Thursday, 30 September 2010

Dracula, My Love by Syrie James

GENRE: historical romance/vampire fiction

Many have read and loved Bram Stoker's Dracula. But questions remain. What is the true story of Dracula's origin? What if Mina could not bring herself to record the true story of their scandalous affair-until now? In Dracula, My Love: The Secret Journals of Mina Harker, Syrie James explores these questions and more. A vibrant dramatization, told from Mina's point of view, brings to life the crucial parts of Stoker's story while showcasing Mina's sexual awakening and evolution as a woman, and revealing a secret that could destroy her life. Torn between two men - a loving husband and a dangerous lover - Mina struggles to hang on to the deep love she's found within her marriage, even as she is inexorably drawn to Dracula himself - the vampire that everyone she knows is determined to destroy.

I have to say that, although this book is not the original, I actually preferred it to the original and enjoyed reading it far more than Stoker’s creation. Dracula, My Love is a romanticized version of Bram Stoker’s original. It is told entirely from Mina’s point of view and follows the original plot entirely, but provides quite a different background to the original events, and this is done very cleverly, indeed.

There were three things that bothered me in the original novel. Firstly, Dracula is never really seen, only talked about, and although that heightened the mystery of the man/vampire, it left me feeling bereft. I wanted to know so much more about him, but Stoker never revealed much. Syrie James gives Dracula a voice. He is present in many scenes in the novel and he explains many things – about his life and vampirism – himself. It was a true joy to “hear” Dracula speak. Secondly, the original had a boring writing style. James definitely corrected that with beautiful, smoothly flowing prose. And thirdly, although I don’t need a romantic plot to like a book, the original novel lacked some romance. It was only boring facts and incessant planning of how to kill Dracula and plotting against him. James’s novel, however, offers a dramatic romantic story that is entirely plausible and spices up the quest against Dracula, and it ends in a way almost faithful to the original. In fact, the ending of James’s novel is far more dramatic and Dracula’s demise is quite surprising, as this particular part differs from the original in a very good way. I have no objections.

I think that James included Dracula’s presence into Mina’s life very cleverly and in a believable way, offering a good chance for their relationship to truly develop and grow into love for the right reasons. Mina does not love Dracula because he is powerful, beautiful and immortal – in fact, she is frightened by those things. Instead, she loves the man that he is and James made that very believable to me. Also, she makes it clear that, although Mina is torn between the two men in her life – her husband Jonathan and the vampire Dracula – she loves them both for different reasons, and what I truly liked is that no matter how much passion she feels for the vampire, her love for Jonathan wins. This is not a spoiler, as in the original Mina loves Jonathan and stays with him, but in this re-written version it is made clear why she loves him and why they are so good together.

Mina is given a clear voice and is not only a part of the “team”, but becomes a very individual and great character in this novel, as do Dracula and Jonathan Harker. I truly loved James’s characterization of Dracula. She even explained his past in detail, telling the reader how he became a vampire, using a small and a seemingly insignificant detail from the original (Scholomance) to deliver the cleverly outlined origins story. All the characters that lacked personalities in the original become rounded and likeable in this novel.

I have a few complaints, though. Too many romantic excuses are made for Dracula’s foul deeds. Sometimes, the author makes him as innocent as a child, but we know he’s anything but that. Luckily, she captured his essence so well that I could accept that flaw and it did not bother me so much while reading the novel, especially since by the end of it, Dracula begins to show the “bloody” side of being a vampire, the side that can be overlooked when confusing beautiful vampires for harmless humans. Also, even James’s wonderful writing couldn’t prevent me from getting bored during the planning and plotting of the team in England. However, the author alleviated the level of boredom I felt while reading the original with her own clever in-puts. And once the team arrives to Transylvania, things become very exciting again. The last thing on the list of flaws is an actual mistake, I think. If I understood it correctly, if you kill the sire of a vampire, that person won’t be a vampire anymore. In the novel, the sire of four vampires was killed (again, if I understood it correctly), but all remained vampires. Perhaps the transition of becoming a vampire should have been explained better. Perhaps if one kills the sire of a vampire in making (of a person who hasn’t become a vampire yet, but is already changing), that person is cured of the curse, but not if they already are a vampire. Well, that left me confused.

All in all, this was a very enjoyable read, offering drama, romance, sexiness and good old vampires. If you like the original, this novel is definitely a must-read, but to be honest, male readers might not appreciate it as much as the original. And if you like vampires and some history, I recommend this novel to those readers as well. You won’t be disappointed.



Dot said...

Brilliant review- I really want to read this!

Blodeuedd said...

Great review.

But I do not think this is for me, I think I would choose that other Dracula book instead, the one with the running girl

Jan von Harz said...

Beautiful review. I loved how you compared the two books (the original Bram Stoker and this one) in the review. While I have not read the original I really want to get this book as I am sure I will enjoy it.

Unknown said...

Really interesting review. I find it hard to get my head around these reworkings sometimes. But it sounds like this one actually pulled it off. I am starting to think of you as a girl who loves vampire fiction but also adores the classics :-)

Meredith said...

I'm so glad you enjoyed this one, Irena! I absolutely adored it. Interesting point you brought up about the vampire sire. I'm not well-informed when it comes to vampires...