It has been some years since Jonathan and Mina Harker survived their ordeal in Transylvania and, vanquishing Count Dracula, returned to England to try and live ordinary lives. But shadows linger long in this world of blood feud and superstition. And when a gathering of old friends leads to unexpected tragedy, new evil is arising on the Continent. A naturalist is bringing a new species of bat back to London; two English gentlemen, on their separate tours of the Continent, find a strange quixotic love for each other, and stumble into a calamity far worse than either has imagined; and the vestiges of something forgotten long ago is finally beginning to stir.
Many a reader might feel no more than modest enthusiasm for the reams of period pastiche on offer in J. S. Barnes’s new novel. But that would be a pity, because this boldly inventive sequel to Dracula rips along with a sustained energy and verve, twisting and turning all the way to the supposed editor’s epilogue ... several new and memorable characters ... The far-right can be a rather hackneyed and convenient bogey, as in some anti-fascist productions of Shakespeare, but it fits here with a villain who is nothing if not feudal, while the malign populism and rapid normalization of the bizarre has something eerily contemporary about it.
In Dracula’s Child, Barnes portrays vampires at their most sinister. They do not sparkle, nor do they enjoy shopping; rather, they hunger, and only the eldest and most disciplined among them can control the urge to feed. The gothic, almost oppressively macabre atmosphere is enhanced by Barnes’ revival of Stoker’s epistolary form. Not only is it an effective allusion to the original material, but telling this new story through diary entries, letters and newspaper clippings also forces the reader to experience the events almost in real time. There are no hints of omniscience; instead, Barnes is downright miserly with foreshadowing, offering only hints of what is to come. The result is both an admirable blend of horror and dark fantasy and an accurate reconstruction of the original’s mood.