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Monday, July 27, 2020

Review: Ravenloft - Vampire of the Mists

Vampire of the Mists is the first Ravenloft novel, but one with connections to the Forgotten Realms, hence why it is here. It was released in 1991 and is written by Christie Golden. The story is of a Gold Elf turned vampire, Jander Sunstar. Some of you may recognize this name if you have played a certain recent adventure for Fifth Edition. I decided to do this bonus review since I was itching for some gothic horror, and Vampire of the Mists did not disappoint. It took me only a few days to finish. This review will be rather spoiler heavy.
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The prologue takes place either before the von Zarovich’s rule, or right at its start. Noticeably this Most High Priest of Barovia does not worship the Morninglord Lathander.
1072 DR Jander meets Anna at an insane asylum in Waterdeep. He continues to visit her every night for several decades until her death.
The Village of Barovia, overseen by Burgomaster Boris Federovich Kartov, is the scene Jander enters seeking his revenge. Strahd’s wolves terrorize the villagers. Though this is combated by Janders own power over wolves, he can even take the form of one, apparently a vampiric trait.

We encounter Maruschka, who has the sight, and is basically younger Madame Eva, though she is present as well. Her brother is Petya, who Jander saves early on from the Burgomasters intended hanging though he’s innocent. He was messing around with his daughter, Anastasia.

At this point Jander has been undead for 5 centuries while apparently Strahd is “barely past [his] first”. 
Melancholy is always present for the once happy creature turned into an evil and tormented vampire. Jander is extremely easy to pity, especially near the end when you know more of his background.

Jander is in Barovia for about 25 years. It’s during this time that the only survivor of a group of travelers from Toril, a boy named Martyn Pelkar, starts a church of Lathander in the Village of Barovia. He thinks Jander is the Morninglord because of his gold skin and because he stopped Strahd and his servants from killing him. I would not be surprised if this is where the worship of Lathander gets introduced into Barovia.

See the source image
The original Ravenloft module.

Throughout the story we learn a little of Janders past. That he was slave to the vampire that turned him, that he was part of adventuring group called the Silver Six apparently slayed a dragon in Merrydale(the old name of Daggerdale). A vampire started making spawn of the towns people and his party, during which scores of people are lost and they even ironically split the party. Before forming the Silver Six, Gideon and Jander were even Hellriders, which is something that may sound familiar if you've played Baldur's Gate: Descent Into Avernus.

“Cults come and go. Lathander will die with his cleric. You, Count Strahd, are certain to outlast any daylight deity.”

This book's main enemy is Strahd, and Golden displays his madness beautifully. He is truly a maniac, and some of the later chapters are from his point of view. His tragic love and torture of Tatyana, and his plotting to always have her. Honestly there was one thing with Katrina, one of Strahd's pets, that actually fooled me, and I was shocked I did not see it coming beforehand.

The 5e retelling of the original adventure of Ravenloft.

This is a must read novel in my opinion for fans of Curse of Strahd, I6 Ravenloft, or even 3e's Expedition to Castle Ravenloft.

Heavy spoilers: we learn that Jander’s love, Anna, was a fragmented piece of Tatyana’s soul. That piece lived on while Tatyana died, and her reincarnated being Marina was missing that piece, as well as Olya who died simultaneously with Anna. Tatyana died in 351 (Barovia calendar), while Ireena Kolyana is Tatyana reincarnated during Curse of Strahd/i6 Ravenloft in 735. Apparently another reincarnation of her is Queen Kristiana von Zarovich in the Prime Material version of Barovia (from Roots of Evil adventure which takes place in 740 BC).
This is a little confusing, because if everything matches up then when Curse of Strahd takes place it would be 1354 DR, which would probably fit for I6 Ravenloft but is hard to place for 5e, unless things repeated more precisely than normal in the 1480s/1490s DR.

Another oddity is Madame Eva is dead by the end of the book. Supposedly she is the half-sister of Strahd so she is probably reincarnated also because of his curse.

The beautiful, assumed death of Jander at the end is sadly not so. I cannot believe for a second that Golden had Jander doing anything else but dying, for he was denying Strahd and the Dark Powers; but he was in Barovia where the powers (Wizards of the Coast) have ultimate power, sadly. Jander apparently later rejoined the Hellriders and invaded Avernus with Zariel. He's a tortured soul you can encounter in Baldur's Gate: Descent Into Avernus, and this makes him easily the most pitiable character I have encounted from Dungeons & Dragons. I beg any of you, please do what you can to free his soul if you play DIA.

End Spoilers

The main character Jander Sunstar is a tragic and ironic character. By being a vampire he is denied his name, the Sun, and the joy of basking in it as a gold elf. He keeps some of his old alignment, and refrains from his chaotic, vampiric nature for the most part. He is a character unlike most in all the novels I have read for Dungeons & Dragons, and his story is heartbreaking, redemptive, horrific, and triumphant. Vampire of the Mists is easily Amazing.

You can track my current progress here.

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