Given my appreciation for the enduring horror figure of Bram Stoker's creation, Dracula, my curiosity was piqued when I came across C.C.Humphreys Vlad, with the intriguing tagline of "The Epic Novel of the Real Dracula".
Knowing a little of the history behind the real figure that Stoker (at least in part) drew some of his inspiration from, I was reminded of a passage from Stoker's Dracula which brought to mind the man that Humphreys has based his tale on:
"...What devil or what witch was ever so great as Attila, whose blood is in these veins?... Who was it but one of my own race who as Voivode crossed the Danube and beat the Turk on his own ground? This was a Dracula indeed! Woe was it that his own unworthy brother, when he had fallen, sold his people to the Turk and brought the shame of slavery on them! Was it not this Dracula, indeed, who inspired that other of his race who in a later age again and again brought his forces over the great river into Turkeyland, who, when he was beaten back, came again, and again..."
C.C. Humphreys has taken historical fact and analysed the actions of the real-life Wallachian Prince and sought out what motivated the man to visit such acts against those who would oppose or defy him and creates an epic, brutal story covering 50 years of Vlad Dracul's life that is entirely believable, compelling and punctuated with the brutal horrific violence associated with 15th Century feudal society in Eastern Europe and warring against the onslaught of the Ottoman Empire.
On a critical note, I feel that Humphreys could have written much more on the subject. He has a tendency to jump forward with the narrative and skip months, even years at a time but his method of storytelling works and ought not to be faulted simply because I sought more information on his version of Vlad the Impaler.
The only real issue I encountered while reading this novel was asking myself "Can this book be categorised as horror?" Well, it has taken one of the foundations of what could be considered one of the most well-known horror characters of all time (Count Dracula), provided a fictional account of his real-life based on historical fact and woven into it some particularly horrific accounts of war, torture, decapitation, mutilation, dismemberment and it would be amiss of me not to mention that for which Vlad was most feared: impalement. Yes, I would suggest to you that this book can quite comfortably sit in the horror section of your own personal library.