Dracul by Dacre Stoker, J.D. Barker #Spooktasticreads


Image credit: Photo by Mark Tegethoff on Unsplash

Today I’m reviewing Dracul and highlighting this as one of my Spooktastic Reads – an event being led by the lovely Wyrd and Wonder team.  Details here.  Yesterday, I posted 13 Vampire books that you might want to give a shot – today I’m adding No.14 to that list.

Dracul2Dracul is described as a prequel to Bram Stoker’s Dracula and so of course I was intrigued, in fact no, I wasn’t intrigued – I simply had to read it, it’s really that simple.  I’ve read Dacre Stoker before (his sequel to Dracula) and whilst that book was an okay read for me it didn’t really capture my attention the way this one did.  This one hooked me from the get go.

So, where to start.  Well, I confess that thinking of a prequel I had some wild notions of a story about Dracula himself and his earlier life.  Of course, if I’d read the description I would have been disabused of that foolish notion but, sometimes, going into a book with little idea of what to expect or even being on the wrong tack entirely can work out incredibly well as I proved to myself here.  That being said, prequel?  I’m not sure I would call this a prequel.  I don’t know how to describe it really.  Certainly this involves some intriguing storytelling, particularly as it uses Bram himself as one of the main characters, but it’s almost as though this is the ‘real’ story.  Not a retelling, not a prequel, but ‘dear reader this is what actually happened’!  (Cue ominous thunderstorm and goose bumps).  There are recognisable threads throughout that any Dracula lover will easily pick up upon, and I’m fairly certain I will have missed some of the nods contained herein – but don’t worry overly about that.  Focus on the story itself,  I really do think this is a wonderful creation and I liked it a lot more than I ever anticipated or hoped.

The story is told, similar to the original, in an epistolary format – which is just something that I really enjoy – and jumps back and forth between two timelines – another aspect of storytelling that I also really enjoy.

One aspect of the story takes us back to a young Bram, living in Ireland with his family and their rather mysterious Nanny, Ellen Crone.  I absolutely loved this storyline and thought it was not only an ingenious idea to use but also compelling to read and fascinating.  I could quite easily read a piece of nonfiction about Bram Stoker on the strength of this book.  Bram was a sickly child and on one occasion was not only knocking on Death’s door but had taken a step over the threshold.  Bram and his sister share an easy  going camaraderie getting into and out of trouble together and on one particular dark night, their curiosity having got the better of them, they follow their Nanny as she ventures out of an evening.  Of course, the two get much more than they bargained for, they receive a thoroughly good scare but their escapade also results in their beloved Nanny leaving them without a word.  They’re both bereft and certainly Bram’s sister never really gets over the loss.

The other storyline takes us to an adult Bram.  The first few chapters see him enclosed in a room within what appears to be a castle.  A locked door stands as the only protection between him and what lies contained within but his defences are starting to crumble and things look desperate.  These scenes are equally gripping, so much so that I almost resented being pulled away – but, bear with, all good things to those who wait after all.

I don’t really want to delve too deeply into the plot, I felt my enjoyment of this book stemmed from not only the plot and the writing but also the lack of knowledge going into the read.

The writing is really good.  I didn’t experience any lulls or periods where my attention roamed.  The combination of the two timelines was strangely addictive and in fact, when they eventually conspired to collide I almost missed the jumping back and forth and the suspense created and yet conversely, at the same time, I thought the timing was perfect.  I was really impressed at the point at which the story combines.  For me, the original story has an element of breakneck speed, rushing to the conclusion towards the final chapters and this story is perfectly timed in much the same way.  Then there are all the little instances that you’ll pick up as you read that relate to the original story but told differently here.  I wish I could be more specific.  Twists and turns.

The characters are well drawn.  Bram, his brother and sister all share chapters.  We meet an early Van Helsing which was such a surprise and so good but, the absolute star of the show is the nanny.  There are moments of scary here without doubt and yet at the same time the conundrum of the children really caring for her and their feelings being reciprocated.

