a fair and balanced birdthing (raaven) wrote,
a fair and balanced birdthing

Anno Dracula

I am perennially suspicious of new vampire books, particularly those dealing with the classic Dracula himself.

Which explains why I'm only now getting round to this one, which was published in 1992. Oh, I read it the first time last year...but am re-reading it now.

It's art.

Kim Newman must be a history buff, as the book is full of beautifully tailored history references, as well as literary ones. Characters like Oscar Wilde live in the same pages (indeed, the same city - a very dark alternate-history London) as the legendary Count, Queen Victoria, Dr. Jekyll and Dr. Jack Seward. Lord Ruthven handles much of the statesmanship of the Count's reign, including the search for the serial killer, later to be known as Jack the Ripper. The blend of the historical with the fictional is delicious. There is even, much to my amusement, a passing (albiet toungue-in-cheek) nod to Ann Rice's Lestat. More references than I can even list are here, including some fairly obscure ones that I'm studying up on currently.

This is not to say that Newman doesn't create his own characters...Genevieve Dieudonne, Kate Reed and Charles Beauregard (a trio that become the primary protagonists in this vampire world) are well-thought, sympathetically written and very real. The internal conflicts and the social turmoil brought about by Vlad Tepes' position as royal consort expose the characters very thoroughly as well as move the story along at a nice pace. What makes it all especially entertaining is that the Count is an absent character on the set...yet his dark influence manages to seep through the story and the lives of our characters.

Even if you've not read the vampire (and other Victorian-set) classics, the story is more than enjoyable. If you have, and are additionally familiar with the Victorian era, Newman's book is a treat.

Anno Dracula is one of several books that Newman has created for his Dracula-centric alternate history; I can also highly recommend The Bloody Red Baron. Perhaps on my next pass, I'll review that one here, as well.
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