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Beholder’s Book Nook & Reviews

Ravenloft: Vampire of the Mist by Christie Golden

Vampire of the Mists is the first novel in the 1991 Ravenloft series which focuses on the land of Barovia and Castle Ravenloft. Most importantly, its villain is the great and powerful vampire, Lord Strahd Von Zarovich, himself. I found a copy of this novel as if it were fate. I had recently begun DMing a bi-weekly Dungeons and Dragons game and decided to run The Curse of Strahd. I had absolutely no clue how I was going to portray Strahd as the DM. I did not want his sociopathic tendencies to seem overpowering without humanizing him in some way that my players could relate. The struggle for this DM was the module itself gave very little information on how to role-play Strahd. There is a small section in the introduction that boils down to a few paragraphs and many videos on Youtube simply regurgitated this information. Lo, and behold; I stumbled upon a tattered copy of this treasure lying in a bin at the Goodwill Outlet for $0.50!

The protagonist, Jander Sunstar is a 700 year old gold elf vampire. Jander is deeply in love with one of his prey, Anna a mentally diminished occupant of the local sanitarium. Anna says very little but she is believed to be cursed and only mutters “Barovia”. A traumatic parting of these two lovers leaves Jander on a quest for revenge. Thus, he journeys into the mists to find Barovia and the foul beast that has cursed his beloved Anna. Jander finds himself staying in Castle Ravenloft where he must decide if his host is friend or foe. How is Strahd connected to Jander’s homeland and what caused such strange mists to appear?

The novel itself has held up extremely well for a fantasy novel that has such a niche audience. It maintains its gothic horror setting while keeping true to standard D&D character tropes, in a good way! Jander Sunstar is a well fleshed out character motivated by lost love and revenge. He is cursed with the insatiable thirst of the vampire but must constantly fight his inner demons. Is he still a good person despite his curse? Is he worthy of forgiveness? Can he best the seemingly all knowing Strahd Von Zarovich?

Christie Golden is able to develop a fantastic villain with Strahd using familiar vampire lore but adding new, Strahd specific lore, that any DM can throw at their players. This novel mentions abilities of Strahd’s not in the current module that can be added to the game as a huge surprise to your players without making him Super Strahd and even more prone to TPK. Christie Golden’s settings can help you add flavor to your game and help deepen your player’s suspension of belief. I mainly drew upon Goldens snarky interpretation of Strahd’s inflated ego. Throughout the novel Strahd will compliment Jander or praise him as his superior in order to lull him into a false sense of security. When in all actuality, Strahd is giving such compliments as backhanded insults and using them to show that he is vampire supreme. Furthermore, displays of his mind control ability can lead your players to believe he is all-powerful. As a show of power Strahd commands his wolves to tear each other apart in front of Jander just for the fun of it. After living for so long Strahd has stooped to such measures for simple enjoyment.

When it comes to vampire novels there appears to be two categories that surge to the top. Romance motivated vampires and ruthless, aristocratic, monsters of the shadows. Golden captures both of these in a balancing act in Strahd and Jander. They harken to very fantasy driven Bram Stokeresque vampires. I would recommend this book for an avid vampire or gothic horror fans. As well as for the DMs like me who want to steep themselves in lore and flavor to bring to the tabletop. I would not recommend this novel for those seeking a typical “high fantasy” style novel common to the Dungeons & Dragons literary universe such as novels by R. A. Salvatore or Erin M. Evans.

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