First published back in May of 1897, Irish born author Bram Stoker’s literary masterpiece ‘Dracula’ is without doubt one of the most important and influential novels in the horror genre ever.  Upon publication the novel was an instant success, becoming an immediate bestseller and hailing Stoker as an undisputed master of gothic fiction.

DLS Synopsis:
Leaving behind his young fiancé, Wilhelmina Murray (better known as Mina), Jonathan Harker travels to the remote castle of his first major client, located in the Carpathian Mountains of Transylvania.  Having only recently qualified as a solicitor, Harker is nervous about this first posting, providing legal support for a real estate transaction on behalf of his employer’s wealthy client – the Count Dracula.

Upon arriving at the impressive but equally foreboding stone castle where Dracula resides, Harker is made to feel well cared for by his gracious but decidedly unnerving host.  But gradually the feeling that he is in fact a prisoner in the ancient castle begins to creep over the young solicitor.  Dracula continues to maintain a face of hospitality, but Harker is now in the full knowledge that he is a captive to the whims of the Count.

Equally as distressing are the nocturnal excursions that Harker has witnessed the Count embarking upon.  And so, even against the explicit instructions not to leave his room at night, Harker decides to venture out into the silent stone corridors of the castle in the hope of finding a way out of his prison.  But Harker soon learns that he and the Count are not alone in the castle after all.  That night Harker comes across three seductive young females, who instantly throw themselves over the young solicitor.  But they have a terrible bloodlust in their eyes, and Harker has unknowingly stumbled into their lair.  But before the three vampyric sisters can feast upon their newfound victim, Dracula bursts in, pulling Harker out of harm’s way.  And so in sheer desperation, Harker finally manages to flee from the Count’s remote castle, and runs off into the night.

Not long after Harker’s escape, a Russian ship runs aground on the fierce shores of Whitby.   The ship appears empty, the crew nowhere to be seen.  Furthermore, the cargo seems worthless – crates of dirt shipped from Transylvania.  The only life aboard the ship being the fleeting glimpse of a black dog seen leaping from the ship as it hit the shoreline.

Not before long, Dracula’s presence is being noted in England.  Harker’s beloved fiancée Mina and her close friend Lucy Westenra soon find themselves within the Count’s sights.  And then, after having accepted Arthur Holmwood’s hand in marriage, Mina’s friend Lucy quickly starts to show signs of a terrible illness.  Weakened and barely maintaining consciousness, Lucy’s friend Dr John Seward calls for the help of the great Van Helsing.

Upon arriving at Lucy’s bedside, Van Helsing recognises the symptoms straight away.  But he keeps his fears to himself for now, and instead takes drastic measures to try to revert the girl’s terrible condition.  But no amount of blood transfusions can save the poor young girl.  For the disease is already in her blood.  And soon enough, she will undoubtedly return as a bloodthirsty creature of the night...

DLS Review:
I’m not going to write line after line on how important and essential this one novel has been to the whole horror genre.  Its influence and dominance in is undeniable.  It’s a true masterpiece and one that should be read by everyone (and I really do mean everyone) who has even a passing interest in the genre.

So what did I make of the tale?  Quite frankly, the novel deserves every inch of the praise that has been lavished over it.  The story is energetic, exciting, atmospheric, nail-biting, emotive, intense and downright compelling.  From the very outset Stoker begins upon a monumentally atmospheric storyline, with an unsettling eeriness constantly lingering behind every action, every location and as the tale progresses – every character.

The story is delivered to the reader via the often under-used epistolary style of delivering the tale.  Here, instead of telling the story from the perspective of a third person, or from behind the eyes of one of the characters, Stoker instead lays down the story by stitching together fictitious letters, diary entries, ship’s logs, newspaper reports etc.  In doing so, Stoker cleverly puts down a more oddly believable story, which in turn can easily delve into the emotional response of the characters, switching through perspectives to best suit the thread of the tale.

What’s perhaps most incredible about the novel is how easy it is to read considering the year it was written.  The language and general flow seems much more modern than a story of the latter nineteenth century.  Indeed, when the bloodthirsty vampire antics get going, the sheer intensity and pace of the tale is nothing short of nail-biting.

Characterisation is superb.  Each and every one of the handful of characters that Stoker pulls into the storyline are lovingly fleshed-out with the utmost care for the development of their emotional worries.  A perfect example of this can be found with Lucy Westenra’s complex love life when she is first introduced, with three rival men declaring their individual love for the young woman (with three separate proposals of marriage) merely magnifies the delightfully colourful manner of the character. 

What’s particularly noticeable about the novel is how the energy and near-palpable tension just keeps on escalating through the length of the story.  The final quarter of the novel is almost impossible to take even the briefest of breaks from.  The tension and drama is truly superb.  The ultimate finale utterly breath-taking.

I can’t really recommend the novel enough.  It’s got so much in it, with so many layers, changes in location, romance and tragedy mixed with horror and heroic compassion.  The tale will keep you gripped and utterly riveted to its spectacularly intense storyline.

Two years after Bram Stoker’s death in 1912, the short story ‘Dracula’s Guest’ (1914) was published.  The short forms an additional chapter to the novel that was removed from the original text by Stoker’s publishers for being unnecessary.  However, the extra chapter can easily be inserted into the beginning of the tale, allowing the reader to read the story in its full and complete state.

Since its publication back in 1897, the story of ‘Dracula’ has been re-told, expanded upon, adapted and re-worked in film, theatre, novels, comics and computer games. 

The novel is perhaps the single most important and influential piece of horror fiction to have ever been written.

The tale runs for a total of 352 pages.

© DLS Reviews

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