I belong firmly to the camp of Bram Stoker fan that approached Dacre Stoker and Ian Holt’s Dracula the Un-Dead with great anticipation and left disappointed. Well, actually appalled might be a more apt description of the reading experience. Had I not had my jaws wired shut at the time I read the book, I would have described myself as speechless. Severn House, a small press that has been kicking around for at least forty years when they took over Tom Stacey’s imprint, decided to capitalize on the attendant hoopla of a Stoker descendant co-writing a sequel to reprint an earlier literary sequel with very nearly the same title.
Freda Warrington’s Dracula the Undead was originally published to mark the centennial of Stoker’s classic original in 1997. I was aware of the book prior to its reprinting, but avoided it like the plague at the time believing incorrectly it was comparable to Elaine Bergstrom (aka Marie Kiraly)’s romanticized and anemic sequels, Mina and Blood to Blood. There is an element of romance found in Ms. Warrington’s book that does not ring true for the Stoker purist, but Warrington is a gifted British fantasy and horror author who accomplished something few writers can claim – she authored a sequel to a literary classic that doesn’t pale in comparison.
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In November and December 2009, my jaw was wired shut for eight weeks. During that time I read voraciously being able to accomplish little else. Among the many books I devoured were five Dracula-related titles.
DRACULA THE UN-DEAD (2009/Dutton) by Dacre Stoker and Ian Holt achieves what it set out to do: bring income from Dracula back to the Stoker family and re-establish Dracula as the literary “property” of Stoker’s heirs by creating a new franchise from the public domain characters.
I wanted to love this book. I wanted to view it as the authorized sequel to DRACULA, the true heir to Bram Stoker’s literary classic. The trouble is one cannot make that claim when the sequel tries so hard to undo everything in the original.
Rather than pay homage to Bram Stoker’s work, the authors spend nearly 400 pages proving to us that everything Stoker wrote was wrong. Prince Dracula (Stoker was even wrong about his title, it seems he wasn’t a Count) was a “good” vampire working for God (a bizarre interpretation of the historical Vlad Dracula’s papal honor – later rescinded – of Defender of the Faith) and the real villain of DRACULA was the historical Countess Elizabeth Bathory who, it turns out, was a vampire and was also Jack the Ripper.
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