Dracula the Un-Dead, by Dacre Stoker and Ian Holt (a re-read)

Nine stars

After my latest re-read of Bram Stoker’s famous piece, I chose another story with eerie undertones, though this one is sure to stir up some controversy. It serves as a sequel to the classic original, in which Dacre Stoker works with renowned Dracula historian Ian Holt to bring this continuation of the story to life in fine form. Chilling and complex, this is surely a piece for Hallowe’en literature fans to add to their collection and which will not collect dust.

It is now 1912, twenty-five years since Count Dracula has crumbled into dust. Can this have been long enough for those who were directly involved in the hunting to have shelved their memories and moved on? Dr. Jonathan Seward, who was instrumental in the original chase, has turned into a washed-up medical professional, addicted to morphine and chasing demons all across Europe.

Young Quincey Harker, born in the final pages of the original novel, has been sent to France to pursue his legal studies, but is drawn into the world of stage acting. Quincey is further impressed when Shakespearean actor, Basarab, takes him under his wing, an honour the young actor could not have expected.

When Quincey stumbles upon a stage-play version of Dracula, directed by Bram Stoker himself, he begins to learn some of the long-buried secrets his parents kept from him. Trying to digest it all, there seems to be a presence in and around London, as the original collective who killed Dracula meet their ends in horrific fashion.

Meanwhile, 16th century Countess Elizabeth Bathory has returned to wreak havoc on those seeking to explore the Dracula question a little more. Bathory has a long history with the Romanian prince and may hold the answers that others seek, though she is more interested in new blood to satiate her extreme hunger. What’s brought Countess Bathory back to visit those whose adventure a quarter-century ago rid the world of blood-sucking evil?

With a new collection of characters and tapping into Holt’s expertise in the field of all things Dracula, Stoker does well to carry the torch for his great-granduncle and entertains curious fans throughout. Perfect for those readers who enjoyed the original Dracula and who can accept applying some of the history of this Romanian prince, alongside a continuation of a classic piece of 19th century literature.

I have heard it said that one ought never mess with the classics, which is why parody pieces get a major eyebrow raise from literary purists. However, this piece that seeks to act as a sequel to Bram Stoker’s classic, not only grounds itself in seriousness, but also has the blessing of the Stoker family (and was penned by a descendent).

Stoker and Holt look to progress the entire Dracula story by adding backstories to the well-established characters who brought to piece to life, as well as adding fresh angles to Dracula in this follow-up. The eerie nature of the original piece is replaced by a history that permeates the narrative, allowing the patient reader to discover much more and delve deeper than the late 19th century novel permitted.

The story itself differs greatly from the original, not only because it is told in true narrative (as opposed to journals and letters), but also serves to provide cameos for many famous individuals (Bram Stoker and John Barrymore, to name a few) as well as pulls on some of the history of the original novel’s reception and development into a stage-play.

Ian Holt’s influence can also be seen, as the story pulls on numerous Dracula stories from centuries ago and where Stoker may have developed his ideas for this vampire that became the go-to reference for all blood-imbibing creatures.

Some of the narrative and historical assertions do keep the reader wondering, but it is difficult not to downplay the tidbits as being wrapped in a way to fill cracks that time has not caulked. As I mentioned above, some purists will scoff at this book simply because it seeks to build on a classic that can survive on its own. Others will mock it for lacking the same flowing prose or spooky foresight. While I will not engage in trivial banter about this being ‘allowed’ or not, I will say that Dacre Stoker’s piece served as a wonderful complement to my recent reading of Bram Stoker’s classic.

Kudos, Messrs. Stoker and Holt for entertaining and engaging me at times as I made my way through this novel. I know there are massive footsteps to fill, even to stand alongside the classic novel and I applaud you both for the effort.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/248185-a-book-for-all-seasons