reviews

Setite (Clan Novel #4) by Kathleen Ryan Book Review

Write on: Fri, 28 Jun 2019 by  in Charles' Reviews Be the first to comment! Read 10056

5/5

The Followers of Set hold a special place in my heart. They are the Set-worshiping, Caine-rejecting vampires who went from being one of the most ridiculous Clans in Vampire: The Masquerade to one of my all-time favorites. Presently, they hold a number #2 position for me in the setting with only Clan Malkavian ranking higher in people I'd want to be Embraced by. The Followers of Set are a group that is easy to get wrong but amazing if you get them right and a large part of why I love them is due to this book.

When they were originally created for the Vampire: The Masquerade Player's Handbook, they were essentially designed as one-note villains based on Robert E. Howard's Conan the Barbarian. More precisely, they were based on the John Milinus movie interpretation of those works. Thulsa Doom as played by James Earl Jones turned into a snake, had a cult of drug and sex-addicted followers, plus worshiped a god of evil. Vampire: The Masquerade: Redemption even had a Setite temple as a place you massacred them in order to rescue Toreador sex slaves. No, no Christof, the Toreador are the Setite's customers.

Eventually, the Followers of Set were essentially reimagined as Lavey-ian Satanists with a dash of Gnostic theism as well as a freshman philosophy student's understanding of Nieztsche. The Followers of Set hate the world and blame the gods for how awful it's become. They set themselves up against all that is good, just, and pure in the world because they see these things as social traps. Only by embracing transgression and freeing yourself from the shackles of human morality can you become the truest kind of vampire you can be.

As I've grown older, I've developed a certain disdain for the Sabbat that increases simultaneously while my respect for the Setites grows. The Sabbat have much the same rhetoric as the Setites. They're both vampire death cults that argue vampires should cast aside their humanity to embrace (*rimshot*) posthuman morality. However, the Sabbat strike me as poseurs by comparison. The Setites have been doing this for 10,000 years and are very good at the intellectual study of evil and why it's a better thing than good. I grok their message and think they're the only group aside from the Children of Haqim that can coherently explain what a Path of Enlightenment is as well as why you should follow one.

This is all due to Hesha Ruhadze.

Hesha is one of the two stars of CLAN NOVEL: SETITE with the other being the more conventional Elizabeth Dimitrios. Hesha is the antithesis of the original Setites who could not have been more overt in their villainy. Hesha dresses stylishly, talks rationally, and lacks the vast majority of Elder snootiness that turns most Neonates Anarch until they age into power of their own. Indeed, if you met Hesha in-game, you'd probably consider him a fairly cool NPC that could be relied upon in a jam.
Hesha is a monster.

Hesha's a monster that realizes what almost no other Devil figures in literature do and the best way to destroy someone is to give them exactly what they want with no word twisting or sudden but inevitable betrayals. Hesha manipulates, lies, and destroys the lives of those around him like a boss. He does it in such a way that the people around him believe he's their good friend and are grateful for his corruption of their souls. Hesha isn't their friend but he's happy to play the role if it gets him what he wants. Making Thompson respect him as his mentor and Elizabeth love him are the equivalent of giving dogs a treat in order to train them. Hesha keeps his tools sharp and in comfort while emotionally dependent on him.

Elizabeth is a good protagonist as she serves in the thankless role of being the "normal" one who has to get to know Hesha and fall for his charms. She's believable, though, and a human character who doesn't suck. There's a lot of tension that doesn't normally exist in vampire romance fiction because the vampire in question is usually a teddy bear with fangs. Elizabeth avoids being aggressively stupid or romantic like quite a few vampire romance heroines. When she realizes what she's trapped in a relationship with, it's quite impressive the lengths she goes to in order to survive.

Clan Novel: Setite is probably the best of the Clan Novels and it's kind of hilarious in our post-Twilight era that it reads as a well-written parody of that kind of fiction. The story is framed as a love story between Elizabeth and Hesha. She's a young art historian and restorer who meets the handsome yet mysterious Hesha while slowly coming to realize that he holds some dark secret.

The dark secret is not that he's a vampire: Hesha dangles that truth in front of her so she believes he's opening up to him. No, that secret is that Hesha is a predator that cannot love and is perfectly able to fake normal human emotions. Ramona and Zhavon are a love story that can never be because the Beast destroys true love. Hesha and Elizabeth are a love story that can never be because if all your instincts tell you a man is a master manipulator as well as practiced liar--then he probably is.

The big appeal of this novel is that it is a fairly self-contained story that actually gives good insight into how to run a specific clan. It avoids all the various cliches that were (then) associated with the Followers of Set and creates a new canon for how they should be run. I've run EXPYs of Hesha in several of my games and even stole his character as the basis for a PC. The book works well as both a stand-alone as well as a greater part of the series, giving more reason why we should care about the Eye of Hazmiel plot than Leopold the Gangrel Slayer ever did. It also chooses subtlety as its weapon versus the overt action movie fights that predominate in this series. This is one of the must reads of the Clan Novel set. Thank goodness Crossroad Press has re-released the Clan Novels (along with the Dark Ages Clan Novels and Grail Covenant trilogy).

Available here

Last modified on Tuesday, 02 July 2019 23:05
C.T. Phipps

C.T Phipps is a lifelong student of horror, science fiction, and fantasy. An avid tabletop gamer, he discovered this passion led him to write and turned him into a lifelong geek. He is a regular blogger on "The United Federation of Charles".

He's written Agent G, Cthulhu Armageddon, Lucifer's Star, and The Supervillainy Saga.

Website: https://ctphipps.wordpress.com/

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