Friday, November 22, 2019

Dracul by Dacre Stoker and JD Barker

Dacre Stoker is the great-grandnephew of Bram Stoker and he's working hard to be Bram's spiritual descendant as well as his biological one. Dracul is the second book Dacre's written (this one with co-author JD Barker) that inserts Bram and other Stokers into the world of Dracula.

Dacre's first book was Dracula the Un-dead (with co-author Ian Holt), a sequel to Dracula that has Bram meet the son of Mina and Jonathan Harker as the young man researches the vampire that destroyed his parents' lives. I haven't read it and don't know if I will. I loved Dracul, but I'm not clear on how well it and Un-dead tie together. I've read some things that make me suspect the continuity is a bit wonky, so if that's the case, I'll skip Un-dead. I need to do some more looking into that, though.

Dracul is a prequel to Dracula that features Bram and his siblings in major roles. In real life, Bram Stoker was a sickly child until around the age of seven. No one today knows exactly what was wrong with him. If anyone knew during Bram's life, they didn't write it down for us. But we do know that Bram suddenly got better around seven-years-old for equally mysterious reasons. Dracul offers a cool, supernatural explanation for the recovery in the form of a necromantic nanny who was helping raise the Stoker children.

I don't always like prequels, because they're often just exercises in checking off items on a list of events that have to happen in order for the original thing to take place. Dracul doesn't do that. It's its own mystery as Bram and his siblings try to figure out what happened to him when he was seven, just who this nanny was, why she disappeared shortly after Bram got better, and why does she still feel so intimately and paranormally connected to the family?

Of course it ties into a deadly, undead nobleman from eastern Europe and the investigation turns up things and people who will go on to inspire Bram's greatest work, but it all goes down in a natural way and I never felt like either the plot or I were being manipulated.

There is one, unnatural thing about Dracul though that I didn't care for. That's the use of the same, epistolary format from Bram's novel. Dracula made great use of it, but it's not needed in Dracul, which feels like a found-footage film straining really hard to explain why someone is recording all of these events as they happen. And then weirdly, Dracul drops it by the end. I was happy for that, but it made me question even more why Dacre and Barker felt the need for it in the first place.

Other than that, though, it's a super engaging book with great characters and I came away wanting to learn more about the real-life Bram Stoker. Best of all, it's actually scary with chilling scenes and images that will haunt me for a while.

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