A prequel to the Gothic classic Dracula, based on original author notes and co-written by a family descendant, reveals the iconic vampire's origin story, the early years of Bram Stoker, and the tale of the enigmatic woman who connected them.
Now, this contemporary blend of recorded 'fact,' as found in the excised, edited material, and interpretation of the Stokers’ lives represents a thrilling new exploration of the novel’s creation and its creator. It is also, as with the best literary horror, genuinely creepy ... the setting here is primed for sinister happenings, richly evoked through the cold ruins of Artane Castle and its dense surrounding forest to Swift’s asylum in central Dublin ... Stoker Junior and Barker have incorporated intriguing insights into medical practices of the time, from trainee surgeons who resort to grave-robbing for dissections to botched autopsies and leech-remedies ... These details produce a terror and morbid fascination equal to the unfolding myth of the 'Dearg-Due' (Irish for 'blood-sucker'), and capture the era’s preoccupation with science and progress versus the mystical, the unknown and unknowable ... In its crafty structure and unhurried layering of dread, this addition to the canon is a brilliantly entertaining read, and offers a chilling response.
You can clearly see the marriage of prose between Dacre Stoker and J. D. Barker—Stoker's firm grasp of his family history and Barker's storytelling skills, which constantly provide plot twists and surprises. At one point towards the end of the novel, we leap far forward to author and theater owner Bram Stoker being visited by a woman calling herself Mina Harker. She hands him a bound manuscript that features the words found dead center on the first page: COUNT WAMPYR. This is all Stoker needed to fuse with his own experience to pen Dracula ... Whether or not you believe this tale to be spun from truth is a matter of personal opinion. I enjoyed it immensely, and found Dracul more than worthy to stand beside Bram Stoker's classic novel. If it happens to be true, well, that is something for me to sort out in my own nightmares that were nicely fueled by Stoker and Barker.
Mr. Barker’s skills in creating suspense and his ability to graphically describe horrifying details of death and dismemberment are apparent ... But while Dracul starts with a bang and ends well, there is a noticeable lag in the long middle. Like many modern novels, suspense is sometimes conveniently manufactured by manipulating time ... at the appropriate moment, the action switches to an event that happened several years earlier or later. To their immense credit, the authors have created a stand-alone book. Dracul can be read without any knowledge of Dracula, or knowledge of any other vampiric tale. However, the more you know, the more apparent are the layers and nuances added by these authors. They have skillfully interwoven characters, themes and settings from the original novel into their book.