Clan Novel: Gangrel

WW 11102 Aug-99

Review by Derek Guder (3 Aug 1999)

Style: 3 (Average)
Substance: 3 (Average)

Gaming fiction, almost as a rule, is truly horrid. Often times not bothering to follow the setting, it is usually pretty bad on its own right. Clan Novel Gangrel is an exception to this, for the most part.

Following an abandoned neonate and her friends, we get a very nice look at how the "babe in the woods" fares in vampiric society. Many of the basic assumptions that many players make about their character's knowledge are looked at through the book. Ramona, our uneducated (but obviously Gangrel) protagonist leanrs quite a lot through the course of the book, and shows that the author Gherbod Fleming at least understands the setting he writes in.

I won't bother to describe the entire plot because most of what I would say is on the back of the book, but I will mention some of the book's strengths and weaknesses.

First off, the good. Well-written, the book was fun to read. Fleming is not boring or dry, and he can actually write well, something that eludes most game fiction writers. We get a nice tale about a neonate and her education. We get nice characters. Best of all, we get Gangrel with enough brains to be scared of the Garou. One of the best parts of the book was the Gangrel gather.

The bad was more than I would like, and keeps me from calling the book "good," limiting me to "okay." First of all, the continual and annoying jumps to other plot elements that are not explained anywhere in the book. Distracting and annoying, I kept hoping and waiting for some point, but none appeared. I have to say that I do not like the way in which White Wolf is executing this whole series of novels. I would have much preferred truly independent books. I don't like having to read an entire series of 13 novels (the first two of which were apparently quite standard gaming fiction fare) to understand a few chapters in one novel. In addition, the villain of the book, the mad and uber-poweful Toreador Leopold, did not excite me in the least, except in the beginning. As the book went on, I liked him less and less.

The final scene of the book has taken a lot of criticism for its very clearly one-sides nature. I won't spoil anything, but I have to say that I didn't mind it because that struggle was not what the book was about, it seemed to simply be the "tie in" to the plot arc. What disappointed me about the ending was that there was none of the introspection and looking at the nature of humanity that made the book so strong in the beginning.

Overall, Clan Novel Gangrel was a very entertaining read and an excellent "neonate novel." Its delving into the nature of the Beast and humanity is stronger in the beginning than the end, but it was at least there. I enjoyed the book, but not as part of the over-arcing plot.