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I, Strahd: The War Against Azalin by P. N. Elrod

Posted by travizzt on November 14, 2011

An arrival to Strahd Von Zarovich’s home of Barovia may just help him escape the Mists, that is if they can work together.

I, Strahd: The War Against Azalin by P. N. Elrod

I, Strahd: The War Against Azalin is the sequel to I, Strahd: The Memoirs of a Vampire as well as the nineteenth book in the Ravenloft novel line. Ravenloft is a fantasy horror setting of Dungeons and Dragons. P. N. Elrod has also written The Vampire Files series which includes; Bloodlist, Lifeblood, Bloodcircle, Art in the Blood, Fire in the Blood, Blood on the Water, Chill in the Blood, Dark Sleep, Lady Crymsyn, Cold Streets, Song in the Dark, and Dark Road Rising. She wrote Jonathan Barrett: Gentleman Vampire series which include; Red Death, Death and the Maiden, Death Masque, and Dance of Death. She also wrote Lord Richard, Vampire with Nigel Bennett which includes; Keeper of the King, His Father’s Son, and Siege Perilous. She wrote a sequel to Bram Stoker’s Dracula titled Quincey Morris: Vampire and an original fantasy novel titled The Adventures of Myhr. I, Strahd: The War Against Azalin was released June 1998 and was published by TSR, Inc.

Strahd Von Zarovich has been trapped by the Mists that surround his land of Barovia for far too long. He seeks a way to free himself from their embrace and hopefully escape the fate that has trapped him. Unfortunately his freedom doesn’t seem possible until a mysterious stranger enters his realm. Calling himself Azalin, Strahd realizes that this person may be able to help break the bonds and allow for his escape. However, Azalin may have plans of his own as the two set to work in finding a way ‘home.’ As the years pass, the two become more and more bitter towards one another and the delicate alliance they forged may just come undone at anytime.

Criticisms:
1) War. There are a few minor problems with I, Strahd: The War Against Azalin, but the one that stands out the most is that there isn’t a war until the last forty or so pages. For war to be in the title of the novel and not have been the focus of the story is rather odd. There is the build-up something happening between Strahd and Azalin, but it felt more like a rivalry rather than a war. Even when the war happened, it just felt rushed through and didn’t seem like it left much of an impact overall. Granted, the Strahd and Azalin rivalry is set up, but that’s really about it. That said, the war wasn’t boring and there were some interesting ideas that were introduced. Thankfully, this is only a minor problem, but it would have benefited if there was more dedicated to the actual war segments.
2) Pacing. The other problem with I, Strahd: The War Against Azalin is with its pacing. The story develops very slowly. Throughout the novel, everything felt like it was in slow motion. It worked in building-up the rivalry, but it didn’t with everything else. Basically, it took forever for things to develop and progress. There were even a number of times were it seemed like nothing happened, even when things were happening. There were a lot of periods were nothing happened or events resulted in nothing. Also, there seemed to be times when things seemed like they were repeated. It felt like you are reading the same thing over and over. All these things really made the story feel slow and meandering.

Praises:
1) Strahd. The characters of I, Strahd: The War Against Azalin were just fantastic, starting with Strahd Von Zarovich. Strahd in a nutshell is charismatic and sympathetic, as any good main character should be. You almost instantly like him, along with feeling bad for his situation. As the story progresses, you see that Strahd isn’t as bad as you would assume he is. In fact, there were times when I was stunned by his actions and how he handled certain situations. You realize that he does care for his people’s well-being. However, this is a slanted view of things because the story is told through Strahd’s eyes. This makes Strahd all the more interesting because you’re not sure if what he is saying (or writing) is fact or just fiction. So in reality you are being swept into Strahd’s charismatic personality and that alone is rather impressive. To be that charismatic and likable in written words is an accomplishment that you hardly ever see.
2) Azalin. Not to outdone, Azalin is just as interesting. Azalin comes off as Strahd’s exact opposite. He’s ignorant, self-absorbed, and overly controlling. He makes the perfect opposite to Strahd, but instead of the reader hating the character, you find yourself actually liking him. He comes off as almost repulsive, but there is something about him that you can’t help but enjoy. He’s superiority complex may have something to do with it, or it could be the witty exchanges between him and Strahd. He’s an interesting character who you want to learn more about.
3) Build-up. The build-up the war was phenomenal. As the two main characters spend more time together, you see the tension start to build and begin to wonder when it’s going to break. The conversations between the two give some great insight on things to come and are just a blast reading. The differing personalities and how they clash were just fantastic. Nothing about their relationship seemed forced in to make them loathe one another, it’s all natural. It’s great seeing how quickly things fall apart between these characters, and the breaking point to drive them over the edge was well worth it.

Side Notes:
1) Demiplane of Dread. I did like how new areas were being created off of Barovia. The set up of how this is happening was perfect, and it gets the reader interested in learning more about these places.
2) Prologue and Epilogue. The prologue and epilogue were an interesting way to introduce you to the story and end it. It sets up the story perfectly and ends it on a high note.
3) Cover Art. I, Strahd: The War Against Azalin has some incredibly nineties artwork. At the time, it would have looked wonderful, but from the present, it just looks cheesy. Strahd looks horrible. He doesn’t look like he should. He looks just ugly, for lack of a better word. On the other hand, Azalin looks interesting, but very cartoony. There is just something about him that makes me think of a Saturday morning cartoon villain than a real menacing threat. It’s not terrible artwork, but at the same time, it’s not great.

Overall: 4/5
Final Thoughts:
I, Strahd: The War Against Azalin is a good sequel to I, Strahd: Memoirs of a Vampire and makes you enjoy the character all the more. There are still problems, however. The whole premise of the novel at first glance seems to be about a war, while in reality it’s just the build-up to it. It could have at least felt like a war rather than a simple rivalry. There could have been more focus on the actual war then there was. Then there is the slow pacing. Yes the pacing is meant to help with the tension between these two characters, but it only hinders the story. Things feel like they are going nowhere and there were times when things felt as though you read them before. It just drags the story on longer then it should have been. Thankfully, the two main characters were just amazing. Strahd was impressive. He’s likable for being a ‘evil being’. You see a side of him that you wouldn’t have expected. On the other side, Azalin is the polar opposite. He’s full of himself and for some odd reason, you just like that about him. When these two are together it’s a blast. You see that they hate one another and as they continue to work together, you see the tension rise. It’s a great build-up, even if it was a bit too slow. All in all, I, Strahd: The War Against Azalin is a good story and for fans of Strahd and Ravenloft or just plan great tension-filled story-telling should check this one out.

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