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What is Clan Novel: Tzimisce?
CLAN NOVEL: TZIMISCE is the second novel in the Clan Novel series by White Wolf games. Originally published in 1999, it and the rest of the series have been reprinted for their 20th anniversary by Crossroad Press. They’re available in a new trade paperback edition and Kindle format. I remember reading these back when I was 18 years old, a Goth kid in Kentucky, and so edgy that you could shave with me. Sisters of Mercy was the coolest, ooo! So, do the books hold up two decades later? Let’s find out.
The premise of the Clan Novels is the evil Sabbat, vampire terrorists, have invaded Atlanta, Georgia in order to take it from their rivals in Camarilla. The Camarilla is only marginally better than the Sabbat in overall moral terms but are far less violent, sadistic, and gross. The Sabbat aren’t stopping at the conquest of Atlanta, though. They plan to move on throughout Georgia, the Carolinas, and even into Washington D.C.
Whereas CLAN NOVEL: TOREADOR followed the beginning of the invasion from the perspective of the humane (seeming) Camarilla, Clan Novel: Tzimsice gives us the perspective of the Sabbat. We see their Crusade from the grunts on the ground to the behind the scenes plotting of its leaders as well as bits from Tzimisce signature character Sascha Vykos.
Sascha Vykos is a character who has undergone a series of revisions across her 20 year history. A member of the mortal House Tremere of magi 800 years ago, she was a transwoman in the Dark Ages who was embraced by their rivals in the Tzimisce. The clan of flesh-crafters allowed her to become the way she wanted to be and indulge her transhuman impulses but was somewhat troubled by the fact the Tzimisce clan was also the most inhuman, sadistic, and overtly evil vampires in the setting (aside from the Baali).
The character of Vykos was revisited in Beckett’s Jyhad Diary in 2018 with some smart souls realizing that maybe it wasn’t the best idea to have the most prominent trans character in the setting being a flesh-mutilating torture master. Sascha was revealed to have been mind-controlled by a much-older and more evil Methuselah (The Dracon) and finally freed herself from its control. She wasn’t a good person by any stretch of the imagination but was no longer a shock character. But how was Vykos treated in this book? Surprisingly well.
Eric Griffin doesn’t require much adjustment as the Sascha Vykos presented in this book isn’t played for shock value but presented as a powerful dangerous vampire woman. I suspect Eric may have picked up on the Unfortunate ImplicationsTM better than other writers and chose to make her a respectable villain. Sascha is always referred to as a woman, takes the form of Elizabeth Bathory for the entirety of the book, and is probably the most “respectable” Sabbat in the story. So, kudos to you, Eric.
Vykos is a terrible person who plays sadistic games with the rest of the characters in the book but there’s a panache to the character as she tricks a Assamite into lowering his guard long enough for her to kill him, manipulates her rivals into destroying themselves, and manages to bring down the defenses of Atlanta without sacrificing any of her pawns. She even manages to bring down Marcus Vitel, the most powerful Kindred in the New World, though that would prove to be a temporary victory. I quite enjoyed the flirtatious letters between her and Vitel as the two ancient vampires enjoyed a duel of intellectual equals.
The rest of the Tzimisce in the book are less impressive as it is shown the Sabbat are a crude, culture-less band vampires more at home in From Dusk til Dawn or Near Dark than Interview with a Vampire. If you’re looking for a work that portrays the Sabbat in a morally ambiguous or even heroic light then this is far from it. They’re constantly at each other’s throats, betray each other at the drop of a hat, and indulge in sick torture games as a matter of course. They even kill one of the Black Sisters from D.C. by Night and that’s a shame since they were among my favorite NPCs.
Strangely, my favorite character in this book is Victoria Ash rather than any of the Tzimisce. The poor Toreador Primogen of Atlanta has only a small role but she is struggling to keep her sanity while being tortured by a vampire who has adopted the appearance of a Picasso abstract. Certainly, it’s easier to root for the victim of torture to escape rather than the person doing the torture.
In conclusion, this isn’t my favorite of the Clan Novels and if you’re a fan of the intellectual inhumanity of the Sabbat then you’ll be disappointed. They’re closer to Warhammer 40K Orks and a band of psychotic soccer hooligans with a few geniuses leading them. Vykos maintains her dignity throughout the book, though, and this is an important set up for future volumes. As bad as the Camarilla is, we understand why they need to win along with the Anarchs. The Sabbat winning would be a complete disaster for humanity.