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Minireview: A Hunger Like Fire, by Greg Stolze

Compared to the older World of Darkness, the new one doesn’t have all too many novels attributed to it. Some may say this is a good thing; the general quality of the old WoD novels was atrociously bad. A Hunger Like Fire is the first in a trilogy of novels for Vampire: the Requiem, and there is reason to be cautiously optimistic here: Greg Stolze actually knows how to write. After having read it… yeah. It’s actually not bad at all. It focuses quite a bit on vampiric politics, but like the game itself it’s a lot more local-scale and, well, gritty than the old Masquerade was.

The book starts off with one of the best depictions of a just-Embraced (and left to fend for himself) vampire I’ve read to date. All too many times this is depicted as a normal guy with a great life suddenly having his old life snatched away (in multiple ways). Sure, that works, but here the protagonist is a loser. He drinks, he’s not all that smart, and he doesn’t treat his wife or daughter all that well. He’s not a “bad guy” either, just a… loser. Then he gets turned into a vampire, and the depiction of how he deals with things (and fails to understand much of anything) is a lot of fun.

From there the story segues into the larger scale of vampire politics in Chicago. We get Persephone Moore, a character who starts off a bit stereotyped but develops character fast. She’s trying to stay human, to keep in touch… and it’s not quite working. Then there’s Prince Maxwell, who is left as a bit of an enigma. At least he’s not quite the stereotype of an elder. Last but not least, there’s Solomon Birch, who is a religious fanatic and leader of the local Lancea Sanctum. While being in a way the “bad guy” of this piece, he’s not totally that. He has convictions and he tries to live his “life” by them, and he is at least somewhat loyal to old friends. Still, he is closer to the monster side of things than most others in this book.

It’s an entertaining read, and it breathes life into how the game is supposed to work: local-scale politics, without the endless metaplot weirdness and mysterious Elders pulling all the strings that plagued so much of the old Vampire. Don’t get me wrong, that stuff was entertaining too – but here the fiction showcases what makes this game somewhat different. In the end it comes down to Stolze being a competent writer, compared to all too many others who have written WoD fiction in the past.

Incidentally, this is the first book I’ve ever read completely via an e-book reader. The PDF format was a bit crummy for that, but either my Sony managed to display that semi-legibly or I did a Calibre conversion to ePub – I honestly don’t remember. I suppose DriveThru will offer these books as ePubs too, sometime in the future, but at the moment White Wolf doesn’t have staff to handle that sort of conversion.

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