It’s been about 125 years so I’m sincerely hoping that, by now, everyone is at least tangentially familiar with the legend of Count Dracula as published by Bram Stoker. Yes? Good. No? For shame!!
Now consider if you were told that the story of the world’s most infamous and influential vampire was based on true events in the life of its author.
Well, I’m not about to tell you that this is the case. However, Bram’s great-grand-nephew Dacre Stoker, along with co-author J.D. Barker, is here to do just that with Dracul, a prequel to the classic Dracula.
What you must know ahead of time is that Dacre Stoker is the author of several other books related to his literary giant of a great-grand-uncle. He is also the manager of the Bram Stoker Estate. These considered, it seems like Dacre might just have access to documents and historical records to which not everyone else would have access. And that’s exactly what he wants you to think… a bit of fact with a dash of speculation based on so-called “found documents.”
Dacre describes the true (this is the second time I’ve had to re-type “true” because I keep misspelling it “tru” as though I’m writing a review of one of the Sookie Stackhouse books) fact that Bram was a sickly child — often lingering at death’s door — for the first seven years of his life. He was bedridden and barely ever saw his family’s dining room table let alone go outside. That is, until his uncle “cured” him by leaching. After that, he rarely ever took ill and, in fact, became quite the athlete through university, until his death in 1914.
But, as Dacre posits, was there something more to his healing than just leaches?
He will also regale you with a tale of fondness between young Bram and his nanny Ellen Crone, who was also present during his leaching. Their bond was so strong that it was wholly unexpected when she up and disappeared shortly after his miraculous recovery, only to occasionally show herself to Bram and select few of his siblings in a series of maybe, possibly, perhaps, was-it-her-or-wasn’t-it situations throughout their adolescence and early adulthood.
It was this obsession with Ellen’s disappearance and Bram’s undying affection for her that kickstarts this novel that covers three distinct periods in Bram’s life.
I loved this book from the get-go. It is a very well-written page-turner that weaves these aforementioned supposedly found documents with historical fact into a masterful what-if about the history of one of the most beloved of gothic villains. I can easily see this being a book that gets read over and over again scanning for elements that may have been missed in past readings. Considering I’ve only ever re-read a book once, that’s really saying something.