Will Byrnes's Reviews > Dracul

Dracul by Dacre Stoker
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bookshelves: fantasy, horror, thriller, gothic, fiction, historical-fiction, paranormal, vampires

“It is believed that the strongest of them can assume any form, be it bat, wolf, swirling mist, even human. They can appear young, old, or any age between. Some can manipulate the elements, producing fog, storms, crashing thunder. Their motives remain unknown, but one thing is clear: they leave a trail of death in their wake, thinking no more of a human life than we would the life of a fly.”
Dacre Stoker knows a thing or two about vampires, Dracula in particular, given that his great-grand-uncle was none other than Bram Stoker. Dacre has had non-literary careers of his own, but for a while now has picked up the family business and been writing, not only about his illustrious ancestor, but (with some assistance from writing partners) fiction relating to you know who. He wrote a sequel to Dracula a few years back, incorporating Bram as a character. This time he has written a prequel.

description
Bram - image from GotIreland.com

We spend time with Bram Stoker at age seven, a sickly child since birth. (as was the real Bram), but with a particularly interesting nanny, one Ellen Crone. (the actual name of the Stoker nanny) She does not eat with the family, preferring to dine alone. But she is very caring toward the Stoker children, most particularly Bram. The family summons a medical relation when Bram seems to be getting worse. But the application of leeches is not what Bram needs. Ellen has a better idea, and takes care of him. Soon after, he begins a true recovery, bounding from sickly child to a very active one. Shame about that scabby itch on his arm though. Young Bram and his sister, Matilda, sink their teeth into this mystery and engage in a bit of field research.

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Dacre Stoker and friends - Image from ValeOfGlamorgan.com

Part of the fun of this book is seeing the usually pretty clear lines between the real Bram’s novel and Dacre’s prequel. Where did the notion of Dracula originate? How about Van Helsing? Damsels in distress? (or were they maybe enjoying themselves a bit too much for Victorian mores?)

Dacre has a lot of original material from which to draw, Bram’s, at least what has not been lost to the sands of time (or maybe preserved in a coffin somewhere for safe keeping). Dacre has also written non-fiction books about his esteemed ancestor, and had a bit of a road-show, Stoker on Stoker, in which he lectured about Bram and his book.

Another fun element, for me anyway, was the opportunity looking into this book offered to dig up some dirt on the real Bram. The one piece of intel that I found most amazing was that when Bram first submitted his manuscript, it was as a work of non-fiction. Because of tender sensibilities at the time about a relatively recent bout of wide scale mortality, it was thought better to present it as fiction. In doing that, the first 101 pages of Bram’s manuscript vanished like a sated bloodsucker on a foggy night. I have put some fun materials in EXTRA STUFF if you are irresistibly drawn to diving down those rabbit holes.

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The 1922 German Nosferatu – image from Smithsonian Magazine

So, the story of Dracul, sick boy and sis try to find out what the real deal is with the beloved, if decidedly odd, nanny. (Fortune may have blown her into the Stoker family’s life, but no, she did not arrive on the East Wind) There are times when she looks quite young. Others when she seems rather aged. Dacre brings in an old Irish (Stoker was born and raised in Ireland) legend, about a failed love that turns gruesome. The tale of the Dearg-Due is used to wonderful, and meaningful effect.

There are two timelines. We open with adult Bram in a castle-like place trying to keep a monster of certain sort locked in a room. Problem is that the various substances he is using to keep the thing from escaping are running out, and there is a real question of whether the aid he is expecting will arrive in time. This contemporary (1868) piece includes the tale of Bram, his family, and others, (including a pre-Van Helsing) trying to track down people, follow clues, and do justice against dark foes. The other line is Bram and his sister, Matilda, as young sibs, with scant understanding of what they have seen, attempting to figure it out. Both lines were fun, although I am not sure there would be many children of the ages portrayed who would be quite so resourceful, even in the mid-19th century. Feel free to suspend your disbelief and let it hang by its toes from the ceiling, as it stares at you with red, hungry eyes.

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Bela Lugosi defined Dracula for a generation - Image from Smithsonian Magazine

In keeping with great-grand-uncle’s form, Dacre tells the story through several sources. The Journal of Bram Stoker, Letters from Matilda to Ellen Crone, and The Diary of Thornley Stoker are the primary views. There is also The Notes of Arminius Vambéry, a patient case record, and a few sections that are pure omniscient narrator. All of it made me bare my teeth, in a good way.

