Anno Dracula by Kim Newman

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Anno Dracula by Kim Newman

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Category: Horror
Rating: 3.5/5
Reviewer: Katie Pullen
Reviewed by Katie Pullen
Summary: Queen Victoria has remarried, taking as her new husband none other than Count Dracula. As more and more of London's citizens turn to vampirism, political and social unrest abounds and a serial killer stalks the streets of London looking for fresh vampires to kill. An entertaining and gutsy sequel to Bram Stoker's Dracula, picking up the story from an alternate ending and filling the new vampire world of London with numerous famous characters from literature.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 560 Date: May 2011
Publisher: Titan Books
ISBN: 978-0857680839

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The story begins in London. It is 1888 and Queen Victoria is on the throne. She has recently remarried, taking as her husband the infamous vampire Count Dracula. Dracula's influence is all around London as more and more of its citizens turn willingly to vampirism, whilst others resist its temptations. A distinct sense of social and political unrest is in the air as factions speak out against the race of vampires, somehow spurred on by the serial killer at large. Known at first as the Silver Knife, but later as Jack the Ripper, this killer targets young vampire women in Whitechapel, prostitutes who have recently turned to vampirism, known as new-borns.

Setting out to find the murderer is Geneviève Dieudonné, an eternally young vampire thanks to her turning at the age of sixteen, but a woman who has centuries of life behind her. Geneviève works at Toynbee Hall, a place of education and refuge, particularly for new born female vampires and is called upon by Inspector Lestrade to use her vampire wiles to find the killer. Also tasked with finding the killer is Charles Beauregard, a human, given his task by The Diogenes Club, an elusive faction with links to the Government. As the killer's spate of murders continue the two are slowly drawn together into the world of Jack the Ripper, taking their investigation and lives into frightening and intriguing places, set against the backdrop of the increasing unrest on London's streets.

Anno Dracula was originally published in 1992, and is the first in a series of novels. I've enjoyed many vampire novels over the years and was instantly attracted to this book, probably due to the wealth of well-known characters featured within its pages and a desire to discover how exactly Kim Newman was going to fit them all into his story. It certainly is an impressive read from this view point. There is hardly a chapter that goes by without a famous character from literature popping up including Oscar Wilde, Inspector Lestrade, Dr Jekyll, Sherlock and Mycroft Holmes to name but a few, as well as most of the characters from Stoker's Dracula including most notably Jack Seward and Arthur Godalming who are central to the story. You'd think this amount of well-known characters would make the book rather ridiculous, but Newman's prose utterly convinced me that all these characters should be jostling together in Victorian London, helping move the story along where needed or providing interesting asides. However, as there are so many characters it did become rather confusing at times to remember who everyone was, whether vampire or human, and if I had already come across them in the book.

Thankfully the main characters of Geneviève, Beauregard, Jack Seward and Arthur Godalming are given more time by Newman as he crafts his story, allowing us to get to know each of them slowly but surely. Newman allows Seward to fill us in on the events of three years ago when Stoker's story took place, and even if you already know this story well there is no harm in this part of the narrative as it really does flesh out Seward's character and what has happened to him since these events.

The story itself is pretty dark, full of gothic imagery, with London filled with foggy, dangerous streets that come alive after dark and is full of scenes to make your blood curdle. Newman's imagination clearly knows no bounds. Like most novels there are some secondary plots to the main one, but for me there were perhaps too many of these, which unfortunately detract just a little bit too much from the brilliant serial killer thread.

The main plot itself also seems to lose its way a little here and there, probably because of Newman's keenness to fill his pages with famous faces. Geneviève and Beauregard are meant to be finding the killer, but they hardly go about it in the way a detective would, merely thinking about who the killer could be half the time. I really wanted to see them taking evidence to pieces, studying the killer's movements, but alas this was lacking.

That is not to say that this is not a worthwhile read, it really is from start to finish and is sure to appeal to anyone like me who loves a good vampire story. Newman has clearly researched like crazy to make this novel work, whilst setting the scene for the next in the series. It's impressive stuff, if perhaps a little overambitious at times.

I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to The Bookbag.

Further Reading Suggestion: For more vampires try Vampire Apocalypse: A World Torn Asunder by Derek Gunn or Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter by Seth Grahame-Smith.

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