Blog Archive

View My Stats
Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Dracul by Dacre Stoker, and J.D. Barker (Reviewed by Will Byrnes)



Official Dacre Stoker Website
Official J. D. Barker Website
Order the book over HERE

OVERVIEW/ANALYSIS:It is believed that the strongest of them can assume any form, be it bat, wolf, swirling mist, even human. They can appear young, old, or any age between. Some can manipulate the elements, producing fog, storms, crashing thunder. Their motives remain unknown, but one thing is clear: they leave a trail of death in their wake, thinking no more of a human life than we would the life of a fly.”

Dacre Stoker knows a thing or two about vampires, Dracula in particular, given that his great-grand-uncle was none other than Bram Stoker. Dacre has had non-literary careers of his own, but for a while now has picked up the family business and been writing, not only about his illustrious ancestor, but (with some assistance from writing partners) fiction relating to you know who. He wrote a sequel to Dracula a few years back, incorporating Bram as a character. This time he has enlisted acclaimed thriller and horror writer J. D. Barker to help him write a prequel.

We spend time with Bram Stoker at age seven, a sickly child since birth. (as was the real Bram), but with a particularly interesting nanny, one Ellen Crone. (the actual name of the Stoker nanny) She does not eat with the family, preferring to dine alone. But she is very caring toward the Stoker children, most particularly Bram. The family summons a medical relation when Bram seems to be getting worse. But the application of leeches is not what Bram needs. Ellen has a better idea, and takes care of him. Soon after, he begins a true recovery, bounding from sickly child to a very active one. Shame about that scabby itch on his arm though. Young Bram and his sister, Matilda, sink their teeth into this mystery and engage in a bit of field research.

Part of the fun of this book is seeing the usually pretty clear lines between the real Bram’s novel and this prequel. Where did the notion of Dracula originate? How about Van Helsing? Damsels in distress? (or were they maybe enjoying themselves a bit too much for Victorian mores?). J. D. Barker and Dacre have a lot of original material from which to draw, Bram’s, at least what has not been lost to the sands of time (or maybe preserved in a coffin somewhere for safe keeping). Dacre has previously also written non-fiction books about his esteemed ancestor, and had a bit of a road-show, Stoker on Stoker, in which he lectured about Bram and his book.  J. D. Barker on the other hand has won a lot of acclaim for his indie debut FORSAKEN which also was nominated for the Bram Stoker award for best debut, and won a New Apple Medalist Award in the horror category.

Another fun element, for me anyway, was the opportunity looking into this book offered to dig up some dirt on the real Bram. The one piece of intel that I found most amazing was that when Bram first submitted his manuscript, it was as a work of non-fiction. Because of tender sensibilities at the time about a relatively recent bout of wide scale mortality, it was thought better to present it as fiction. In doing that, the first 101 pages of Bram’s manuscript vanished like a sated bloodsucker on a foggy night.


So, the story of Dracul, sick boy and sister try to find out what the real deal is with the beloved, if decidedly odd, nanny. (Fortune may have blown her into the Stoker family’s life, but no, she did not arrive on the East Wind) There are times when she looks quite young. Others when she seems rather aged. J. D. Dacre brings in an old Irish (Stoker was born and raised in Ireland) legend, about a failed love that turns gruesome. The tale of the Dearg-Due is used to wonderful, and meaningful effect within.

There are two timelines. We open with adult Bram in a castle-like place trying to keep a monster of certain sort locked in a room. Problem is that the various substances he is using to keep the thing from escaping are running out, and there is a real question of whether the aid he is expecting will arrive in time. This contemporary (1868) piece includes the tale of Bram, his family, and others, (including a pre-Van Helsing) trying to track down people, follow clues, and do justice against dark foes. The other line is Bram and his sister, Matilda, as young siblings, with scant understanding of what they have seen, attempting to figure it out. Both lines were fun, although I am not sure there would be many children of the ages portrayed who would be quite so resourceful, even in the mid-19th century. Feel free to suspend your disbelief and let it hang by its toes from the ceiling, as it stares at you with red, hungry eyes.

In keeping with great-grand-uncle’s form, Dacre and J. D. Barker' (with his impressive writing talents) tell the story through several sources. The Journal of Bram Stoker, Letters from Matilda to Ellen Crone, and The Diary of Thornley Stoker are the primary views. There is also The Notes of Arminius Vambéry, a patient case record, and a few sections that are pure omniscient narrator. All of it made me bare my teeth, in a good way.

They also add some nice interpretations of the rules of vampirism, what works, what doesn’t, what their limitations might be. They can change into what? And eye-color shifting, some telepathy, an interesting item on the separated parts of the undead. There are plenty of classic vampire tropes, and for the big guy himself, a reminder of his Carpathian rep for how he disposed of his enemies. The authors also toss in a few refs to the relevant literature of that era, a bit of E.A.Poe, The Woman in White, one or two more. The book closes with a lovely reference, a name that will be familiar. There were also some pretty nifty plot twists, that worked well.

Gripes? Well, I mentioned the age-vs-competence thing. No big whoop, really. I confess to occasionally getting an image in my tiny mind of Velma, Daphne, Fred, Shaggy, and a certain pooch, when the adult crew was deciding on a dime to dash to this or that place to pursue the latest clue. I am not saying that I minded this. In fact, it contributed to the fun aspect of the book. But some might not enjoy what seems a bit of lightness in what is supposed to be a horror story. A horror story is supposed to be scary, right? Measured in hours of sleep lost, perhaps, or alarming dreams that jolt one awake. But no, not for me. Take that with a grain of garlic salt, though. I tend to be a fair bit less sensitive to horror than many readers. So it is entirely possible that this is a fairly scary book and I just didn’t notice. But really, this is such an enjoyable read. And that is the bottom line here.

CONCLUSION: It was truly fun reading Dracul. I enjoyed as much the learning it sparked, about Bram in particular. Whether you are type O, A, B, or AB, whether you are positive, negative, or undecided, I strongly urge you to swoop in and see what you can dig up, as you flap along with this fast-paced, engaging and very entertaining book.

NOTE: This review was first posted by Will on his Goodreads pageBram Stoker image courtesy of Got Ireland. Bela Lugosi picture courtesy of the Smithsonian magazine.

0 comments:

Follow by Email

NOTEWORTHY RELEASES

Click Here To Order “The Grey Bastards” by Jonathan French!!!
Order HERE

NOTEWORTHY RELEASES

Click Here To Order “Garrison Girl” by Rachel Aaron!!!
Order HERE

NOTEWORTHY RELEASES

Click Here To Order “Detonation Boulevard” by Craig Schaefer!!!
Order HERE

NOTEWORTHY RELEASES

Click Here To Order “The Great Hearts” by David Oliver!!!
Order HERE

NOTEWORTHY RELEASES

Click Here To Order “City Of Kings” by Rob J. Hayes!!!
Order HERE

NOTEWORTHY RELEASES

Click Here To Order “Dragon Racer 1” by M. R. Mathias!!!
Order HERE