Bram Stoker’s immortal DRACULA told us about Count Dracula as an undead vampire. But how did this come to be? Who was Dracula in real life? There has always been speculation, but THE DRACULA PAPERS now offers the ultimate answer. It takes us back to the year 1576, to the wild land of Transylvania and to the early life of Prince Vladimir who came to be the horror known as Dracula. The result is a story as remarkable and extraordinary as the Bram Stoker classic. Battles, intrigues, sorcery, sexual passion, hauntings, a mechanical tortoise and a burning rhinoceros all have their part to play in a thrilling narrative that nevertheless plunges deep into the mystery of Evil.
To begin with, I must confess I’ve never read the original Dracula by Bram Stoker. I did see the movie with Keanu Reeves and Gary Oldman, but that is generally the extent of my familiarity with Dracula. Vampires are less of an unknown quantity thanks to Buffy and Angel, but still, I’m hardly an expert. So when I was approached to review The Dracula Papers I was intrigued. Especially since the story seemed to have a bit of a historical fiction flavour.
Don’t be mistaken though, this is not an historical novel describing the early years of Vlad the Impaler. Instead it is a highly imaginative re-telling of the Dracula myth or rather of Dracula’s genesis. Various historical figures are mentioned, Vlad himself, his fictional mother Eupraxia of Saxony, the Grand Vizier Sokolly, Emperor Murad, but they aren’t all from the time the novel is set in. In truth, only Sokolly and Emperor Murad lived in that time, the others were all from a different age. Through the introduction and the afterword the author places himself within the story, lending another hint of veracity to a totally fictional tale.
The story is a confessional, written by Martin Bellorius. In it he tells the story of his time as tutor to the two sons of the king of Transylvania, the princes Mircea and Vladimir. There are elements of folktales and mysticism in the story, such as the encounter with the giants on the way to Transylvania, the meeting with Issachar, the Wandering Jew, and the meditation rooms where they find Emperor Rudolph. These adventures, which Bellorius, his servant Razendoringer and Matthew Verney all suffer on their journey to Castle Dracula, seem rather happen stance at the time, but are all woven back into the narrative later.
Overall the book was a smooth read, though not always very fast-paced. In places it was jarring, however, due to some strange transitions, such as the passage where Sokolly takes the castle and the narrative suddenly switches to present tense. It truly took me out of the story, trying to figure out why it had been written that way, which was a shame as it was an important scene in the narrative. Another passage which puzzled me was the Queen’s letter. It seemingly went off on a complete tangent, though in fact it is very important to Vlad’s story. But the first five or six pages the letter only served to confuse me and I just wanted to get back to the main storyline.
It’s a puzzling story, as it’s hard to categorize. In any case, I liked it and it kept me reading. At points it was spooky – Bellorius’ exploration of the Old Queen’s Apartments comes to mind – hilarious and engaging. I’m curious to see what happens next on the way of Vlad’s transformation into Dracula. In his Afterword, Van Helsing tells the reader that there are three more packets of paper, which translates to three more books in this series. So Vlad has a ways to go yet, before he becomes the Dracula everyone knows and loves. The Dracula Papers Book I: The Scholar’s Tale is published by Chomu Press and will be for sale January 19th.
I received this book for review from the publisher