Black Dog ethos of White Wolf, which was their mature line of supplemental material that was too raw for inclusion in the primary books. They wanted those supplements to have the same feel as a porn mag in an opaque sleeve behind the counter.
The second scene in the entire clan novel saga starts with the kidnapping of a Giovanni who surrounds himself with original Chagalls and matched sets of katanas and wakizashis. The Giovanni scenes in the Toreador book had no impact whatsoever on the rest of the events in Atlanta, so by its inclusion at the very beginning, we are led to believe this is clearly a pivotal event. Finally, nine books and over a publication year later, we’re going to pay that bit of foreshadowing off.
Katana Chagall first appeared in the first novel, and was kidnapped by Nosferatu operatives. The family is concerned about Katana’s disappearance, so they send some folks to go look for him in Las Vegas. The mooks sent to handle this task are the primary Giovanni perspective characters, Charles and Isabel. Charles is the modern mob goon representative of the clan. Isabel is the ancient ancestor-worshipping wraith-manipulating creep. She’s an unsettling, entertaining, and intriguing representative of her clan.
The spirit realm is coming apart, and the Giovanni are losing control of a number of their wraith servants. There’s a neat little tale of an artist keeping the monsters from pushing their way in from the other realms. I appreciated the riff on “The Music of Erich Zann.” While much of the book was very straightforward and brutal, the prettiest sections dealt with the spirit realm.
The cover art is noteworthy here. While the detail around Isabel’s head is unnecessarily messy, the skull being consulted in Yorick style and the hint of the ossuary around the edge of the archway both evoke the grim connection between this clan of vampires and the realm of the dead. Some of those interactions with the dead are the most compelling sequences in this book.
The halls of the school looked even more ghastly in the world of the dead. Thin layers of gossamer wafted in a sickly ghost-breeze and scores of tiny blackish handprints dotted the walls. All of the windows in the ghost-hall were broken, peering into vacant offices strewn with papers or classrooms in which spectral jackets hung from hooks on the wall.
Unfortunately, Isabel’s machinations are too disjointed to prove satisfying. There are a lot of meetings that don’t provide forward motion. We learn that the spirit realms are coming apart because some vampires have moved bodily to a city in the spirit realm and are disrupting the comfortable order. These old vampires are the ones that the Giovanni Clan killed and replaced hundreds of years prior, and they’ve been waiting patiently for the right moment to exact their revenge. This inclusion of the Cappadocians felt like fanservice, and unnecessarily complicated for a sub-plot in the clan novel saga that doesn’t get paid off.
To provide some sound and fury while searching fruitlessly for Katana, Charles and his Made Man showcase the excesses of power through decadence and brutality. Every interaction with Charles left me hoping for his inevitable final death. There was a lot of foreshadowing of his loss of control and self-sabotage, which finally pays off in Act Three.
Apparently, Katana did some deal with Nickolai of House Goratrix, and the Nosferatu are mad about it. But we don’t get that information in this book, just scenes of Katana being tortured in between trips from one underground safe-house to another. After enough time passes, the Nosferatu let Katana loose in the desert outside Vegas. They either extracted enough information from Katana, or some other event happens (that information is kept hidden from the reader), and he is no longer a threat to the larger plan. While he’s celebrating surviving, Leopold the Tortured Artist shows up and nukes him. Nothing prepares the reader for this, since Leopold has been spending all his time in New York. It is not simply a surprise; it shatters verisimilitude. Apparently Nickolai teleported him from New York to Vegas and back to bump Katana off, although THAT is not told to us in this book either. I guess Nickolai wanted to make sure Katana didn’t say anything ELSE about their relationship. Three books later, the revelation of Nickolai’s involvement hopes that enough time has passed for the reader that they won’t wonder why Leopold wasn’t sent in as a tactical nuke BEFORE he snitched to his captors.
While lots of things occurred in the book, nothing happened that affected the metaplot, and nothing was resolved. This book is the ugly self-destructive tale of a mobster. This book is the revelation that the Giovanni betrayal of their Cappodocian masters centuries before is finally coming home to roost. This is a Giovanni book, not a Clan Novel Saga book. At least the two most annoying Giovanni we’re subjected to die.
The initial post: The Clan Novel Saga: A Revisitation
The next post: Brujah