Weeding Womb

I, Strahd: The Memoirs of a Vampire

I, Strahd: The Memoirs of a Vampire by P. N. Elrod. Another Ravenloft book, which I bought after ordering its stand-alone sequel and getting this instead. Since I didn't have it, I figured there was no harm getting it now that the chance presented itself. And I was glad I did, as it was a great book.

Apparently some Ravenloft fans complain that it contradicts the 'in-game' tale of Strahd Von Zarovich's descent into vampirism and entrapment in Barovia. However, this ignores three things:

A) The in-game reasons have minor internal inconsistencies of their own.

B) The bulk of the book (save the third-person opening featuring famed Ravenloft monster hunter Doctor Rudolph Van Richten) is written as Strahd's own personal diary. He has little reason to tell the unadulterated truth, and some of his justifications for his killings fairly reek of being after-the-fact alterations of the real incidents. It seems convenient that he gets hungry for blood just as some evil type invades, for instance.

C) This version's better.

One other complaint is that it's too short. While 300 pages, the font is a good bit larger than typical for a Ravenloft book. I didn't really find a major problem, since it told the story and that was it. It might have been short, but I don't see what could have been added that wouldn't have been padding.

Quick rundown of the plot: Strahd, a young man, goes off to war to oust some invaders from his family's homeland. A good twenty years later the story picks up and he - a battle-hardened general now - wins the war and claims the recently-vacated Castle Ravenloft as his new home. His family - including his brother Sergei, newborn (if that) when Strahd left to do battle - is soon invited to the castle to live in their new digs. But when Sergei shows up, things change. While on the way through newly-liberated Barovia, Sergei met a peasant girl and they fell in love. Her name was Tatyana, and she was taken along to the castle as Sergei's betrothed. Soon after meeting her, Strahd was obsessed - and I mean that in the really really bad way - with her. (He calls it love, but this is obviously something far more debased.)

Strahd covertly attempts everything, even turning to darker magic, to win her away without arousing suspicion. After all, the fact that you're attempting to pry your future sister-in-law from your brother isn't exactly something you want to be common knowledge. Eventually someone - or something - makes its presence known and offers Strahd a deal. Strahd grabs at the opportunity, and kills first a trusted friend, then Sergei, drinking their blood to seal the dire compact. Well, it works. All-obscuring mists roll in to surround the castle, and Strahd becomes a vampire. In the ensuing chaos of the transformation and the murders (as well as several other killings perpetrated by a backstabbing lieutenant of Strahd's), Tatyana falls - or jumps - from the castle to be smashed onto the rocks below. Except the mists swallow her up before she hits the ground and her body is never found.

Now Strahd realizes the loopholes that his dark deal had. The mists pull back to surround Barovia and prevent escape. Strahd is trapped there to forever pine for his lost Tatyana. From here there's some very interesting plot involving Tatyana being reincarnated, the traitorous lieutenant's final bid for victory against his ruler, and Strahd's attempts to escape the mist.

All in all, it's a very good story. A bit short, but it ended where it needed to end. The rest of Strahd's story could be worried about in a sequel....

The Archon

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