Renfield: Slave of Dracula by Barbara Hambly

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….at least the cover was really cool! 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! If you’re interested, the hardcover is available through Amazon at a bargain book price of $4.79. You can get to it by clicking the link above.

27 Responses

  1. I’m so glad this one turned out to be good! The premise has a lot of potential, but you’re right, it could have been ruined easily. I really want to read it. Maybe as an extra for RIP if I have the time.

  2. no.. I will NOT eat a spider! Not even one fried or chocolate covered!

  3. Or a fly… However, Renfield is a fascinating character, and I must check this one out.

  4. Sounds like a fantastic take on the story! Darn it, another one for the wish list! *sob*

  5. I’ll have to think about this one. My tbr list is already so tall. We’ll see if the library has this one, though 🙂

  6. Oooh, I hadn’t heard of this one. It sounds YUMMY.

  7. Oh no…now I not only need to read Dracula, I need to read this one as well… Anybody got any spare time they could sell me?

  8. Nymeth, I think you’d like it! It really could’ve been a bomb, but it was done well. She handled it with class and respect for the original character!

    Deslily, Come on, not even just one? 😉

    Jenclair, I think you’d like it! He really is a fascinating character and she takes his character much, much further. And it’s believable…at least I thought so…the story fits!

    Heather, I know the feeling :/ This challenge just keeps adding and adding to my wishlist. I’m going to be so broke! But this is a really great book! I highly recommend it 😉

    Becky, Great idea 😉 I really need to learn to use the library! It would save me so much money. I just have such a strong need to own my books! I need to get over that :/

    Andi, Oh it is! I hadn’t heard of it before either…I was walking around the bookstore and the cover just popped out at me and it was on the bargain shelf! I figured it would be pretty stupid, but would fit in with the RIP challenge. But it turned out to be great!

    Debi, Let me know if you find spare time for sale 😉 And I’m reading The Historian right now which is also a Dracula tie in! Ha!

  9. I’m really glad this one turned out to be a winner!! I’ve been looking at it for a little while now!

    I can’t help but picture Renfeild as he was portrayed in the movie Bram Stoker’s Dracula. He was played by Tom Waits and was SO CREEPY! I loved that movie. Gary Oldman did such a good job!! I’ll have to watch it again, after I read the book!

  10. Stephanie, Warning, your opinion of the movie may change after reading the book 😉 My main problem with the movie is that it called itself Bram Stoker’s Dracula when it really wasn’t representative of his book, though I do think that Tom Waits did a pretty good job of representing Renfield!

  11. Wow. I really want to read that now. Sounds riveting.

  12. Court, It was! It’s a great continuation of Renfield’s story. I found his story so interesting in Stoker’s novel and Hambly really handled it well and gave the reader a nice little treat with this one! I’m glad I picked it up 🙂

  13. Now, you just stop that with the links to where people can buy books! Shame!

    Anyway, not my thing. But, the cover is nice, esp. with a poppet on top. 🙂

  14. Bookfool, I know..I’m getting more and more pushy with the books, aren’t I? At least I’m pushing people in the direction of discounted books 😉

    Isn’t the cover cool?! I love red and black together!

  15. I hadn’t heard of this book, but I’m rather intrigued now I have! Will be going on my list.

    Magic words: Dracula. Asylum.

    I have an odd things for stories about asylums…

  16. I’m glad you liked it – I just love it when a book I’m a bit doubtful about turns out to be great. I’ve read and enjoyed lots of other Barbara Hambly books – maybe I’ll reread Dracula and then do this one, like you did, to get the full effect!

  17. ooh, ooh, ooh! this looks brillliant! thanks for the review! 🙂

    i’m really getting excited about reading dracula now! i just have to find a cover i like. so far all of them have looked crap… if you know of a nice looking, gothic themed, not tied into any other films or books, edition then let me know.

  18. Quix, I have a thing for stories about asylums too 😉 They’re bound to be good! This was a great read, perfect continuation of Renfield’s story…I think you’ll enjoy it!

    Darla, I haven’t read anything else by her. I’ll have to check out some of her other books! I love that feeling too. I was very doubtful about this one at first, but she turned my opinion around pretty quickly! I’m closing off the Dracula theme with The Historian now and this book is just phenomenal!

    Jean Pierre, I loved the edition that I got, but of course it’s an american edition for barnes and noble. I don’t know if they ship overseas, but if they do, you can get it from They publish their own editions of “barnes and noble classics” and they’re really cheap! All kinds of great footnotes, a great intro and a timeline of bram stoker’s life.

    Also, Quixotic found an incredible edition and she’s in the UK! so you may want to ask her for the link to where she got hers. I know it’s from Amazon, but I couldn’t find it. HEY QUIX, WE NEED YOUR HELP!! The one she got was beautiful!

  19. Hi Chris. I just saw that you’re about to get hit by Humberto. Hope all goes okay…stay safe!

  20. Thanks Debi! We’re not too worried about it here in New Orleans…it’s the western part of Louisiana that will get it the worst. We’re actually hoping for some of the rain though! We could use it. Thanks for thinking of me though…we’ll definitely keep posted and stay safe 🙂

  21. Whew!

  22. I am so glad this turned out to be a good one. I had looked at this last year when it came out and kept going back and forth on it because I was worried it would somehow tarnish the work of Stoker. Renfield is such a great character in the original story and this looks to be one that I will have to check out.

  23. Sounds intersting. I just finished Dracula and would love to learn more about Renfield. Will keep a look out for it thanks for the recommendation.

  24. Carl, It really did turn out to be good. I kept waiting for something ridiculous to happen, but it worked for me. It may not be the same for everyone else, but I thought she did a great job with his character! Check it out, I think you’d like it!

    Rhinoa, Do check it out, it’s a great continuation of Renfield’s story!

  25. thanks for the tips!

    i did actually happen to see a very nice edition in borders tonight. its illustrated by jae lee and as such is very… well, very jae lee!

    its gorrrrgeous.

    BUT, and here i go again, it doesn’t look traditional, a big part of me wants to get a traditional looking edition FIRST and then get that one…

    why am i like that…!? that jae lee one is beautiful!


  26. JP, Here’s the link to Quix’s post so you can see what the cover looks like:

    Isn’t it beautiful?!

    I know the Jae Lee version you’re talking about! It’s awesome! I’ve almost bought that one myself so many times. It’s incredible. I’m sure I’ll end up buying it eventually…I debate it every time I see it!

  27. Your enthusiasm surely shows in this great review. I like it when a book pleasantly surprises me and gives more than is expected. I may need to reread Dracula before Renfield to refreshen my memory.

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