Monday, October 29, 2018

Review: Dracul by Dacre Stoker & J.D. Barker

by Dacre Stoker & J.D. Barker
Release Date: October 2nd 2018
2018 Putnam
Kindle Edition; 512 Pages
ISBN: 978-0735219366
Genre: Fiction / Historical / Horror
Source: Review copy from publisher

5 / 5 Stars

It is 1868, and a twenty-one-year-old Bram Stoker waits in a desolate tower to face an indescribable evil. Armed only with crucifixes, holy water, and a rifle, he prays to survive a single night, the longest of his life. Desperate to record what he has witnessed, Bram scribbles down the events that led him here...

A sickly child, Bram spent his early days bedridden in his parents' Dublin home, tended to by his caretaker, a young woman named Ellen Crone. When a string of strange deaths occur in a nearby town, Bram and his sister Matilda detect a pattern of bizarre behavior by Ellen -- a mystery that deepens chillingly until Ellen vanishes suddenly from their lives. Years later, Matilda returns from studying in Paris to tell Bram the news that she has seen Ellen -- and that the nightmare they've thought long ended is only beginning.

My Thoughts 
As a kid, Dracula was the first real horror book that I read at eight years old and for years I wondered where and how he would have been inspired to write such a thing.  What you have here is a prequel, written by a descendant of Bram Stoker no less, told in multiple POVs, one of which is Bram Stoker himself, both as a child and as an adult, in order to tell us what inspired the events in his signature novel, Dracula. I have to say I was very reluctant to read this as I remember the magic of Dracula, but I am SO GLAD I DID.  This story is written using Bram Stoker's original papers as the first 100 pages of his original Dracula were removed from the story and although no one is sure what was actually in those pages, they did use his original journals and other papers to create this story.  So the basics of this story do lie within Bram Stoker's original work and I loved learning that fact.

This is definitely a fine piece of gothic literature and I enjoyed it tremendously.  Although told in multiple POVs, the one I preferred was Bram's, and we first meet him as a child of seven years old suffering from a disease that has kept him bed-ridden for most of his young life.  The story is set in Ireland, where Bram and his family lived, and the authors tried to remain as true to his original background as possible,  I kept looking up facts on the Internet as I didn't really know a lot about Bram Stoker's life before reading this and almost all of the incidents that surrounded his family had been documented.  I loved all of the characters and enjoyed reading about them and although I liked Bram's POV the best, the others, mainly his sister and later his older brother, were quite interesting as well.  I kept making comparisons to the original Dracula (I couldn't help myself) and the links between this novel and the original were amazing.  

I have always loved Barker's writing, which is really what drew me to this novel, and although I wasn't sure about Stoker, the two together wrote one amazing book.  I love gothic novels and when well done, are quite fascinating.  The atmosphere and the setting in this novel raises it to a whole new level, capturing the reader and never letting go until the end.  I was actually disappointed when I got to the end as I didn't want to stop reading.  The tale is superb and the build-up is fantastic.  I could almost see the interwoven laces of the tale being woven throughout the novel as I read and I have nothing but admiration for the authors who could pull off something like this.   I can't even imagine what the editing process would have been like.  Throughout the story there is this chill that is woven throughout the narrative that you can feel but can't quite put a finger on which is perfect for gothic literature.  It's in the atmosphere, the characters, their actions, the weather, their secrets, their words, all woven together to create a suspense that makes you wonder what will actually happen.  When you have scenes in run-down old castles, in dark forests, and in morgues, you are being set up for something quite interesting.  I loved it all!

Dracul is one of those novels that succeeded on every level. Bram is one precocious child who is very curious about the world and wants answers to questions about things he doesn't understand.  So faced with a mysterious nanny who does mysterious things, he set out to discover her secret, only discovering far more that he bargained for, which shaped his life and his future.  The authors did a great job with Bram and the other characters, and you can see his progression throughout the story, where he would get his ideas for his future works of literature.  The story was impressively strong, kept me enthralled throughout and I began to wonder what was fact and what was fiction.  Luckily, the authors sorted that out in the end in the Author's Note, but even there much can be left to speculation.  I liked how the novel was written from different POVs as well as through the use of journals and letters as it all flowed seamlessly together.  I have to give credit to both of these authors for creating something that really remained true to the original work, and I highly recommend it to anyone who loved Dracula as much as I did.