Dracula is an icon, a name that instantly brings to mind vampires; and often a very specific idea of vampires. Thanks to the black and white movies of the 1930’s with Bela Lugosi, and then Christopher Lee’s appearances in the Hammer films, Dracula makes people think of a regal count, resplendent in his finery, his hair slicked back, his cape draped around him as he stalks beautiful young women.
Whilst vampires have evolved over the years and gone in new directions, many times things always come back to Dracula, the vampire that inspired all the others. And in Dracula: Rise of the Beast we learn more about this figure through five short stories.
These tales tell the reader the story of the rise of Count Vlad to the vampiric monster Dracula as seen in the original Bram Stoker novel. The stories are spread across multiple time periods, and are told not from the point of view of Dracula, but of those who intersect with his life, often discovering the mystery of the Count and investigating his true nature.
Whilst each of these stories does add to the overall telling of Dracula’s past, they don’t always feel interconnected, taking on the form of separate moments from his life rather than forming one cohesive whole. Whether this was intentional on the part of the book, I don’t know? But it does lead to a sometimes disjointed read. Being able to jump through the life of a character like Dracula to focus on certain events may at first glance appear to be a good way of telling his story, but it does on occasion let itself down.
Sadly, this also extends to the format in which the story is told. As with the original Dracula novel, Dracula: Rise of the Beast tells its story in the form of letters, reports, and even blog posts.
As with jumping to different time periods to allow a focus on certain events, telling the stories through these framing devices allows the writer to focus solely on those aspects of the story that is important. They can skip over long descriptions and back and forth dialogue, instead giving a quick and concise narrative of events.
This means that the book does move with some degree of pace a majority of the time (though the first segment of the book did at times feel very slow), it ends up feeling like it lacks any real depth. It feels less like I myself am experiencing a story, and more like someone else has had that experience and is simply telling me about it. Which is never as satisfying as experiencing it first hand.
Whilst the premise for the book itself is very interesting and works great in concept, the execution is unfortunately somewhat lacking. Perhaps it is a personal preference, but the format of the book made it very difficult to enjoy it as fully as I wanted to, and often drew me out of it. A good read for fans of vampire fiction and Dracula, but perhaps not to everyone’s tastes.