by Royce Prouty
Release Date: June 13th, 2013
2013 Putnam Adult
Hardcover Edition; 352 Pages
Genre: Fiction / Horror
Source: Review copy from publisher
3.5 / 5 Stars
When rare-manuscript expert Joseph Barkeley is hired to authenticate and purchase the original draft and notes for Bram Stoker's Dracula, little does he know that the reclusive buyer is a member of the oldest family in Transylvania.
After delivering the manuscript to the legendary Bran Castle in Romania, Barkeley—a Romanian orphan himself—realizes to his horror that he's become a prisoner to the son of Vlad Dracul. To earn his freedom, Barkeley must decipher cryptic messages hidden in the text of the original Dracula that reveal the burial sites of certain Dracul family members. Barkeley's only hope is to ensure that he does not exhaust his usefulness to his captor until he’s able to escape. Soon he discovers secrets about his own lineage that suggest his selection for the task was more than coincidence. In this knowledge may lie Barkeley's salvation—or his doom. For now he must choose between a coward's flight and a mortal conflict against an ancient foe.
I am one of those people who has been veering away from vampire-themed books lately as I feel like I've been over-saturated with them and so, it was with some trepidation that I began this one when asked by the publisher. To my surprise, I quite enjoyed it, simply because it was somewhat different than the usual vampire flare and I think I've been looking more for the old Dracula type horror novels where vampires aren't romanticized so much, but are just downright evil, simply for a change of pace.
What I liked: As always, whenever there is research to be done over long-lost manuscripts and hidden secrets, I am hooked. With the plot taking place mainly in Romania, and having the main character, Joseph Barkeley, deal with the cultural differences between North American and Romania, was quite fascinating and interesting, and I quite enjoyed learning more about the Romanian culture and some of the history of their beautiful land. It was quite easy to become captivated by the setting and the eeriness of the surroundings, and I could picture myself there with little problem.
It wasn't one of those novels where it was overly gory or disgusting, although there were moments for squeamishness, but it was the way the Draculs managed to capture Joseph in their net and tighten the lines around him that I found quite interesting. Although he only went to Romania in order to sell an original manuscript, he obviously knew too much, and was involved in some way unbeknownst to himself, and the web slowly tightened around him until either he fought back, and he was not known to be a courageous man, or he gave in. This led to a lot of philosophical questions about the nature of evil and courage without sounding preachy or over-the-top. I didn't always agree with a lot of Joseph's choices, but I definitely understood his position. The novel was also fairly well-written and I managed to read it in one sitting.
What I was unsure about: I do have to admit there were some things, and events, where I had to suspend some disbelief in order to carry on, but it didn't necessarily affect the novel in its entirety. What I also couldn't exactly figure out is what the two Dracul brothers were fighting over, other than it had to do with their two wives. I'm afraid that part of the story was sort of murky. I read that there will be a sequel to this novel, so perhaps this information will be clarified there. Because of this murkiness, the battle between the two brothers didn't quite have the impact on me that it might have had as I didn't really care who won. I also felt that character development needed a bit more work as I didn't feel as involved in the characters as I could have.
Stoker's Manuscript was an interesting take on the Dracula story and I definitely enjoyed reading more about Romania and its culture. There are a lot of elements to enjoy in this story; travel, adventure, small battle scenes, historical research, mystery, suspense, and some horror. There were some elements that were confusing, especially when it had to do with the Dracul family itself and why there were so many great conflicts, and where were the other brothers? Some of the facts surrounding Joseph and his family were also unclear. Needless to say, I still enjoyed this novel and I will probably pick up the sequel when it is released next year.