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What is Clan Brujah: Slave Ring?

Shackled by Blood

Immortal vampires lurk in the nights of the modern world, hidden from the eyes of mortals by an elaborate masquerade and the traditions of their sect, the Camarilla. But for every blood-drinker towing the line, six others forget their place and revel in the power of undeath. Heretics and anarchs press in on every side, and the whole of undead society teeters on the edge of collapse.

Standing in the way of this chaos is the strong arm of the Camarilla, Theo Bell, archon, enforcer and executioner among the undead. He is quick on the draw, potent in the blood, and those who’d challenge the traditions have reason to fear him.

But Theo has his own problems. In the Midwest, he discovers evidence of a new breed of slavery in which mortal criminals and vampiric degenerates collect human specimens to suit particular tastes. Bound by his own sense of honor, and obligations going back to the Victorian Age, Theo begins a hunt that will ultimately shake the foundations of the Camarilla itself—and may cost him his own freedom.

Review

Warning – This review of the novel about vampires and slavery will touch on slavery and sexual assault.

SLAVE RING by Tim Dedopulos is the first book of the CLAN NOVEL TRILOGY: BRUJAH: series. This is one of three trilogies that serve as loose sequels to the CLAN Novel series from 1999. These were the last books to be released before the TIME OF JUDGEMENT series ended the Old World of Darkness until its reboot. The series stars Theo Bell, archon of the Camarilla, and the setting’s rough equivalent to Blade.

The premise for this volume is Theo Bell has been assigned to a seemingly routine mission in Minneapolis: eliminate a rogue vampire guilty of several murders. During the process, he encounters a desperate father out to rescue his twin teenage daughters by any means necessary. Theo Bell finds himself fangs depe in a conspiracy to traffic human beings across the glove to Kindred masters.

I have a few issues with this premise, such as the fact that I’m pretty sure that vampires are almost axiomatically involved in human trafficking via ghouls or for blood. Indeed, one of the earliest adventure hooks for the original FORGED IN STEEL setting was the player characters having to stop it in Gary, Indiana. Even so, I accept that Theo Bell is the sort of vampire who would want to stop it if he could.

Theo proceeds to rescue one of the twins from the slavers but not before they end up Embraced as a member of Clan Brujah themselves. A naive newcomer sidekick is a fairly effective means of humanizing a cold blooded butt kicker like Theo as Wolverine and Kitty Pryde or Joel and Ellie prove. Delphine is new to the vampire business and Theo ends up serving as her substitute sire while he tries to negotiate for her survival despite her Embrace being a violation of the Traditions.

There’s a lot to like in this book and part of why it works is Theo is capable of great evil but he’s mostly an honorable decent man that has forgotten how to be such. Despite its incredibly dark subject matter, it is considerably lighter than a lot of VAMPIRE: THE MASQUERADE books and it is very easy to root for Theo Bell given the people he’s up against. The book also benefits from the flashbacks to Theo dealing with his time in the British Empire, which is much more interesting to examine than his time among the Proto-Confederacy.

Most of the book is about Theo and Delphine with the other vampire characters being somewhat stock versions of the same sorts of characters we’ve seen for many years prior. The scheming Tremere Primogen, the aloof but corrupt Prince, and the establishment figures who don’t care about Theo’s current case. That doesn’t mean they’re not entertaining, though, and there’s quite a few places where the story goes in odd directions. Like when Theo’s attack on a slaver base is interrupted by a grieving father with a bunch of C4.

There’s some very unfortunate bits in the book like the fact Theo undergoes sexual assault from a woman who doesn’t take no for an answer and can have him killed in the 19th century. Also, allusions to the kind of treatment that human trafficking victims suffer to break their spirits. This is, however, really just TAKEN with vampires and I am all there for that. It is a solid and entertaining book and I’m interested in picking up the remaining volumes of the series.

Available here

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