A great follow-up tale to Stolze’s earlier Requiem novel A Hunger like Fire, this time we learn about some new members of Chicago’s undead society. Most of the characters in this book, with two notable exceptions, are members of the Lancea Sanctum Covenant. The two exceptions are “Earth” Baines and Aurora…but I’ll get to them a little later.
Events in A Hunger like Fire have put Solomon Birch, the ranking member of the Lancea Sanctum, in a dangerous position. A few members of the Covenant feel he is no longer fit to lead them and begin planning his removal as Bishop. Deals are made, gossip is whispered, and pawns are set into motion. While no one in the city questions the faith of Solomon Birch, there are those who think his ties to the Prince (an Invictus) have made him unfit to lead the Covenant. In addition to the internal politics of the Lancea Sanctum, there are rumors of a night on Indulgence. An Indulgence is a single night where vampires are free to kill others and to Embrace new vampires without fear of punishment from the Prince. This could lead to old grudges settled with violence and new young vampires throughout the city. This is dangerous for those wishing to uphold the Masquerade and keep mortal hunters from finding the undead.
Throughout the book there are several conversations between vampires of different factions that really demonstrate just how devious and deadly the undead really are. The Invictus lounging in an exclusive health club while discussing the potential outcomes of the current situation, for example is quite different from the members of the Ordo Dracul whispering in the library.
Velvet, a younger member of the Lancea Sanctum, gets herself mixed up with two mortals and the ongoing political drama…keeping her quite busy throughout the book. She is an interesting character, having next-to-nothing in the way of favors, powers or position when compared to Solomon Birch or his rivals. She makes her way through the night just as well as they, even if her problems are much less grand.
“Earth” Baines is a member of the Invictus Covenant and a sometime “Hound” for the Prince’s enforcer Norris. This position, and his desire for more, gets him dragged into the internal strife of the Lancea Sanctum. Certain members of the Covenant make use of his blatant greed, lack of subtlety and joy of violence. He is never quite bright enough to realize when he is being used, much to the delight of those manipulating him.
Aurora, a mortal out for revenge against the vampires, gets in over her head rather quickly. She fails in an attack on Velvet early in the story, which sets her up to be manipulated by monsters much more powerful than she ever imagined. She is probably my favorite character in the story. She is determined, resourceful and angry. She even manages to humiliate and frustrate Baines at least once, which was an entertaining read.
There are several other members of the Lancea Sanctum that make appearances throughout the story. Some of them are even written up in World of Darkness: Chicago for those that play the Vampire: the Requiem role-playing game. Sylvia Raines, for example, stirs up some trouble and sets a few plots in motion that would make for some very interesting character motivations in an ongoing game.
The writing in The Marriage of Virtue & Viciousness is top-notch, among the author’s best work to date. Each of the characters shows a range of motivations and their emotional states never feel flat.
While I would have liked to have read a bit more of Solomon Birch (especially considering the back cover text reads as if the entire book is about him and him alone), the other characters certainly keep things interesting. If you enjoyed A Hunger like Fire this book is as good, if not better.
[4 of 5 Stars!]