I, Strahd

Rating: 
4
I, Strahd
Review by The Mad Bibliographer, submitted on 12-Apr-1994

Adapted from "Vampires in Print" in The Vampire's Crypt #9 (Spring 1994).

Review by Cathy Krusberg

P. N. Elrod. I, Strahd. TSR, 1993; $16.95/$20.50.

Lord Strahd von Zarovich has previously appeared in Vampire of the Mists by Christie Golden, the first of TSR's Ravenloft series of novels. I, Strahd is tidily self-contained, however, requiring no familiarity with Strahd's appearances elsewhere. The first-person narrative follows Strahd's adventures as conqueror and ruler of Barovia. He tells a story rich with details of day-to-day existence, from collecting taxes to restoring what is now *his* castle to dampening the enthusiasm of his irrepressible younger brother Sergei, who lacks Strahd's appreciation of political realities. Bad enough when pious Sergei presses for a national day of mourning after the death of the Most High Priest Kir; worse when young Sergei, destined for holy orders, falls head over heels in love with a common woman named Tatyana. Worse still: Tatyana has the same effect on Strahd himself. The seasoned warrior and harsh but just ruler looks at her and is reduced to a tongue-tied youth of twenty.

Worst of all is that Tatyana has eyes for no one but Sergei.

Strahd has a country to rule, magical studies to pursue, sanity to retain in the face of emotions that threaten to tear him apart. His constant search for books of magic at last leads him to A Spell for Obtaining the Heart's Desire. Yet whether from some flaw in the magic or the fierce heart that drives Strahd himself, what Strahd obtains is not Tatyana's love but a new condition of existence, one that will forever keep old age at bay -- but at a price, at what a price.

Tatyana's fate, and Sergei's, and some of Strahd's later adventures will come as no surprise to those who have read Vampire of the Mists (which I highly recommend). Here, however, we see a Strahd very different from the harsh, single-minded creature of Vampire of the Mists. Elrod's Strahd looks on life, the universe, and everything with a cynicism that pervades his narrative as understated humor. Equally pervasive is Strahd's frankness. Granted, one would hope for frankness in a document that proclaims itself at the beginning "an exact record..., that the *truth* *may* *at* *last* *be* *known*...." Strahd not only promises, he delivers, delivers with a touching *humanness* that makes it impossible not to sympathize with him no matter what outrages he commits, no matter what extreme bounds he oversteps.

The only things I don't like about the book are certain purely physical aspects. A portrait of Strahd serves as headpiece for each chapter (giving a new dimension to the word dingbat), and a number of black-and-white full-page illustrations are scattered throughout. I accept the inevitable cheesiness of the dustjacket art, the old creature with the overshot jaw flanked by puking gargoyles. Jacket art is meant to sell. But inside a book, pen-and-ink protruding fangs and cardboard collars can only obstruct the workings of my imagination. (Some illos previously appeared in Van Richten's Guide to Vampires, a Ravenloft Official Game Accessory; some are likely from other Ravenloft-associated publications. I wouldn't know; I don't do RPGs.)

Such superficials aside, I really, *really* enjoyed reading the autobiography of Strahd von Zarovich: ruthless warlord and stern ruler; human being with his own fears and susceptibilities; ultimately vampire and lord of the land with new strengths and weaknesses and admirable candor concerning them. If the hardcover price tag is rich for your blood: patience. A paperback release is due this spring.

You are urged to obtain and read a copy.

Fanged Films

From the Library

As the 20th century evolved, rational man turned to science to explain mythology that had pervaded for thousands of years. How could a man be mistaken for a vampire? How could someone appear to have been the victim of a vampire attack? Science, in time, came back with answers that may surprise you.Anemia
A million fancies strike you when you hear the name: Nosferatu!N O S F E R A T Udoes not die!What do you expect of the first showing of this great work?Aren't you afraid? - Men must die. But legend has it that a vampire, Nosferatu, 'der Untote' (the Undead), lives on men's blood! You want to see a symphony of horror? You may expect more. Be careful. Nosferatu is not just fun, not something to be taken lightly. Once more: beware.- Publicity for Nosferatu in the German magazine Buhne und Film, 1922  

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