The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova
Little Brown & Co, 5th printing, 2005
Genre: horror, suspense, Gothic, historical fiction
Synopsis & Review: Rooting among her father’s bookshelves, a sixteen-year-old girl stumbles upon a packet of letters and a book—and a historical mystery her family has been pursuing since long before her birth. While traveling Europe, he begins telling her the story of the packet and how he came to be involved in the mystery, one that seeks to unravel the truth about Dracula. When he is away on trips, the girl begins pursuing her own studies, reading the letters and researching Vlad Tepes and Transylvania, despite the danger he warns her of.
The story splits into three lines: that of the narrator in 1972, that of her father and mother in the Fifties as they search for Professor Rossi, and that of Professor Rossi as he began his researches in the Thirties. In the two earlier storylines, the story is told through letters and other documents.
When her father unexpectedly leaves a conference to go abroad once more, the narrator finds more letters, these from her father regarding his hunt for her long-lost mother. Desperate to find her beloved father—and possibly the mother she has never known—the narrator sets off across France in pursuit of them both and their shared past.
I avoided The Historian when it came out, because that’s just how I roll, but it was always there on the fringes of my consciousness, much as Dracula tickles the edges of his pursuers’ minds, even years after they’ve given up the chase. Though he seldom appears in the novel, Kostova makes her Dracula a terrible and menacing figure with historical fact and her deft hand with atmosphere and scholarly intrigue. The Historian just oozes atmosphere, from the beautiful and inspiring descriptions of cities and monuments all over Europe and Near Asia, to the hush of libraries and archives, and even occasional eerie dread. So I thought of RIP IV, girded my loins, wished for autumnal weather, and ordered it from the library. Read the rest of this entry »
A Night in Transylvania: The Dracula Scrapbook by Kurt Brokaw
Grossett & Dunlap, 1st printing, 1976
Genre: non-fiction, horror
Synopsis & Review: “To be read only at night,” A Night in Transylvania is a compendium of information about the Romanian region of Transylvania and about the two Draculas that are its major claim to fame: Bram Stoker’s famous vampire and the fifteenth-century prince Vlad Tepes. Opening first with an introduction by the Drs Radu Florescu and Raymond McNally of Boston College, Brokaw moves quickly into an exploration of the legend of Dracula, both as villain and lover, and the mythology of Transylvania in popular culture. The first chapter covers the history of Vlad Tepes’ life and death, and his legacies in Transylvania. Chapters Two and Three explore Transylvania, with an emphasis on locales associated with the Wallachian prince: cities, churches, castles, and his tomb on Snagov. Practical aspects of travel in a 1970s Romania, down to costs (severely outdated thirty years later) and gratuities and the most helpful languages to have. Also included is a wealth of information about hotels, food, tchotchkes, and helpful phrases. Chapters Four and Five detail Dracula on film and in print, with the movies helpfully categorized by quality.
This book CHANGED MY LIFE. I am totally serious. Read the rest of this entry »
Anno Dracula by Kim Newman
Originally published 1992
Avon Books, 1st printing, 1994
Genre: horror, alternate history
Synopsis & Review: It is 1888, and the events of Bram Stoker’s Dracula did not fall out the way with which we are familiar. Rather, Dracula killed Jonathan Harker, turned Mina, and fled into the night past the Doctors Van Helsing and Seward. He continued a rise to power, reaching the apex when he wooed and won Queen Victoria, turning her into a vampire as well and ruling as Prince Consort of the British Empire. Vampires are now common, and London in particular struggles with the burgeoning new upper class. Political cronyism and corruption mirrors the turning of men and women into vampires. In the stews of the city, warm drabs sell their blood to vampires as they once sold their bodies, and those who turn take blood in exchange for their bodily wares. And there is a different kind of killer on the loose, one who targets these vampire prostitutes, ripping their bodies apart with a silver scalpel.
The protagonists are Geneviève Dieudonné, a French vampire older than Dracula himself, and Charles Beauregard, a gentleman of the Diogenes Club. The pair work with the London police force to track down the killer, but there are others searching, as well as those using the killer’s work for their own ends. Political and social struggles threaten to jeopardize the efforts of Dieudonné and Beauregard, who come to realize that their investigation may save or destroy the Queen herself. click here for more on Anno Dracula