Dacre adds some nice interpretations of the rules of vampirism, what works, what doesn’t, what their limitations might be. They can change into what? And eye-color shifting, some telepathy, an interesting item on the separated parts of the undead. There are plenty of classic vampire tropes, and for the big guy himself, a reminder of his Carpathian rep for how he disposed of his enemies. Dacre tosses in a few refs to relevant lit of the era, a bit of E.A.Poe, The Woman in White, one or two more. The book closes with a lovely reference, a name that will be familiar. There were also some pretty nifty plot twists, that worked well.

Gripes? Well, I mentioned the age-vs-competence thing. No big whoop, really. I confess to occasionally getting an image in my tiny mind of Velma, Daphne, Fred, Shaggy, and a certain pooch, when the adult crew was deciding on a dime to dash to this or that place to pursue the latest clue. I am not saying that I minded this. In fact, it contributed to the fun aspect of the book. But some might not enjoy what seems a bit of lightness in what is supposed to be a horror story. A horror story is supposed to be scary, right? Measured in hours of sleep lost, perhaps, or alarming dreams that jolt one awake. But no, not for me. Take that with a grain of garlic salt, though. I tend to be a fair bit less sensitive to horror than many readers. So it is entirely possible that this is a fairly scary book and I just didn’t notice.

But really, this is such an enjoyable read. And that is the bottom line here. It was truly fun reading Dracul. I enjoyed as much the learning it sparked, about Bram in particular. Whether you are type O, A, B, or AB, whether you are positive, negative, or undecided, I strongly urge you to swoop in and see what you can dig up, as you flap along with this fast-paced, engaging and very entertaining book.


Review posted – 9/17/18

Publication date – 10/2/18

Paramount Pictures has acquired screen rights to Dracul, but it may be a few years before anything is done with it.

I received the e-book from Penguin-Random House’s First to Read program. I did not have to consume or surrender any bodily fluids to get it.

PS - It was my intention to have a particular bit of fun with this review. Losing time this week to an out-of-town trip and some other non-review-related activities made incorporating that on time for the usual deadline, or undeadline in this case, more than I could manage. If I can, I will try to get that completed by Halloween. None of this STUFF alters my core review of the book, which is what you see above. - 10/30/18 - So sorry, it was not meant to be. If I find myself with some extra days at some point I might have a go at this, in time for Halloween 2019.

=============================EXTRA STUFF

Links to the author’s personal, Twitter and FB pages

The author’s site link is actually to Bram Stoker – Official Website for the Bram Stoker Estate. Definitely check this one out. There are a lot of fascinating material and useful links.

Items of Interest
-----Northern Life MagazineDacre Stoker on the mysteries behind the writing of Dracula - by Mark Davis – 18 July 2017
----- Dacre Stoker, author of "Dracula: The Un-Dead" - Interview with Don Smith – definitely worthwhile
-----Irish Faerie Folk of Yore and Yesterday: The Dearg-Due
- by Kim
-----The Guardian - The Icelandic Dracula: Bram Stoker's vampire takes a second bite - by Colin Fleming – April 19, 2017
-----Smithsonian - Why Does Dracula Wear a Tuxedo? The Origins of Bram Stoker’s Timeless Vampire - by Jimmy Stamp. October 31, 2012
-----Lithub - Gothic Themes Bring Us Together - by Catherine Cavendish - A fun piece for fans of gothic literature, with excellent recommendations
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Reading Progress

September 4, 2018 – Started Reading
September 10, 2018 – Shelved
September 10, 2018 – Shelved as: fantasy
September 10, 2018 – Shelved as: horror
September 10, 2018 – Shelved as: thriller
September 10, 2018 – Finished Reading
September 13, 2018 – Shelved as: gothic
September 13, 2018 – Shelved as: fiction
September 13, 2018 – Shelved as: historical-fiction
September 13, 2018 – Shelved as: paranormal
September 13, 2018 – Shelved as: vampires

Comments Showing 1-36 of 36 (36 new)

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message 1: by Delya (new)

Delya please guys can you write how to buy this book


message 2: by Delya (new)

Delya please write it


message 3: by Delya (new)

Delya '-'


message 4: by Will (last edited Oct 30, 2019 09:32PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Will Byrnes The book goes on sale October 2. I got it through the "First to Read" program at Penguin Random House. It is under the Putnam imprint.


Renee I got mine through First to Read, but it is also on NetGalley & Edelweiss +. Just finished & I really enjoyed it. Review coming.


