Author: Dacre Stoker and J. D. Barker
Number of Pages: 608 (Paperback)
Published: October 17th 2019 by Black Swan
Genre: Horror, Gothic
Dracul reveals not only the true origins of Dracula himself, but also of his creator, Bram Stoker . . . and of the elusive, enigmatic woman who connects them.
It is 1868, and a 22-year-old Bram Stoker has locked himself inside an abbey’s tower to face off against a vile and ungodly beast. He is armed with mirrors and crucifixes and holy water and a gun – and is kept company by a bottle of plum brandy. His fervent prayer is that he will survive this one night – a night that will prove to be the longest of his life.
Desperate to leave a record of what he has witnessed, the young man scribbles out the events that brought him to this point – and tells an extraordinary tale of childhood illness, a mysterious nanny, and stories once thought to be fables now proven true.
Inspired by the notes DRACULA’s creator left behind, Dracul is a riveting, heart-stoppingly scary novel of Gothic suspense . . .
The tale begins with Bram Stoker locked in a tower room adorned with all manner of defences against darkness. Holy water, mirrors, several crucifixes and white roses. It’s a nightmarish situation and Bram is under threat from something outside, determined to gain access despite Bram’s safeguards. The narrative then switches to Stoker’s childhood as he journals about incidents from his youth. How did all this come about? Who is after Bram and why?
Bram’s journaling recounts the mysterious illness that blighted his life until age 7. His family were convinced he would die, yet he rallied, possibly aided by Nanna Ellen, an enigmatic carer who apparently cures Bram where all other medical intervention has failed, but her help also seems to have a visible effect on her seen through her disappearances, and her changes in appearance as she visibly ages, only to appear again looking fresh-faced and young.
Ellen obviously has a secret, and I don’t think I’ll say more other than experiencing Bram and his sister Matilda discover what’s going on with her – the state of her room, her disappearances, the difficulty Matilda has in capturing her in a portrait – was brilliant. Her eventual departure from the family is surrounded in an enduring mystery that never quite leaves Bram and Matilda.
I like Matilda, and her enduring sibling relationship with Bram. During his childhood illness, his weakened state and the belief that he would not live, Matilda is a constant, telling him stories and gossip and encouraging all manner of mischief, going out into the night and listening to what others think shouldn’t concern her.
The story features unsent letters from Matilda to Ellen, journal entries from both Bram and Thornley Stoker, and notes written by Vambéry. I like this method of story telling, giving the whole picture from a variety of viewpoints and watching it all piece together gradually.
The vampire himself is teased out until the latter stages, although his presence is certainly felt well before he appears and when he does it definitely proves worth the wait.
Our group to take on this menace and his undead are the Stoker siblings and the wonderfully mysterious Arminius Vambéry, a man Thornley Stoker meets through the Hellfire club. He knows the truth about the nature of Ellen and her like, having seen such things before.
There are some really eerie and creepy moments, scenes of horror and scenes of family life played out in all innocence as some unknown adversary takes an interest in the Stoker household. Dark basements, a hospital mortuary, abandoned churchyards and unconsecrated ground, derelict towers, a room adorned with crosses and mirrors, and the secretive and mysterious realm of the Hellfire Club all add to the wonderfully Gothic air of this novel.
The way the past and the present are eventually tied together had me turning the pages long after night had drawn in, which certainly added something to the atmosphere. I couldn’t put it down and would certainly recommend it to anyone looking for a taste of the Gothic. Magic, murder, mystery and intrigue, they’re all within the pages of Dracul.