Stoker’s Wilde by Steven Hopstaken and Melissa Prusi

“The good ended happily, and the bad unhappily. That is what Fiction means.”

Stoker's wildeMy five word TL:DR review: Absolutely brilliant, witty, gothic horror

I loved this book. Quite simply it is perfection and, if like me, you enjoy a good epistolary style novel set in the Victorian era that is a reimagining of the lives of Bram Stoker and Oscar Wilde and creates an adventure that could be said to have inspired two literary masterpieces (if you believe in the supernatural that is), then give this one a try.  I adored this and couldn’t put it down and my next book will certainly be Stoker’s Wilde West.

Why this book worked so well for me.

Well, I love a story told in the form of diary excerpts and letters and this is done particularly well here.  I enjoy the feeling of being in the ‘moment’ which this style helps to create and in this particular instance a much broader picture is provided by including more than one POV.

This is a fantastic tale of werewolves and vampires and a dastardly tale of horror inspired by the search for immortality.  It reads in parts very much like one of the Penny Dreadfuls of the era and I thought that was a particularly inspired touch.  There is horror here, the kind of no nonsense horror where basically people die at the hands of the supernatural and in turn the supernatural are shot with silver or staked with the ensuing messy piles of ashes and exploding goo that you might expect – and yet this doesn’t feel grim or bloody because the story is tempered by the two primary povs, Wilde being sharply witty and Stoker steadfastly pragmatic.

That’s another element of the book that I loved.  The begrudging friendship of the two lead characters.  They’re so very different in every way imaginable and a pair of less likely friends is difficult to imagine.  As it is, necessity being the mother of survival the two, thankfully, do team up and deliver a dashing adventure of unlikely heroes.

The other thing of beauty here is the different voices.  Sometimes a novel with alternating voices can fail simply because they sound too similar.  That’s not a criticism that can be levelled at this book.  I loved all the different povs that make up this story but I confess that Oscar stole the show a little for me and I’m not sure, being a joint undertaking, whether one author was responsible for one character each – but, whatever the method used it worked incredibly well and the two characters could be described as something like chalk and cheese.

Now, I have read a couple of Oscar Wilde’s works and also loved Stoker’s Dracula and for me this novel captures their voices and style really well – but, I also admit that I’m no expert, I haven’t scrutinised this to the nth degree and so if you are an aficionado you might find things that you disagree with.  That didn’t happen for me in fact all the little tidbits here, particularly concerning Stoker, fed into or seemed to work alongside some of the other retellings I’ve read and I absolutely loved that the story was a strangely alternate mash up of both Dracula and Dorian Gray.

In terms of criticisms.  I have nothing at all to be honest, however, I would reiterate that this is a tale told through letters, diaries and the like so if that isn’t your cup of tea then take heed.  Also, given the nature of the story and the characters depicted there is a certain tone and style of writing that reflects the era – again, I thought it worked beautifully but again, this isn’t written in a contemporary style so again, take note.

Overall, I loved this and like Oliver – I want more please.  Fortunately, and being late to the party with this one – the second book is ready and waiting.  I can’t wait to dive into the pages of Stoker’s Wilde West.  Mmm, delicious expectation.

I bought a copy.  The above is my own opinion.

5 of 5 stars