Audiobook Review: Dracul by Dacre Stoker & J.D. Barker
I received a review copy from the publisher. This does not affect the contents of my review and all opinions are my own.
Mogsy’s Rating (Overall): 4 of 5 stars
Series: Stand Alone
Publisher: Penguin Audio (October 2, 2018)
Length: 16 hrs and 25 mins
If the darkly atmospheric and intricately woven tale of Dracul feels personal, that’s because it is. Described as the prequel to the classic 1897 Gothic horror novel Dracula, the novel is penned by the great-grand-nephew of Bram Stoker himself along with one of horror’s brightest voices tapped specifically by the family for this endeavor. Blending his famous ancestor’s true history with elements from his literary creation, Dacre Stoker and his co-author J.D. Barker have formulated and delivered on a concept that fans of the genre should find fascinating.
Our story begins in Ireland, where Bram Stoker was born and spent much of his sickly childhood. Many of his early years were spent ensconced and bedridden at home, cared for and doted on by Nanna Ellen, a young woman who is more than she appears. Intrigued by Ellen’s strange behavior, Bram and his sister Matilda decide to go sticking their noses into their nursemaid’s quarters, but instead of answers, they find even more questions. Soon afterwards, Ellen disappears, but the literal mark she has left on Bram’s life will always be with him. The scabs on his wrist might never heal, but whatever Ellen did to him, Bram has been as healthy as a horse ever since, his sickly days behind him forever.
Years later though, the Stoker siblings, now grown, are drawn into the mystery once again when Matilda returns from her studies in France to tell Bram that she has seen Ellen—and most bizarrely, their former nanny has not aged one bit, looking as young as they remembered her as children. After recruiting the help of their older brother Thornley, our characters embark on a supernatural journey that will cause them to question everything they knew about the old stories of Irish legends and monsters.
To understand this prequel, one must to an extent also understand the original. Spotting their parallels was a big part of my enjoyment, watching how the lines were blurred between reality and fiction. Emulating the Gothic atmosphere and suspense of the classic novel, Dracul is told in a mostly epistolary format, playing on the idea that before its publication, Dracula was divested of about a hundred pages which is said no living soul has ever seen. Using his great-grand-uncle’s notes from journals and other writings, Dacre Stoker sought to interpret these missing pages and piece together a picture of young Bram as a key figure placed in the context of his own literary work, and needless to say, this approach lent an authenticity to the narrative and the results were decidedly effective.
But the story also follows a second timeline of an older Bram, covered predominantly in the latter parts of the novel. The eerie and mysterious tone turns even darker and more disturbing as events shift gears to focus on Bram, Matilda, and Thornley as adults, alternating between their viewpoints. These multiple perspectives make for a compelling fast-paced read with an atmosphere which is in keeping with the original classic, yet at the same time, the story is also written in a cinematic style which would appeal to readers of modern-day horror and thrillers, proving you won’t have to be a mega-Dracula fan to enjoy this one.
For extra immersion, I would also highly recommend the audiobook for Dracul as read by a full cast consisting of Pete Bradbury as the narrator, Vikas Adam as Bram Stoker, Saskia Maarleveld as Matilda, Rachael Corkill as Thornley, Alana Kerr Collins as Ellen, and Allan Corduner as Arminius Vambéry. Of the narrators, I am most familiar with Vikas Adam, who did a phenomenal job giving voice to Bram, though the rest of the cast also delivered marvelous performances, making this moody tale come to life.