The prequel to Dracula, inspired by notes and texts left behind by the author of the classic novel, Dracul is a riveting novel of gothic suspense that reveals not only Dracula’s true origins but Bram Stoker’s — and the tale of the enigmatic woman who connects them.
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.
As a fan of Dracula, I really enjoyed this–and not just because of the vampires (although that helps!). Honestly, because I’m a fan, I wasn’t sure I would like this but I’m so glad I gave it a try because it was a great read.
This is a bit of an odd book in that Bram Stoker, the author of Dracula, is a character in it, going through the same things his characters go through in Dracula. But that adds another dimension on to the story as you begin to imagine this is where Stoker drew his inspiration from, or that it was not so much inspiration but a retelling of his experiences. It makes the story feel that much more chilling at times.
One of the things I loved most about this book is the way in which it’s told. We go back and forth between Bram’s account as he writes about it while waiting for something bad to come, hoping he’ll live through it he tries to puzzle out what’s led up to this moment. Then we have letters and such from others to further flesh out the story. This method doesn’t always work, but it’s done really well here, just like it is in Dracula. The layering of things and the way the story is revealed over time is fabulous at building the tension. By the time you reach the end you’re sitting on the edge of your seat.
Of course if you are familiar with vampires, you’ll probably be able to figure out some things that are going on. But those things that you figure out are only a small part of the overall picture. I admit I was congratulating myself and patting myself on the back thinking I’d solved every mystery, but boy was I wrong. Like I said, this story has wonderful layers. And even though the ‘stuff you know’ isn’t really a red herring so to speak, there’s much more to what’s going on then you could guess.
I really loved the characters in this, especially Bram and his sister. They have a great relationship and it was lovely to see play out over the years. Also, their older brother was probably one of the more intriguing characters because from Bram’s account you didn’t really know what to think of him at times. Of course there are plenty of other intriguing characters as well, maybe none more so than Bram’s nanny from childhood who would mysteriously disappear at times and seemed to be the only one to help with Bram’s chronic childhood illness.
Overall, this was a very engaging read! If you enjoy gothic horror, or vampires, or just the original Dracula, you’re going to want to give this one a try. 4/5 stars.