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The Clockwork Vampire Chronicles by Andy Remic


RPG Superstar 2012 Top 16

The title of the original story attracted me first...Kell's Legend. It had obvious riffs on Druss the Legend, and I love Gemmell, so I picked it up and read it.

A considerable amount of time later, I found a new bookstore and found out the series had been completed and compiled, and all three were cheaper then buying the second two, so I picked up the collection.

Andy Remic's style in these novels is David Gemmell meets Quentin Tarintino. He builds up characters with backstory and details and descriptions of how powerful and strong they are...and then butchers them heartlessly with only a sentence or two.

Of the three novels, the first is the best, largely because it doesn't play as much on how decadent the dandy Saark is, or how obsessed Kell is with the fact he's an evil man trying to be better. It sets itself up nicely with the conflict with the Vachine ('vampire machine' race) and normal humanity, and as the series progresses, we start getting implications of age and other forces at work, the return of REAL vampires (who loathe the vachine) and other intelligent races who aren't human, or are mutations of it.

The magic in the book is very technographic, fueled by 'blood-oil' made from real blood. The vachine actually have clockwork machines inside them making them faster and stronger then mere humans, and sometimes they even go bad and create hideous 'cankers' out of those afflicted with bad clockwork. The trade in blood to make blood oil is even given a name (Karakan Red, it's called), and many of the people in the book are totally amoral or accepting of callous disregard of life.

It's safe to say in this book Kell is probably the most moral character, and he's done some really bad things in his life. The character Saark comes across as a flat, uninspired dandy whose excellent sword skills are completely overshadowed by foes faster and stronger then he is, and of course Kell with his axe in hand is pretty much the most invincible thing in the book. You want an example of a 2handed fighter 20 build? Go no farther then Kell cutting down almost all his foes with one strike. The women characters tend to be unsympathetically 'realistic', completely overwhelmed by stronger and faster foes and without combat training. The only one who can actually fight also ends up being so mentally unstable it's hard to become attached to her, and like all others her skill tends to fall away into shadow around Kell.

Combat in this book is the brief Gemmell style, with a lot more gore. People die in the space of seconds, what duels there are exist because the people involved can take more then one or two hits. Mostly, Kell hits things, and they come apart.

If you like Gemmell, you'll probably think the story is okay, and the magic and techno aspect underlying everything gives it a flavor of its own. It doesn't have Gemmell's brevity of words, and is heavier on the blood and slaughter. There's nothing resembling a classic hero as a main character, and this pervades the whole book. Anyone who is 'good' seems to be a simpering weakling preyed upon by those who fewer morals, or inhumans with no morals at all. Incidences of hapless slaughter abound, until you get to the point you just gloss over them.

On a scale of 1 to 5, I'd give these stories a 3...there's definitely some new ideas worth mining, but the continual reinforcement of how decadent a fop Saark is (even after the entire novel and slaughter of much of his homeland), how whiny needy Nienna is, how broodingly awesome and dangerous Kell, and a lot of bluntly crude descriptive language taint a lot of the story with prose that could have been cut in the end.


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