I’m not sure what else I can really elaborate on.  The vampire elements and the myth are all here but with slight twists.  We have the inclusion of a Dearg-Due – you’ll have to read it if you want to find out more about that particular myth.  There is a love story running through the novel but not the one I expected.  We have minions, castles, rats, snakes, asylums and ships at sail.  We travel to Scarborough and the Abbey – before it was reduced to ruins.  There is such a lot here to delight readers – not just even with the original Dracula but with other fiction of the era – I definitely had a Wilkie Collins feel going on at one point for example.

And, the cherry on top of the icing is that this is told as though it’s a true story – using original notes from Bram’s earlier creation.  Trying to discern the fact from the fiction and also catching storylines and having a lightbulb moment were all part of the experience and I just loved it.

Gushing over, I did have a couple of minor criticisms but nothing that spoiled the read.  The final plot points felt a little sensational but I won’t go into why and there was also a feeling of reading certain scenes that feel like they’ve been written either with potential movie prospects in mind – or feel like scenes from a movie you’ve watched.  But, in fairness, I’ve seen so many vampire movies (and read so many books) that really I think any author would be hard pressed to avoid that feeling.

Overall this was totally gripping.  I thought it was clever, well written, tense, evocative and definitely scary when and where it needed to be.  And, it’s made me want to go and read about Bram Stoker so it’s a double win.

I think regardless of whether you’ve read the original or not – you should give this a go. In fact it would be really interesting to see how those who aren’t familiar with the original get on with this story.

I received a copy through Netgalley, courtesy of the publisher, for which my thanks.  The above is my own opinion.


22 Responses to “Dracul by Dacre Stoker, J.D. Barker #Spooktasticreads”

  1. Tammy

    I had sort of brushed this off when I first heard about it, but now I’m rethinking things. It sounds so good, I think you’ve convinced me to get a copy!

    • @lynnsbooks

      I found it a really good read. I loved the story of Stoker and all the references to the original, plus told in a similar format. The ending and resolution is probably a bit over the top but I really didn’t mind.
      Lynn 😀

  2. mervih

    This sounds really interesting. Thanks for the review!

  3. Lisa (@TenaciousReader)

    Sounds really good! And a great choice for this time of year

    • @lynnsbooks

      I really liked it, the style of storytelling worked well for me and all the references to the original.
      Lynn 😀

  4. maddalena@spaceandsorcery

    This book called out to me since the first time you listed it in your upcoming reads, and I was looking forward to your review: even without saying too much (and how hard was that for you? thanks for the effort!) you managed to further pique my curiosity – this is indeed a “must” read… 🙂
    Thanks for sharing!

    • @lynnsbooks

      I just really enjoyed this. I don’t suppose it’s perfect and I wondered how I’d get on after loving the original so much. But the format of storytelling is spot on and I loved all the references. I think it’s a must read for lovers of Bram Stoker.
      Lynn 😀

  5. sjhigbee

    Thank you for an excellent review, Lynn. This one is an ideal read for October – it sounds a really gripping read.

  6. aczechelski

    Will have to check it out! The realism was one of the things I loved best about Bram Stoker’s novel. And it’s so rare that reimaginings by later writers work out well. Nice to see an exception.

  7. Mogsy @ BiblioSanctum

    Yay, this book sounds awesome, and your review is everything I hoped for. I wonder if they were trying for a movie deal all along, from your description. But maybe like you said, the writing style is just naturally cinematic for a genre/atmosphere like this.

    • @lynnsbooks

      I’m sure that a movie deal ia more often than not in the back of many an author’s mind when writing – but, this would adapt well, It’s got lots going for it.
      Lynn 😀

  8. waytoofantasy

    Oooh, I’ve been waiting for your review of this one! Sounds amazing and now I’m even more excited and definitely going to pick this one up. 😀

  9. Carmen

    It sounds like a wow sort of book. Glad you enjoyed the thrills, twists and turns, Lynn. 🙂

    • @lynnsbooks

      I went into it with maybe low(ish) expectation and it exceeded them by a country mile so it’s all good.
      Lynn 😀

  10. pagesandtea

    Can’t believe I missed your review for this one. I’m reading it at the moment and I’m really enjoying it. It’s making me think I might want to read Dracula afterwards, and I seem to be having a minor vampire book phase so now I’m off to check out your 13 Vampire Books post to see if there’s anything more to catch my eye 😀

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