Author: Dacre Stoker and J.D. Barker
Publication Date: 29 October 2018
Publisher: Penguin Randomhouse
Copy: Courtesy of the Publisher
I have been a huge fan of vampires for as long as I can remember, and Bram Stoker’s Dracula was among the first I fell in love with; it has been an enduring affair lasting well over half my life. This is why when I saw the upcoming release of Dracul, and read the synopsis, I knew it was one I really wanted to read. It was one that couldn’t wait for a break in book club reads, once it arrived it was straight to the top of the pile.
Going in to this one I was a little hesitant, not quite sure what I was expecting. Dracula is a classic, my most loved vampire tale, it is gothic horror at its finest so how would this then compare? I was certainly not disappointed.
It has been well over a century since the first edition of Dracula was published by Archibald Constable and Company and still it has the power to fascinate and terrify. Dacre Stoker, great-grandnephew of Bram Stoker himself, has gone back to the original journals and notebooks to explore the inspiration and the mysteries surrounding the timeless novel. Dacre Stoker, together with bestselling author J.D. Barker, has drawn on what was found to take readers back to a time before Dracula, to learn the origins of Count Dracula and how he and Bram were connected.
Dracula was marketed as a fictional novel but the preface of the original manuscript stated that the events really took place. Dracul is a prequel of sorts to the events of Dracula. This is a look at the life of Bram Stoker and those closest to him, from the sickly childhood no-one thought he would survive to well into his adulthood. It seems Bram Stoker was quite a private person so not a great deal was publicised about his life, leaving it well and truly open to conjecture.
I have been struggling for two days with this review because it is so hard to decide what should go in, what should be left out, how to approach how I felt and I just want to say that if you are a fan of Bram Stoker’s Dracula then, in my opinion, this is definitely worth a read. I read the book start to finish, and then read the Author’s Note in the back. Now I’m wondering if I should have read the Author’s Note first and if it may have changed my experience of the book but we all know that you can’t experience a book for the first time more than once.
Stoker and Barker bring Bram Stoker to life on the page and tell a story of his history. The book was dark and atmospheric, it embodied the atmosphere of Dracula beautifully.
The story is told through journal entries and letters written by our lead characters, interspersed with a NOW narration of Bram in a locked room with terrifying noises coming from the other side of a door. He writes in his journal from this room to ensure that all of the events are recorded. This is a storytelling tool shared by Dracula and helps add to the atmosphere.
Dracul takes place in 1868, quite a few years before Dracula, but I spent a lot of the time looking at the similarities and wondering about inspirations and characters and thinking about how things all fitted. On reflection, I probably should have just gone in with that section of my brain switched off. I should have tried harder to just enjoy it for it’s own merits and not make comparisons. That’s not to say it affected my enjoyment because it didn’t, I loved this book and these characters.
In my opinion Dracul has been handled beautifully; it’s true to the style, the atmosphere and the characters of Dracula and I loved it. I want to say so much more about the book but I’m not sure how to do so without ending up in territory I don’t want to share here, or getting repetitive.
The Author’s Note at the end is fascinating reading if you are a Bram Stoker fan, actually I think it’s pretty fascinating anyway; especially if you have an open mind.
I love Dracul and I hope you do too. I would love to hear your thoughts if you have read, or plan to.