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This review will contain spoilers. So many spoilers. Even though I love that you have come to my blog to see my review, don’t read this before you read Dracul by Dacre Stoker and J.D. Barker. Go, read it. I’ll wait.
So, with that warning out of the way, let’s get into this. First of all, can I say that this book was the book I have been waiting for. I didn’t know I needed, wanted, would love this book, until I found it. I always keep up-to-date with literary fiction and when I saw this novel come out I thought two things. Either this was going to be amazing, or that this novel was going to suck (so many vampire puns to come!). I’ve seen the character of vampires get done badly over and over again and I was feeling a bit skeptical. In the beginning I loved Anne Rice’s novels, but then the vampires got so annoying; “Oh, I can live forever and everything is so… Ennui…” And don’t even get me started on of Twilight…
This novel took my expectations and flew them to the moon! It has been so long since I felt such suspense in a plot where I truly didn’t know what was going to happen next. I didn’t even know who to trust! As someone who reads a lot and someone who has studied literature and writing extensively, it can hard to be surprised by books. Studying literature can sometimes mean the magic that comes with naiveté is gone.
For those who love Bram Stoker’s original Dracula this book will not disappoint. I particularly enjoyed the style of writing which was made up of diary entries, letters, flashbacks, and multiple-perspectives, which felt like a small homage to Bram Stoker’s original text. The story gets woven together with the past eventually colliding with the present and taking a whole new direction. The story of Bram’s childhood, which is loosely based in fact, tells of a mysterious Nanny Ellen who never ate, or slept, and who secretly healed Bram of his childhood illnesses. When Ellen disappears one day without warning, it starts off a chain of events that leads Bram and his sister and brother, Matilda and Thornely, to face Dracula himself in a hidden village in Munich, Germany.
There are many aspects of Dracul that are intriguing – from the love triangles, to the folklore surrounding the undead, to the writing style and techniques – but what I found particularly interesting about the novel was the portrayal of Dracula. Dracula has and perhaps always will be in some ways, the bad guy. He stands for all that is unholy and his name conjures thoughts of the devil, pure evil, horror, and decay. He is both the personification of the fall of man as well as being the bringer of destruction.
Yet, I want to ask a different question:
why do we have such an aversion to him?
I would argue that our discomfort with Dracula stems from Dracula’s direct and deliberate refusal to conform to binary understandings of society. He is both alive and dead and with that brings both a guilty desire that all mortals want and a horrid affront to humanity. He is hyper-masculine and feminine in the way he (problematically) cares for Ellen and Bram. He is gender fluid and pansexual almost: all who see/meet him are attracted to him and his appearance is often described with both male and female qualities such as a strong jaw, long finger nails, and long hair. He is both a benevolent and wrathful ‘demi-god’ assuring families who pledge their allegiance to him eternal wealth and happiness, and on the other hand he is happy to kill his servants on a whim. With that said, Dracula cannot be categorised as one thing or another. He lives between the lines, often playing with binaries and refusing the order they bring. Is it, therefore, too presumptuous to think that we are fearful of him because he represents the complete and utter break down of meaning and understanding that we have created in society? While I wouldn’t suggest ripping your enemies apart to live in an eternal hell, I do wonder if we could learn something from Dracula?
When we see that we need to live between the lines, why do we stop and question our footing? Why do we limit the expression and passion of our lives for the sake of fitting neatly into boxes? What adventures and where could we go if we decided to change the rules we created? What if we added a little bit of Dracula to the way we lived our lives?
This book as completely blown my mind. Are vampires, low key, real?! What did you think of “Dracul”? How are you dealing with the author’s notes at the end?! As always, share the reading love.