I received an ARC from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
This novel was co-written by a descendant of Bram Stoker who based this book on historical and genealogical research that he reveals tantalizingly little about in the Epilogue, but more on that later.
Dracul is a fictionalized retelling of a period of Bram Stoker’s life from his youth, up until his college years. Other historical figures include: his siblings, Mathilda and Thornley, plus Thornley’s wife, and Bram’s childhood nanny, Ellen Crone, who plays the part of the antagonist.
At 500 pages long, it takes patience and dedication for this book to become interesting since it begins with the scattered letters and diary entries of the Stoker siblings; written in old-fashioned language that beats about the bush and is not quick to deliver on the drama. At this point, they have never even heard the word “vampire” and what is mysterious to them, is old news to a contemporary reader. If you’re reading Dracul, chances are you’ve also read Dracula and you know that this is what happens there too: the slow gathering of information about these monsters until they eventually arrive at a name. So yeah, it’s true to history and all that, but it’s not very fun for us if we already know the answer to their nanny’s very curious behavior.
Interspersed between these entries are ambiguous and way too repetitive events set in the present, where Bram is trapped in a room with a rifle, blessed white roses, a protective paste, and a jillion mirrors and crosses. (In one chapter, I lost count of the times that bits of the paste “crumbled to the ground”. We know that Bram is holding up the fort, but why???)
HOWEVER, somewhere after the 250-350 page mark, all of this waiting finally pays off. It becomes an entirely different book. The dam of mysteries breaks all at once, and the characters do less wondering and more reacting, until we finally reach the present and the language switches to third-person.
By the end, Dracul delivers the strong drama and emotions that 21st century readers are probably craving in a vampire novel. I did feel like all of that laboring through the boring bits paid off in the end, but some readers may not share that opinion.
The Epilogue includes scans of Bram Stoker’s original notes for Dracula, and a curious anecdote about the original novel’s publication history. There’s a lot of fun trivia about questions you may have been asking yourself throughout the text, but Dacre Stoker also teases you with more mysteries to wonder about and gather your own conclusions from. (I was super intrigued and a tad frustrated by this! I want to know more!!)
Overall, I did enjoy this book. Even though I didn’t have very flattering things to say for the first 250 pages or so, it did make me gasp in shock and recoil in disgust more than once. I would recommend it to heartfelt fans of the genre or original book, to those curious enough about the historical bits and mysteries, and to someone looking for a horror book that isn’t all heart-pounding thrills all the time. It is a well-written book but it really takes a long time for it to enthrall you.
Comes out on October 2nd!