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Wednesday, March 25, 2009

“Vlad: The Last Confession” by C.C. Humphreys (Reviewed by Liviu C. Suciu)

Official C.C. Humphreys Website
Order “Vlad: The Last Confession
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INTRODUCTION: When I first heard about “Vlad: The Last Confession”, I thought, “Not again. Just what we need, another novel about the ‘vile deeds’ of Vlad Dracula”. Also known as the Dragon, Vlad Tepes or the Impaler—the great Romanian warlord of the 15th century who dared to confront Mehmed the Conqueror, and almost managed to kill him in the famous Night Attack in 1462.

However, after checking out an excerpt on the author's website, I realized this novel could actually be something special, and immediately ordered a copy. I started reading the book as soon as I received it and was really impressed with “Vlad: The Last Confession” which exceeded my expectations as both an entertaining novel and as a historical reconstruction...

SETTING: In 1481, five years after Dracula's death, when his name became synonymous with terror, depravity and inhuman cruelty, three individuals—the imprisoned Ion Tremblac, Vlad’s former right hand and eventual betrayer; Vlad’s ex-mistress and current monastery abbess Ilona; and the hermit Vasile—are summoned to an isolated mountain fortress to bear witness to Vlad's character and deeds.

From here, the novel follows Vlad Dracula from his days as a young hostage at Sultan Murad's court in Edirne through his tumultuous career as a fugitive, a warlord Prince, a prisoner and a noble in the court of the king of Hungary.

FORMAT/INFO:Vlad: The Last Confession” is 358 pages long divided over fifty-two titled chapters, four parts, a three-part Prologue, and a superb and unexpected Epilogue. The book also includes a Dramatis Personae of the characters in the book, an Author’s Note, a Bibliography, a Glossary and a Map. Narration is in the third-person following Vlad as seen by the three witnesses mentioned above. “Vlad: The Last Confession” is self-contained. March 5, 2009 marks the UK Hardcover publication of “Vlad: The Last Confession” via
Gollancz.

PLOT HINTS AND ANALYSIS: I read tons of Romanian novels that justly remember Vlad as a hero, but due to Saxon & Hungarian-inspired bad press, Tepes’ historical record has been grossly distorted outside of his native country. So “Vlad: The Last Confession” is the first Western novel about the famous historical figure that actually does him justice as a great champion of Christendom, as well as a bringer of peace and prosperity...

The portrait of Vlad as single-minded and willing to go to any lengths in his goal of throwing back the Ottoman tide that seemed poised to engulf Christian Europe is well done and there is no glossing over the terrible cruelties inflicted by the Prince. However, that was a time when people had to be ruthless to survive as one Ottoman character so eloquently put it: “We do it to others, so they cannot do it to us”.

Ion Tremblac as the dedicated companion, right-hand man and later commander of Vlad’s armies, is also drawn very well and his narration, which occupies most of the novel, is very powerful.

Ilona has a smaller part to play overall in the novel, but she is always there for Vlad and her narrative voice is also very well defined. For reasons that will become clear towards the end of the book, the third witness, the hermit Vasile, is not as well drawn, but later turns out to be as important a character as anyone else in the novel.

The Ottoman characters meanwhile, are portrayed with subtlety, none more than Vlad's mentor and later adversary and victim, the (in)famous—at least in Romanian lore—Hamza Pasha. The Sultans, Murad and Mehmet are described accurately and fairly in my opinion, while Radu’s descent into corruption is only hinted at, although the final consequences are shown very clearly.

The recreation of the atmosphere of the times is pitch perfect and the author manages the not inconsiderable feat for a native English speaker of getting most of the Romanian names and expressions right, with only a little mixing of the diphthong “iu” with “ui” as in “Guirgui” for the actual “Giurgiu”. Since my name contains several “iu’s” and I've seen them changed into “ui” countless times across the years, I truly appreciate the mostly successful effort of Mr. Humphreys getting the names right. It's harder for me to evaluate the Turkish names and expressions, but I trust that they are as well done as the Romanian ones.

In the end, “Vlad: The Last Confession” is a superb page-turner from start to finish that offers a captivating look at the true picture of Vlad. Highly, highly recommended. No vampires though...

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

i started to read Vlad a couple of days ago and i have not been able to put it down. It shows Vlad as being a normal man with all the vulnerabilites and heartaches as anyone else. But do not anger him. An absolutely fantastic book and I would recommend it to anyone who doesn't mind a bit of gore and blood thirsty violence

Liviu said...

If you liked the book, take a look at the author's latest release Place called Armaggedon which takes place in a shorter time period in 1451-1453 and has Hamza Pasha back

Anonymous said...

one of the most boring books I've ever read. I found it very difficult to finish it.
The characters are unbelievable (Vlad is depicted as some kind of Jedi who had turned to the "dark side of the force").
The storyline is patchy.
Really bad

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