The Fickle Hand of Fate is a year old! The anniversary was actually ten days ago, but I had no idea I'd been blogging for so long. Woo!
This week, through sheer happenstance, I bring another video game novel for your reading pleasure. This one is the first novel of a series based on the D&D game Ravenloft, and any bias I had toward video game novels is now completely gone, because this book is amazing too. I promise you don't need to know anything about the games to appreciate it, I sure don't, so read on!
Jander Sunstar is a golden elf from Evermeet, and he's been a vampire for 500 years. The day after the woman he loves is killed and he swears vengeance, he is magically transported to the secret country of Ravenloft which is ruled by the mysterious Count Strahd von Zarovich (read: Dracula.)
This is a seamless blend of gothic horror and high fantasy, combining the best elements of both. Jander is at once tragically villainous and sympathetically heroic, and his story is so subtle. The core of the novel is his relationship with Strahd, the flaws in both of them and how they're trying to manipulate each other, the sympathetic parts of each of them and why they do the things they do. But still one is firmly the hero and the other is firmly the villain.
You know, I never really understood why vampires whine the way they do. I knew, but I didn't understand. Now I do. The speed with which time passes for (and passes by) Jander is striking... One day he's talking to a young woman and the next time he leaves the castle he meets her child. He didn't even realize it had been thirty years, and every time he looks around someone else he knew is dying. There are so many things he loved that were taken away when he became a vampire, like the colors that you never see at night. All you see are shades of gray, and eventually that's all you see morally as well as physically. I understand how terrible it must be now, and at the same time Strahd and Jander are truly frightening.
I was frustrated for all the right reasons reading this book: I was desperate to know what was coming and unable to figure it out. I would have plot epiphanies and await events eagerly, only to discover the characters were going in a completely different direction that was even better. Every element is in its place.
There are a lot of recommendations I could make, because Vampire of the Mists falls on a cross-section of so many things (just like Ravenloft does.) You've got Dragonlance etc. for the heroic fantasy, Dracula, Interview with the Vampire for the love/hate vampire relationship thing... There are also a lot more Ravenloft books. I hear the quality varies with the author, but there are some big names. Several more by Christie Golden, some by Tanya Huff, Laurell K. Hamilton, Gene DeWeese... Several more feature Count Strahd. Jander features in short stories collected in the books The Best of the Realms and Realms of Valor, both of which I will be trying to find in the near future.
Buy Vampire of the Mists