A stand-alone book based on Dracula.

Publication year: 2005
Publication year of the Finnish translation: 2006
Format: print
Finnish translator: Arto Schroderus
Page count: 596
Finnish Publisher: WSOY

The Finnish translation is abridged. The original seems to be almost 1000 pages.

The book is narrated by a 16-year-old girl who remains nameless. However, most of the time she’s either listening her father tell her about his life or reading letters from various people. Her father, Paul, is a diplomat but he studied history and he tells is story from the time when he’s writing his dissertation about merchants in Holland. The story is also told in several time lines. The main story with the girl happens in 1972 but most of the book is set in the 1950s, and in the beginning some of the letters are from the 1930s. The book has several references to Bram Stoker’s Dracula and it’s pretty clear from the start that the mysterious enemies are vampires.

The narrator lives in Amsterdam. Her father is away a lot and the narrator lives with a housekeeper whom she doesn’t really like. The story starts when the narrator finds a mysterious book and a frightening letter from her father’s study. The book is very old but the only thing on its pages is a picture of a dragon. The narrator insists that her father tells her about the book. Reluctantly, Paul takes her daughter with him on one of his travels and during their stay in various cities, he tells her his story.

Paul was working on his Ph. D. in Oxford university when he found the book. He took it to his mentor, Professor Rossi. To Paul’s amazement Rossi has a similar book and he tells Paul about his research into the historical Vlad Tepes, who is also known as Dracula. On the same night, Rossi disappears.

Paul and a mysterious Hungarian woman Helen start to research Tepes/Dracula in order to find Rossi. They travel to several cities, from Istanbul to Budapest. All the time, they have the feeling that they might be too late to save Rossi and that Dracula’s minions are watching them.

I have mixed feelings about this book. On the one hand, I enjoyed it, especially the descriptions of various cities and the research the characters do. And yet, the book is so very long that I thought about giving up on it a couple of times. Many of the descriptions don’t advance the plot or character development, no matter how fascinating they are. I was also a bit disappointed with Dracula’s final motives and I probably would have been happier about the epilog.

Atmosphere isn’t modern horror by any means. It and the writing style are very much like Bram Stoker’s Dracula, eerie and otherworldly. Also, the Cold War figures into the atmosphere and the plot; it’s difficult to move from the Western European countries to the East. You can’t even send a letter from Britain to Hungary without it being opened and read by a government official at least once. Helen’s descriptions of what it was like to grow up in Soviet ruled Hungary and the tale of how her own mother escaped Romania are quite vivid.

The characters react to the possibility of vampires and more human threats like real people, they definitely aren’t Buffy like characters who laugh in the face of danger and are unaffected by it.

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