In this prequel to Bram Stoker’s Dracula, co-written by Bram Stoker’s great-grand-nephew, Dacre Stoker, and J.D. Barker, the authors not only give us a little background on Dracula the vampire, but they make Bram Stoker a major character along the way. And according to the advertising copy, this is “inspired by notes and texts left behind by (Bram Stoker).”
Bram was a sickly child since birth. He and his sister, Matilda, had a nanny by the name of Ellen Crone (‘Nanna Ellen’). “The peculiarities of Ellen Crone. That is, of course, where I should start, for this is as much her story as it is mine, perhaps more so. This woman, this monster, this wraith, this friend, this … being,” writes Bram – the opening lines of his journal in the first chapter. But I might disagree, because this is very much Bram’s story, though Nanna Ellen plays a major role in developing Bram’s interest in the vampire story.
The Stoker’s – a family of some means – bring a doctor in to see if he can help the sickly young Bram, but to little success. When the nanny, Ellen Crone, looks after Bram (and his sister), the young boy has a normal youth’s energy. The siblings notice strange behavior on Ellen’s part. For instance, sometimes Nanna Ellen looks quite young, but then days later, maybe a week or so at the most, she appears quite old.
Then one day, Ellen just disappears. It is years later, when Matilda is studying in Paris, that she sees Ellen – who appears not to have aged – and she reports this to Bram, which sets off his hunt for answers.
Like the original Dracula novel, this is told through multiple forms, including Bram’s journals (told in first person), and a “today” narrative (told in third person).
This changing of perspectives threw me for a loop at first. Reading in one narrative and then switching just feels awkward. But the more I got into this book, the more I actually appreciated this change as it reminded when the narrative was taking place.
While I’ve been a fan of the Dracula/vampire theme since I was in middle school, I was a little hesitant to request and read this. Having a distant relative of Bram Stoker listed as co-author seemed like such a gimmick and I wondered how good the book could actually be. Fortunately, the writing is sharp and quite reminiscent of Dracula in its Gothic horror sort of way, but with enough modern edge to the writing to keep today’s readers engaged.
I’m no Dracula scholar, but I did pick up on a few nods to the original book throughout.
I definitely enjoyed this more than I thought I would (maybe that’s partly because I recently read a terrible ‘vampire’ novel), and I believe that even if I didn’t already have a strong interest in the Dracula/vampire concept, this is precisely the sort of horror/dark fantasy novel I would enjoy.
Looking for a good book? Dracul, by Dacre Stoker and J.D. Barker is a prequel to Bram Stoker’s Dracula, with Bram himself as the leading character, and it is well worth reading.
I received a digital copy of this book from the publisher, through Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review.
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authors: Dacre Stoker and J. D. Barker
series: Stoker’s Dracula #1
publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons
hardcover, 497 pages