Book Cover
Title Renfield: Slave of Dracula
Series ---
Author Barbara Hambly
Cover Art Rita Frangie
Publisher The Berkley Publishing Group - 2006
First Printing The Berkley Publishing Group - 2006
Category Horror
Warnings None

Main Characters

Renfield, Dracula, Seward, Van Helsing, Harker, Holmwood, Morris, Mina, Lucy

Main Elements Vampires

...I know this as I know my name. And I fear for my very soul. The light of his majesty floods my mind, yet I tremble.

But how godforsaken is Renfield? And why? The most enigmatic character to stalk the shadows of Dracula now takes center stage in Barabara Hambly's ingenious re-imagining of Bram Stoker's classic novel - told from the point of view of Renfield himself - exploring the chilling circumstances of his madness, his immortal devotion to the Vampire Prince, and the mortal fear that feeds his need for revenge.

When we first meet Renfield, he's an inmate if Dr, Seward's Rushbrook Asylum, scribbling obsessive entries in his diary, penning impassioned letters to his dear wife, Catherine, and becoming slavishly seduced by his violent visions of the Master - harbingers of doom he cannot control. Ordered to hunt down and kill Van Helsing and his companions, Renfield complies. His mission sets the stage for a battle between the living and the dead, between master and slave, and between good and evil that will take him from the darkness of the gold-filled crypts of Dracula's castle to the more personal darkness of his own descent into madness, and the shocking truth of where it all began.

Featuring a myriad of characters and situations from Dracula, yet filled with surprising new twists and perspectives, Barbara Hambly's Renfield is a fascinating work of fiction as complex, rich, and astonishing as Stoker's own.

I was really looking forward to this, it had so much potential. I'm sure there are other novels that try to fill in the Renfield story but this was my first experience reading one. Unfortunately I was disappointed. It wasn't bad, I just expected...more.

We start with Renfield already in the asylum, having strange dreams, and urges to eat icky crawly things, much to the disgust of his keepers. The connection between Dracula and Renfield is never really explained. Seeing as Dracula was influencing Renfield even before he left for England, did he have a plan to make use of the mad man? It doesn't really seem like it. After all, as a servant Renfield would be all but useless locked up as he was, and Dracula didn't know he'd have to take on Seward and the others. It just seemed like an excuse for Renfield to be able to see whatever Dracula saw and to relate it to us in the book.

In fact, the book couldn't even stay with Renfield's POV, jumping between the various characters, much like the original Dracula but somehow just didn't feel appropriate in this case. In many cases we were inside their heads, so were able to get more background than we did from their diaries and letters, but again, nothing earth shattering. And was almost strange to not hear more from certain characters, they were so secondary the only reason they appeared in this book at all was because they were in the original.

And I can't help rolling my eyes whenever someone combines "Countess Elizabeth" with Dracula, though the two have no connection's just so cliche these days.

On the other hand, the letters to his wife Catherine and daughter Vivienne were interesting, as is the backstory that comes to light in relation to them. The end result isn't exactly surprising, but it certainly fit. And once Renfield becomes a vampire (is that a spoiler?? really, is it a big surprise for this kind of book?) things get much more interesting. His experiences turning into mist and bats, how he could command dogs but cats would simply give him an aloof look and wander off ignoring him, were all well described. And it was amusing how he kept up with his diary entries:

2 spiders, 3 chickens, 1 Slovak...

Fortunately it was a light read and mildly amusing, because it certainly wasn't driving me to keep on reading. I'm so familiar with the Dracula story I needed something more than what had started off as a simple retelling of the events I'd already memorized. So like I said at the start, it wasn't a bad book, it just didn't live up to potential.

Posted: October 2014


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