Vampires have always been intriguing literary characters. The recent popularity of the Twilight Series is a prime example. Some avid readers have said that although they enjoyed the Twilight series, they want something more. Either they want to go back to the beginning of the vampire legends or they want a new spin on the classic tale. There is no shortage of stories featuring vampires. Whether they are sinister and repulsive, or seductive and beguiling, they are always fascinating.
The first and most recent title takes place in modern times, but reaches into the past as well. A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness. Dr. Diana Bishop stumbles upon a powerful book during her research. Unbeknownst to her, this discovery catches the interest of a variety of creatures. Vampires, witches and daemons all have a sudden interest in Diana, who although born into a powerful family of witches, has refused to use her powerful magic. One of the most intriguing characters who Diana meets is a geneticist and ancient vampire named Matthew Clairmont. Although wary of him initially, Diana soon develops a bond with Matthew, who becomes her protector and partner. They both face danger from daemons, vampires and witches who will all stop at nothing to find the secrets in the ancient book.
A Discovery of Witches stands out from other vampire stories due to the skill of Deborah Harkness, the author. Harkness is a professor of history at the University of Southern California. She uses her extensive knowledge of history and her skill as a writer to craft compelling characters. This story has elements of fantasy, mystery, romance and the occult.
The second title is The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova. Much like A Discovery of Witches, the story begins with the discovery of a mysterious book. However, this story is based on the original character of Dracula. A teenage girl discovers a book in her father’s library. The book is blank except for a dragon illustration on the front and the word “Drakula”. The book contains several letters addressed to, “My dear and unfortunate successor.” The events in the novel include different continents, time frames and characters. All these elements slowly lead the main character (as well as the reader) to Dracula (or Vlad the Impaler).
The novel is based loosely on the classic Dracula, by Bram Stoker. It is Kostova’s debut novel, which she worked on for 10 years. The Historian is a lavish and detailed story, and it’s a must read for fans of Stoker’s Dracula and other vampire tales.
The third title is Renfield: Slave of Dracula by Barbara Hambly. The book is based on the classic Dracula by Bram Stoker, with Renfield as the major character. Dracula’s demented servant, R. M. Renfield, is confined in Rushbrook mental asylum. His insane ramblings and bizarre habit of capturing and eating various insects, in his mind, make him grow stronger. His story takes shape as he senses the approach of his master, Dracula. Much of the story is told in the form of journal entries and letters from Renfield to his beloved wife, Catherine, and daughter, Vixie.
Barbara Hambly creates a fascinating backstory for Renfield that makes his character much more complex. She is able to skillfully bring Stoker’s more minor characters to life while also giving greater depth to major characters, such as Van Helsing, Jonathan and Mina Harker. Most importantly, the tale of Dracula is told by the tortured Renfield, whose divided loyalty to his Master and his family slowly tears him apart. This book is perhaps my favorite of the three because I always finish reading a novel and wonder, “What happened to the other characters in the story?” The novel, Renfield, answers that question.
Dracula by Bram Stoker
Twilight by Stephanie Meyer
Interview with a Vampire by Anne Rice
Dracula in Love by Karen Essex