Will Byrnes Definitely a fun read


message 7: by JV (semi-hiatus) (last edited Sep 13, 2018 09:27PM) (new) - added it

JV (semi-hiatus) Can't wait to sink my teeth into this, but first, I need to read the original one! A wonderful and insightful review, Will! :)


Will Byrnes Two fangs worth of fun impending for you, JV


message 9: by Fran (new)

Fran Awesome review, Will!


message 10: by Will (new) - rated it 4 stars

Will Byrnes Thanks, Fran


Peter Exceptional review Will. Really looking forward to reading this one.


message 12: by Will (new) - rated it 4 stars

Will Byrnes Thanks, Peter


message 13: by Cheri (new)

Cheri Outstanding review, Will, not my cuppa, too scary, I need to sleep at night, etc., but I know that this is the time of year where everyone else loves these books! Glad you enjoyed!


message 14: by Will (new) - rated it 4 stars

Will Byrnes Thanks, Cheri. I did not find it particularly scary, but that may just be me.


message 15: by Cheri (new)

Cheri Good to know, Will, I still tend to associate these kinds of books with the old b&w movies of Dracula, which might not scare me now, but watching the movies with my older brother and his friend made it that much more terrifying to me. I may check this out, then. Thanks, Will!


message 16: by Will (new) - rated it 4 stars

Will Byrnes I would listen to the audio interview with Don Smith. I expect hearing him talk about his writing and the background to his work will help keep the scare element at bay.


message 17: by Hanneke (new) - added it

Hanneke Sounds like a fun read, Will! Thanks for your great review. I think I will like the book for sure!


message 18: by Anna (new)

Anna Great review Will. Horror stories are usually, really not my thing, but you make such a convincing argument that I am almost tempted. Thank you!


message 19: by Will (new) - rated it 4 stars

Will Byrnes Hanneke wrote: "Sounds like a fun read, Will! Thanks for your great review. I think I will like the book for sure!"
Thanks, Hanneke. Fun indeed.


message 20: by Will (new) - rated it 4 stars

Will Byrnes Anna wrote: "Great review Will. Horror stories are usually, really not my thing, but you make such a convincing argument that I am almost tempted. Thank you!"
Thanks, Anna.


message 21: by Robert (new) - added it

Robert Thanks Will! I did not know about the sequel. Always something to look forward to in the world of reading , heh ?


debbicat WOW! Outstanding review. I am about at 65% on this. Really enjoying it as well. I can’t wait to check out your extras. Thanks for sharing such a detailed review. :-). This one is a bit of fun. And a movie! Oh I hope so!!!!


message 23: by Will (new) - rated it 4 stars

Will Byrnes Robert wrote: "Thanks Will! I did not know about the sequel. Always something to look forward to in the world of reading , heh ?"
The sequel was news to me as well.


message 24: by Will (last edited Sep 26, 2018 09:12PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Will Byrnes Enchantress debbicat ☮ wrote: "WOW! Outstanding review. I am about at 65% on this. Really enjoying it as well. I can’t wait to check out your extras. Thanks for sharing such a detailed review. :-). This one is a bit of fun. And ..."
Thanks, Deb. I always have great fun digging up extras in researching the book. The author's Bram Stoker site is definitely worth checking out, with plenty of rabbit holes.


Nagia:') ;")Be BeAutiful and HaPpy ;) nice review
Nagia must read,-)
,…)


message 26: by Will (new) - rated it 4 stars

Will Byrnes Thanks, Nagia


Nagia:') ;")Be BeAutiful and HaPpy ;) hey guys please how to buy this ebook pretty please okay …-"


message 28: by Will (new) - rated it 4 stars

Will Byrnes You can get the book on Amazon.uk

https://www.amazon.co.uk/s/ref=nb_sb_...


message 29: by Vanessa (new)

Vanessa The Draculs were a real life Romanian royalty . They terrorized the Ottoman empire for years .


message 30: by Will (last edited Oct 12, 2018 09:27PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Will Byrnes One in particular being notable for his predilection for staking his opponents.


message 31: by Vanessa (last edited Oct 13, 2018 05:08AM) (new)

Vanessa Yup . That's the one , Vlad the impaler . I'll pass on reading this one for Halloween . . . Looks like a well researched and a well written story though .


message 32: by Will (last edited Oct 13, 2018 09:09PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Will Byrnes A fun read for sure, but not a must-read.


message 33: by Vanessa (new)

Vanessa You make sense to a gothic-horror fan . But I prefer to celebrate with a saner book : HALLOWEEN by Nicholas Rogers is my choice
so I can get some sleep afterwards .

Happy Halloween ! Enjoy your read


message 34: by Will (new) - rated it 4 stars

Will Byrnes The Rogers book looks like a fun read


message 35: by Supratim (new)

Supratim Wonderful review, Will!
The reference to Scooby Doo was awesome. It was one of my favourite cartoons when I was a child.


message 36: by Will (last edited Nov 20, 2018 09:10PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Will Byrnes Thanks, Supratim


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