Saturday, April 20, 2013

Dracula Rekindled – review

Author: Xander Buchan

First Published: 2012

Contains spoilers

The Blurb: 'Not until he cannot lose will he make his move! His preparation will be slow and thorough. Never again will he meet defeat by the same ends...'

A young couple find their plans delayed by unforeseen events. A student's PhD research digs up more than she bargained for, and a renowned Haematologist discovers his ancestor, Van Helsing, was master of more than just medicine.

Amidst a series of strange events and horrific discoveries, lands are being bought up in Scotland; renovation work begins in a quaint coastal village to restore a medieval castle ruin. Does the prestigious restoration, and its new owner, hold any connection to the dark events unfolding?

As a dark force rises, a secret history is uncovered - but could it even be believed? A desperate hunt for answers leads to the farthest reaches of darkest Europe; has an ancient foe returned to threaten mankind once more?

The Review: I received a copy of Dracula Rekindled for review and have to say I was nervous. There have been many sequels or continuations of Dracula written and the content is variable at best. Having read the book I had some issues but was, overall, very impressed.

The novel fluctuates between the early twentieth century and the present day and is told in an epistolary fashion – as the original was. We have a rebirth of Dracula that was clever and a continuation of the legacy (or curse) of some of the original characters that was handled very well.

Before I extoll the virtues, however, I want to lay my concerns open. There were a couple of minor parts. The tying in with Vlad Ţepeş was a choice I would have avoided (given the original character isn’t based on the historic figure) but it is a matter of author choice. The pernickety part of me has to point out that Mina was burned by a host and not a cross (the cross being a movie adaptation).

The thing that threw me, however, was the invention of Whitby. Having written a book myself I have invented details within real world locations, but the Whitby described bore no resemblance to the real place. The pubs did not exist, there definitely is no multi-screen cinema (as inferred), the council building would likely be in Scarborough and there certainly isn’t a zoo there. Is this a problem? It shouldn’t be, after all the Scottish Parliament hasn’t legalised euthanasia either and I accepted that within the story. But I know Whitby, so perhaps it is just me… but many of the target audience know Whitby too – virtually or in reality – and the details kept breaking my suspense of disbelief. This is probably unfair but I call it how I see it – the choices round this have not affected my final score however.

Now to the good. The reclaiming of Dracula’s Guest, set a few years forward in time from the original novel and involving Van Helsing’s niece as the protagonist was very clever, as was the interesting modern take on the traditional lore around suicide. As for the actual prose, I made a note on the kindle as I read the book that said “delicious language” and it was. Buchan’s prose was glorious and evocative, his descriptive prose wrapping around you and lifting you into the world he had created. This, to me, outweighed any doubt I may have had round the Whitby location. Indeed his other locations were rather fun, it was nice to see Slain’s Castle used and there was a gloriously understated moment of macabre culinary humour.

As we raced towards the ending I failed to see how anything could end on a positive note. The book, it became clear, is set to a sequel and a twist at the end was both out of left field and incredibly clever.

This is a welcome new addition to Dracula canon. 8 out of 10.


Unknown said...

"The tying in with Vlad Ţepeş was a choice I would have avoided (given the original character isn’t based on the historic figure)"

Not quite accurate. Vald III didn't inspire the novel, but once Stoker discovered references to the Impaler during his research he INDISPUTABLY used Dracula's name and history it as the backstory for his character. Stoker mentions the Dracula who fought against the Turks, and was later betrayed by his brother, historical facts which unequivocally point to Vlad III.

"He must, indeed, have been that Voivode Dracula who won his name against the Turk, over the great river on the very frontier of Turkey-land." - Abraham Van Helsing

Taliesin_ttlg said...

Hi unknown.

Whilst Stoker used the name Dracula, I think all we can say is that INDISPUTABLY he used the name (mistranslated to the Transylvanian rather than Wallachian, thus thought of as devil not dragon - son of being the a at the end) and a footnote, which he added into the book verbatim. There is no evidence he knew more than this.

As a writer myself I have used less for characters and wouldn't call them based on, but borrowed thinly from.

I direct you to Elizabeth Miller's Bram Stoker's Dracula where she shows not only how little was based, historically, on Vlad III but how many other historical figures, left forgotten, his background was based on.

xander buchan said...

Hello - Xander the author here. Just noticed these comments and thought I'd contribute.

I personally believe Stoker knew very little about Vlad Dracula, but loosely grabbed some info and used it, among other influences, to sketch out Count Dracula.

My decisiion to make the connection in Rekindled was based largely on the location and period in which the earliest sections of my story are based i.e. 16th century Scotland, and a castle at the centre of a treasonous plot.

In order to tie the story into the real local histories of North East Scotland, I found it agreeable to use the historic Vlad, or 'De Wolf' as he presents imself in the story. The timescale matched well with the historical characters 15 century 'death' and help to provide a backstory to Count Dracula.

However, I can equally appreciate that many would prefer the historic Vlad to be kept out of vampire tales altogether! It has, after all, been done to death.

My hope, though, is that it works well in my story and isn't too distracting. XB

Taliesin_ttlg said...

Hi Xander, thanks for that. It is, as I put in the review, author choice and as such that's fine :)

Hope all is going well with the sequel :)