Barbara Hambly's first Star Wars novel was the New York Times bestselling Children of the Jedi. Her other novels range from high fantasies to historical mysteries to vampire tales. She holds both a master's degree in medieval history and a black belt in Shotokan karate. A multiple Nebula Award nominee, she has also been president of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America. She lives in Los Angeles.
This is a reimagining of the Dracula story as told through the eyes of Renfield, the mental hospital inmate who is affected by the vampire and does his bidding. It is very true to the original story, even including parts of Bram Stoker's text, but seems more accessible to the modern reader, possibly because Barbara Hambly doesn't deal in black and white but in myriad shades of grey for her characters. It is the characterisation where the author excels and she has created some very realistic people embedded in a well researched Victorian world.
Renfield is mad. The story that unfolds leads us to believe that he has been mad for a very long time, even before Dracula gained influence over him. He believes that he can obtain the life force from other animals to rejuvenate himself and be reunited with his wife and daughter. As he struggles to be let free from the institution in which he is incarcerated, Renfield becomes Dracula's pawn, getting messages from his master via dreams. The brides of Dracula play a fuller role in this book than in the original and Renfield finds himself influenced by them too.
This is a story about madness and how the Victorians dealt with it. It is also a story about class and the power of money. In the end, however, it is the tale of one man's involvement in the supernatural world and what it costs him.
There are flaws in this book, the main one being the difficulty the reader has in identifying with Renfield and his situation because it is very far from our own. It is also useful, although not necessary, to have a knowledge of the original novel to appreciate fully all the twists and turns in Renfield's story. Nevertheless this is an interesting retelling of the Dracula story which I enjoyed very much.
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By this I mean the Bram Stoker novel, not any subsequent "re-imaginings"!
Barbara Hambly has taken the narrator from Bram Stoker's classic novel, and told his story further. Where the Victorian author lost interest in his protagonist, Ms Hambly does not, and continues the story of Jonathan Renfield.
As usual with Ms Hambly, it is a very well-crafted novel. The tone and language perfectly match that of the original.
This,however, is both the book's merit, and it's problem. Because it works so well as a continuation of "Dracula", enjoyment is greatly diminished by unfamiliarity with the former.
So, for real Dracula afficionados, - 5 stars. For those lesser mortals, like me, who are not so thoroughly immersed in the mythos - 3.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
Inconsistent (some spoilers)21 Jan. 2007
- Published on Amazon.com
Some of the earlier reviews some it up: the story is slight compared to the original Stoker novel and compared to Hambly's other work. It compares well to many of the host of truly embarrassing vampire novels that throng the shelves today, but that's to be expected of Hambly, a novelist with a gift for imagining truly and seeing with her own eyes. The narrator is neither truly sympathetic--a madman already, he's now made a murderer by Hambly--nor truly monstrous in the best vampire tradition. It's foreshadowed that Renfield's not going to get back together with his family, but we don't feel for him enough to care much. And Rensfield's decisions--if the point is to make us feel he had no other choice, that he's a tragic victim, we just don't get that. If he really loathes his vampire existence so much, would he be heading off to India with the Bride of Dracula, and would the last line of the book be an ecstatic anticipation of new and yummy insect life? Would he relinquish his staking plans so comfortably? If the point is to show us a self-deluded madman who can make any selfish or brutal choice seem justifiable, and perhaps to draw connections between Renfield and contemporary figures who do the same thing, then it's better done in ateen novel about date rape, from the rapist's point of view. If the point is to comment on the narrow choices of Victorian women (given Rensfield's reason for his murders), that theme comes and goes in a manner almost waffling. The book's not "bad"--Hambly doesn't do bad--but it really is...inconsistent.
What I'd really love to know is how this came to be: was Hambly re-reading Dracula one night and got obsessed? Was she pondering Renfield's rather odd motives and decided to craft some for him? Did her publisher suggest doing more with the vampire-prone audience? I don't suppose I'll ever know, but I surely am curious.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
A Great Twist On A Classic Character!10 Sept. 2007
- Published on Amazon.com
I went into this book not expecting too much to be honest. I knew that it was a spin-off of Dracula focusing on Renfield, of course, and imagined it to be some sort of horrific, crazed lunatic badly done insult to Bram Stoker that I would read anyway just for fun. I couldn't have been more wrong! It was a wonderful book!
Renfield: Slave of Dracula is written with the utmost respect for Bram Stoker's original work. Barbara Hambly did a remarkable job with this book. The book's main focus is, of course, the character of Renfield, resident of Dr. Seward's asylum who consumes life in the form of spiders and flies in the hopes of strengthening his own. Renfield comes to have visions and meetings with Dracula and quite literally becomes a slave of the mind to him calling him "Master."
