Ever hear something that brings back a childhood fear? Mine are pretty easy. But there is one particular sound that still makes my skin crawl ( you are gonna laugh, I KNOW IT!)
I am not even kidding! I would hear just the beginning three seconds of this bad boy and run out of the room and beg either my parents or grandparents to turn it off. You see, I was completely sheltered when it came to all things scary. It wasn’t until I met my husband that I was introduced to the wonderful world of “A Nightmare on Elm Street” and “Friday the 13th”! While horror isn’t my go-to genre, it’s always nice to pick one up from time to time. I’m always reminded that you don’t always have to watch something on TV to have something scare the pants off of you, and Dracul is no exception.
“Nanna Ellen was there at Bram’s beginning and most likely end (as he was for hers).”
Abraham (Bram) Stoker was thought to have been a stillborn at birth. He was brought into this world breach, feet ready to make their mark, and umbilical cord wrapped around his neck, as if the world wasn’t ready for him to tell its secrets. Nanna was there to revive his lifeless body, taking him in her own room two days at a time to continually nurse him back to health. After those two days Nanna looked drained, and stayed locked in her room until she fully recovered.
Naturally being sick off and on as a child will eventually come to a head. Bram’s sickness rears its ugly head conveniently on a night when Nanna Ellen is out of the house. The only choice the Stoker’s had was enlisting the help of father’s cousin Edward, a Dublin doctor, who believed firmly in the practice of blood letting. With leeches attached, Bram is left to a fever dream of events. He sees Nanna Ellen come into his room, orders everyone out of the room, and promptly takes the leeches off. When Bram awakes, he feels as though he has never been sick a day in his life.
It wasn’t until Bram and sister Matilda were older and more curious that they started noticing oddities about Nanna Ellen.
“At that age, the true and the fantastic blend together, becoming as one.”
Matilda was fascinated with art, making sketches since she was little. One of her favorite things to do was draw Nanna Ellen. Years worth of sketches and not a single portrait was the same. It always drew similarities to Nanna Ellen, but never truly captured her. She would tell Bram of all the comings and goings of the Stoker household, whether exaggerated or not. Because how can children understand the difference between childhood fairy tales and reality? The pair sneak into Nanna Ellen’s room to do some investigating. But what they find will fill them with more questions than answers, and a lifetime of looking over their shoulders?
“Nanna Ellen told us tales of creatures, so in our minds she became one.”
Have you ever watched a scary movie? Yeah? Me too. Have you ever held a pillow (blanket, hand, etc.) over your face during the scary parts? Yeah? Me too! Have you ever pulled that pillow down when you thought the scary part was over, just to catch a glimpse of it and pull that pillow back up? ME TOO! This is exactly how Dracul reads.
We have paragraph after paragraph that rivals a Stephen King novel. For a book to build the same anticipation as a movie takes ingenious effort. You are lacking the musical accompaniment, the actual film in front of your face. But you have a book that does that, what are you going to do? Close your book or Kindle and put it in the corner until you are over it?
Jump scares? Got ’em. Building amounts of dread? Got ya covered. Dracul had me guessing the entire time I was reading it. Don’t get me wrong, there were a FEW instances where I over-exuberantly shouted “I KNEW IT!” which always startles the hubs and the minions.
If I HAD to complain about anything. . . The ebb and flow of present to past was just that. When it was great, it was spectacular, and when it was slow, it drudged on. . .and on. . .and on. But truly, the knowledge of Dacre Stoker combined with the thriller know-how of J.D. Barker is exquisite. Stoker and Barker make quite the horror pair, and while I know another compilation may not be in the works (any time soon, or at all) for me, it would be an instant buy.
Dracul is the ideal read for the fall season, and the perfect prequel to introduce you to the classic Dracula. So grab your pitchforks, throw some marshmallows on, and get lost in the horrifying origin story of how Dracula came to be.
Dracul by J.D. Barker and Dacre Stoker is available for pre-order. The scheduled publishing date is currently October 2nd, so be sure to look out for it on bookshelves! I was contacted by Penguin Random House to receive an advanced reader’s copy in exchange for an honest review. Given that fact, it has not altered my opinion on the book at all.