This year, I’m truly embracing spooky season. Dracula’s Child by J. S. Barnes is a sort of sequel to Bram Stoker’s Dracula, set a number of years after the original. Being a sucker for a good vampire story, I just could not resist the offer to review this modern take on one of the most classic iterations of the genre.
Many thanks to Sarah Mather and Titan Books for sending me a review copy of Dracula’s Child. As always, any opinions expressed are entirely my own.
STAR RATING: 3/5 ✶
RELEASE DATE: 22/09/2020
SUMMARY: It has been some years since Jonathan and Mina Harker survived their ordeal in Transylvania and, vanquishing Count Dracula, returned to England to try and live ordinary lives.
But shadows linger long in this world of blood feud and superstition – and, the older their son Quincey gets, the deeper the shadows that lengthen at the heart of the Harkers’ marriage. Jonathan has turned back to drink; Mina finds herself isolated inside the confines of her own family; Quincey himself struggles to live up to a family of such high renown.
And when a gathering of old friends leads to unexpected tragedy, the very particular wounds in the heart of the Harkers’ marriage are about to be exposed…
There is darkness both within the marriage and without – for new evil is arising on the Continent. A naturalist is bringing a new species of bat back to London; two English gentlemen, on their separate tours of the Continent, find a strange quixotic love for each other, and stumble into a calamity far worse than either has imagined; and the vestiges of something forgotten long ago is finally beginning to stir… (from Titan Books)
OPINIONS: Just like the original Dracula, Dracula’s Child is an epistolary novel in format, which means that its nature is fragmentary. The story is composed of diary entries, letters, newspaper clippings and more coming from a number of different perspectives, rather than being told in a straight-forward manner, while still presenting an edited narrative. I have to say, it is not my favourite manner of story-telling. I prefer a compelling, continuous writing style as I find that much more immersive – it took me almost two-thirds through Dracula’s Child to put the different plot lines together and figure out what was going on, and I think that was partially due to the form of the novel. Now, that is not a bad thing in itself, and I can see that working well for many readers. However, it kept me from fully enjoying myself as every time I felt I was starting to get invested in one of the strands, the book swerved onto one of the unconnected strands for a while and I ended up putting the book aside again.
While we do learn quite a lot about some of the characters due to the nature of their diary entries, for example, I still felt rather disconnected from them. There were a number of them that I thought would make for interesting characters, were they more fleshed out, such as Ruby, or Dr. Seward, or even Caroline, but the way they were presented in the narrative, the reader does not see much in terms of character development or depth from most of the characters. They report rather than analyse, and the editorial selection of the entries is made in a rather clinical way.
All in all, Dracula’s Child is an interesting read, and certainly a worthy sequel to the original Dracula. However, as a novel on its own merit, I think the same story would have profited from a different format allowing for more depth in story-telling and characterisation. It is clearly focused on imitating the original, at times to the detriment of its standing as a modern novel. Nevertheless, if you are intrigued, you can find Dracula’s Child on Goodreads here, and order a signed copy from Forbidden Planet here!