Hambly retells Bram Stoker's tale through the eye's of Renfield with this book and takes absolutely no liberties with Stoker's original story, which made me so happy! She certainly adds things that "weren't seen" in Stoker's original so that she does have her own novel, but when dealing with his own story, she changes nothing. The story is told through journal's written by Renfield from his cell that often start with an insect count, i.e.: "20 May 7 flies, 3 spiders", letters from Renfield to his wife and child, original passages from Stoker's Dracula, and through a third person narrative.
Hambly has also worked in an incredible story involving the three vampire women that live in Dracula's castle that I loved. I'm not going to talk about it too much because I don't want to give much away, but one of the women by the name of Nomie was actually quite a beautiful character and one that I sympathized with quite a bit.
There is one huge twist in the middle of the book that really makes this one her own. She picks up Renfield's story where Stoker ended it and I'm sure you can guess the basics of how she may have been able to do that. But I'll say no more, which really kills me because this is where we find out all kinds of cool stuff about Renfield. But of course it's all stuff that Hambly made up, not Stoker...but she really did a great job with it.
Overall, I really, really enjoyed this book. It was handled perfectly. I was very leary about this one and in the wrong hands it could've been a travesty. But you can tell that Hambly has the utmost respect for Bram Stoker. What she has added to the character of Renfield fits well with what we knew of him from Dracula and the story that she creates is a fascinating one! Highly recommended for fans of this character!
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
Renfield tells his side6 Nov. 2006
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For the most part Hambly's novel parallels Bram Stoker's Dracula (1897) but she adds some interesting twists of her own. She tells the story through the eyes of Renfield. Stoker portrayed him as a pathetic character who spent his days in an asylum feeding on insects, spiders, and rats when not raving about the coming of his Master.
But in this telling he is an intelligent but delusional man who believes that Dracula, his master, will give him the power he needs to return to his wife Catherine and their daughter Vixie. Renfield constantly writes to Catherine whom he believes lives in hiding from her malicious, controlling mother and sister. Through passionate letters he assures her that soon they will be together again. All of Stoker's characters make an appearance here - John Seward who runs the asylum where Renfield languishes; Jonathan Harker who recently escaped from the dread clutches of Dracula; Abraham Van Helsing, Dr Seward's mentor and the one person who recognizes the cause of Lucy Westenra's illness; Lucy Westenra, Dracula's first victim in England; and Mina Harker, the woman whose courage helps Van Helsing and Lucy's suitors track down the dread Count and destroy him. Hambly is a superb story teller and does an excellent job with this alternate view of the Dracula story.
7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
Way below Barbara Hambly's other works23 Oct. 2006
- Published on Amazon.com
I pre-ordered the book as soon as it was announced on the basis of Ms Hambly's previous vampire books. What a disspointment that one was! The only thing "for" the book is the original point of view from the servant's eyes, not the vampire, and that's all. The language is good as should be expected but the characters are barely there, their actions not always following any logic (even twisted one) and the plot is simply weak. The overall impression was boring, boring and boring. If you want to have great pleasure with Hambly's vampire books, read her 2 Don Ysidro ones - they have all that Renfield lacks.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
A Spectacular Version of the Dracula Tale!6 Jun. 2008
- Published on Amazon.com
Format: Mass Market Paperback
I am usually quite wary of novels based on classics being a firm believer that one should not tamper with historic greatness. However, every once in a while I stumble upon a truly unique interpretation, which redefines a time-tested tale, shedding new light on what might otherwise have been overlooked as it gathered cobwebs. Barbara Hambly's 2006 novel Renfield: Slave of Dracula is one such creation.
With one of the strongest literary voices I have had the honor of reading to date, Hambly has managed to capture the eloquently gothic intonation of 19th century literature flawlessly weaving what feels like a seamless extension of Bram Stoker's Dracula. Through the eyes of Renfield, Dracula's imprisoned lunatic servant, and Jack Seward, the keeper of the asylum, the reader experiences the arrival of Dracula in a wholly more depraved and panic-inducing manner. Renfield, locked within his cell, pens letters to his wife Catherine and detailed journal entries which depict, not only the approach of his perceived master Dracula, but also his own rapid descent into madness. In a world of darkness and drug-sedated visions, Renfield becomes torn between his desire to please his new undead master and the three wives who now seek revenge for Dracula's pursuit of Lucy as a new addition to his harem. The fear is palpable, the madness seductively raw, amongst the characters as their beliefs all they know are tested in their fight against Dracula.
It is a dismal world in which Hambly paints, thick with rain, blood and the scent of grave dirt and, yet, one cannot help but to continue turning the pages, faster and faster, for wonder of what shall happen next! Renfield: Slave of Dracula is a delicately sadistic novel of great literary merit. Hambly's words roll off one's tongue like absinthe, drawing the reader hopelessly down to the darkness where her characters dwell. I highly recommend this novel to any lover of gothic literature. It would be a wise addition to every collection of vampire literature! Indeed, Bram Stoker would have been proud!