Written by Dacre Stoker and J.D. Barker
Published by Random House in the UK and G.P. Putnam’s Sons in the US
Dacre Stoker, the great-grand nephew of Dracula author Bram Stoker, has spend much of his life honoring his uncle’s legacy, and it’s probably safe to assume that Bram would be proud of his nephew after reading Dracul.
A prequel of sorts to Dracula, Dacre wrote Dracul alongside famed horror author J.D. Barker. Mixing fact and fiction, the book gives us a fantasized look at the early life of Bram Stoker, before he went on to write the most famous horror novel of all time. But make no mistake, although there are some factual elements, this is a story which leans heavily on the fiction side, and seeing as there’s already been a ton of writing about the actual life of Bram Stoker, we clearly didn’t need a straight biography.
Dracul opens with a young Bram Stoker growing up in Clontarf, Ireland. Because young Bram was a sickly child, he spend a great deal of his youth confined to attic of his parent’s home. Luckily for him, the attic contains a large window which uses to witness the events going on in the outside world. So although Bram does not get to experience much of the world firsthand, he still bears witness to the proceedings taking place beyond the realm of his captivity, and being an inquisitive child, the fact that he could only experience the outside world through a window and may have been instrumental in shaping the brilliant imagination which eventually gave birth to Dracula.
Bram’s fever runs so high that his mother jokes that she could boil water over his head, and at times he approaches death, but he always manages to pull through, not because of the actions of his uncle Edward, who thinks bloodsucking leaches are the answer, but because of those of his family’s housekeeper, Nanna Ellen, who has an almost supernatural ability to heal him. Whilst they are grateful to her for saving his life, Bram and his sister Matilda begin to suspect that there may be more to Nanna Ellen than meets the eye, but you’ll just have to read the book for yourselves to discover the truth about the mysterious housekeeper.
Because disease was rampart at the time the novel takes place, Bram and his siblings also hear terrible rumors of men being buried alive to stop the plague from spreading. Their mother chastises them for saying such awful things, but filled with the intense curiosity that only children possess, they naturally decide to investigate for themselves, and what they find shocks them to their core.
In terms of pacing, Dracul is a novel which does not race to the finish line, and because it runs for a pretty lengthy five-hundred pages, that may be off-putting to some readers. A large portion of the first act takes place almost entirely in Bram’s home, which might also be frustrating to readers hoping for a change of setting. Later sections are extracted from the journal of his older brother, Thornley Stoker, but the life of Bram is the main focus here.
If you’re after a historically accurate account of the life of Bram Stoker, you’ll need to look elsewhere. But if you’re after a story which blends both fact and fiction to give us an insightful and sometimes terrifying account of what might have driven the Irish writer to give readers nightmares for decades to come, then Dracul will satisfy your thirst. This is a perfect companion piece to Stoker’s original novel.
Horror fans will already have a strong appreciation for Bram Stoker’s Dracula, and Dracul gives us an idea of how the story came into being, making it one of the recommended books of 2018.