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Friday, October 05, 2007

Renfield: Slave of Dracula (R.I.P Challenge # 9)

Hambly, Barbara. Renfield: Slave of Dracula. I first read about this one on Chris's blog, and I'm so glad that I followed through with Chris's recommendation. Like The Historian, this novel is an extension of the Dracula story, managing both to keep to Stoker's version and to present another perspective-- from Renfield's point of view. There are some changes, but the changes are in keeping with another perspective, in much the same way that eye-witness accounts will differ according to each witness' individual experience and background.

Hambly skillfully recreates Stoker's original style and develops the story through the journals and letters of the participants with additional details supplied by Renfield's own journal. She interweaves the stories, but focuses on Renfield and his connection to Dracula so that the original story of Lucy and Mina and their defenders becomes somewhat peripheral to Renfield's struggle with his "Master."

One of the most interesting additions Hambly makes is the development of the three vampire wives. In the original, the women have a brief, but important role, yet the women never evolve into real characters. Hambly lets them emerge, stepping from the background, into influential roles. I like that Hambly chooses to elaborate on their roles, especially the role of Nomie, and make them a larger part of the story.

Parts of the first half become a bit repetitive, but didn't bother me much. Renfield:Slave of Dracula is, as Chris mentioned, an excellent companion to Dracula, a fascinating perspective on the original story.

Parts of the book are chilling, but on page 205, Renfield's notes of 8 October made me laugh out loud.

(The following list, which I think I will refer to for next year's R.I.P. challenge--if not sooner, via Patricia's Vampire Notes)

Following is a brief list of modern day novels using characters from Stoker's Dracula as protagonists.

Anno Dracula by Kim Newman.

Blood to Blood: The Dracula Story Continues by Elaine Bergstrom

by Kate Cary.

The Bloody Red Baron by Kim Newman

The Book of Renfield : A Gospel of Dracula by Tim Lucas

The Diaries of the Family Dracul. by Jeanne Kalogridis - a series of three novels which should be read in order.
Covenant With the Vampire
Children of the Vampire
Lord of the Vampires

The Dracula Tape by Fred Saberhagen.
This novel is followed by several others that are based on the closeness of Dracula (in this series he's a good guy) to Mina Harker and her descendants.

The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova

Judgement of Tears: Anno Dracula 1959 by Kim Newman

Mina by Elaine Bergstrom.

Renfield Slave of Dracula by Barbara Hambly

And a podcast about vampires before Dracula can be found here.

Fiction. Gothic. 2006. 306 pages.


  1. Hambly is a fabulous author. The straight fantasy world lost a luminary when she started to focus on her historicals and mysteries. The way she developed the Dark series from her roots back in the early eighties, and brought it forward with Mother of Winter was a masterpiece of growth.

  2. jodi - The only thing I had previously read by Hambly was The Silent Tower, which I didn't care for. I hesitated on Renfield for that reason, but I'm glad it didn't keep me from reading it. Interesting that you mention her growth as a writer because that is an aspect worth following up on in some of her fantasy. Watching a writer develop skill and control is rewarding. I made my assessment based on one book that I (personally) didn't like, which is jumping the gun. She has done a marvelous job with Renfield.

  3. Ooh I'm taking note of all those vampire books! It's never to early to plan for the next R.I.P. Challenge :)
    I'm hoping to read Dracula this month so I may have to keep the Hambly book on the TBR list for afterwards.

  4. I've only read two of the books on that list and most of them I've not even heard of! I'll have to note down the titles, too. Renfield sounds good by the way. I like books that stay true to the original Dracula.

  5. iliana -- Reading Dracula first is the definitely best route. Renfield and The Historian are the two with the most connection to Stoker's version and make wonderful companions!

    Heather -- Oh, yes, it is definitely a good R.I.P. choice!

    danielle -- I've only read Renfield and The Historian. I've read one vampire novel by Saberhagen (A Coldness in the Blood for last year's R.I.P.)but wasn't charmed by it. The rest are all new to me.

  6. I'n going to have to read this one. I'd love to find out more about the three women; I found them so intriguing when I read Dracula.

  7. What a useful reference for vampires. Thanks.

  8. Great reference list for vamps! I'm gonna have to read this one. I know I've read some of Hambly's other work before and been pleased and am glad to hear that this respects and works with Stoker's story.

  9. After reading your and Chris' review, I know I must read this book.

    And thank you for that list! I never knew there were so many novels inspired by Dracula.

  10. CoversGirl - The three women (well, at least one of them) come into their own in this novel!

    Orpheus -- Very useful for next year's R.I.P!

    Carl - I think you will like the way it works with Stoker's Dracula. I liked the way it echoed Stoker, but taking the different perspective and "filling in."

    Nymeth - Chris picked a winner with this one. At least for me! Yeah, I think that list is great, but all thanks go to Patricia who had it on her site.

  11. Jen

    Thanks for mentioning Patricia's Vampire Notes! Many years ago I read Stoker's Dracula and was hooked on the vampire theme.

    To me Barbara Hambly is a superb author. Besides the recent novel, Renfield, she has 2 other books about the undead (but not Dracula related) - Those Who Hunt the Night and Traveling With the Dead. I recommend both novels

  12. Patricia -- I will be checking for Hambly's other vampire novels. You had such a good list (many new-to-me titles) that will be perfect for next year's RIP Challenge...or whenever I feel like reading them. :)

  13. This is a neat list! I've yet to read Bram Stoker's Dracula (I know, shame on me, but it's still in my R.I.P. list) but I'm a fan of the vampire.

    And gee, another author to watch out for. I've read The Historian a couple of years ago and I've been meaning to sink my teeth into (hahaha) something similar.

    First I've to read Dracula.

  14. Dracula is the basis of so many vampire works that reading it is almost required if one enjoys vampire stories. It is interesting in a literary sense as well, and there are a lot critical reviews from Stoker's time up to the present with interesting interpretations.

    If you liked The Historian, you will appreciate Dracula!

  15. I am in the process of reading this book at the moment and am just in love with it! I was a little hesitant at first to pick up something based on Dracula but I'm so glad that I did!

  16. VF -- I think Hambley more than does justice to the original. Glad to hear that someone else gives it a thumbs up.