Well it's nice to see another of White Wolf's NPC tomes. This book, like Children of the Inquisition and Camarilla's Most Wanted before it, is an grouping together of important NPCs in the world of V:TM, together with backgrounds and stats. It's not quite a sequel, as some of the information is duplicated from previous books (World of Darkness 2nd Ed, Children of the Inquisition and various others) but with nice updates to the timelines and the occasional restating.
Unlike it's forefathers this book has more than just a smattering of vampires, we get a huge number of NPCs for our money from the lowly caitiff, through Primogen to the Justicars and Inconnu Monitors. It's divided up into sections dedicated to the various sects and the independants. We get the dominions of the black hand, all the justicars and some of the ex-justicars and lots of nice background to use as story hooks..
Some of the stats are, well, a tad weaker than you might expect. Which in a way is good, because it proves that personality and influence is what counts. But in a way is bad, as I can see many PCs going "but I could give X a good thrashing". The stats are however not the main emphasis, the background of the chracters is and we do get some nice stories here. There's Monty Coven, the assamite who diablerised Mithras (and is slowly turning into him), a dominion of the Black Hand who is so old and close to the beast that even his fellow sabbat are afraid to enter a room alone with him, the leader of the Harbingers of Skulls, a Lasombra who turned his back on the sabbat and became a camarilla prince, and a caitiff with a crecent moon birthmark..............
All of which will mean little to you if you don't play Vampire, in fact this book is wasted on you if you don't intend to run a chronicle for Vampire. These NPCs are purely vampire in plot, they won't really fit into any of the other storyteller games, not if you're using them to their full extent. It's also definitely a book for the storyteller only, as too many of the characters secrets will change your players perceptions of the world of darkness. Players will get much more fun discovering these during play, and then worrying about them a great deal.
The book also gives a nice guide to the overall feel of the World of Darkness. No character given in this book is without some piece of tragedy in their history and the scale of the various plots and intrigues is nicely portrayed. You have everything from global conspiracy to minor vendetta. Some of these NPC's actions will influence your players lives from far off, and so it's more a book about the way the world of darkness is evolving than anything else.
The artwork is improved from the earlier Vampire sourcebooks, you at least get a good feeling of how the character looks, and for a change appearance stats are conveyed in the portraits. Some portraits, like those of Elimelech and Sasha Vycos really give across the feel of the characters. Presentation in general is as we would expect from White Wolf, with each chracter set out with it's background, a portrait and it's stats.
Overall: Definitely useful if you want to run a wideranging Vampire: The Masquerade game, there are NPCs here of all levels of power and prestige. It is unfortunately a tad lacking in consistent stating (some characters have lost powers they used to possess), but then that's hardly the point of vampire. It's full of quality story hooks, and definitely a good read. Oh and check out pages 9 and 67 for an interesting surprise.