My great thanks to NetGalley and the Publisher for providing a free copy in exchange for a fair review.
Book Title: THE RIVALS OF DRACULA
Author: Nick Rennison, Ed.
Publisher: Trafalgar Square Publishing, Old Castle Books
Category: Compilation, Horror
Main Characters: Assorted Literary Relatives of Dracula-ish
Author’s Website: As a scholarly writer, he doesn’t have one, but here’s his Goodreads.
Find It: Goodreads
Source: Review copy provided by NetGalley, ebook
Rating: A Solid 4.5 Batty Moons!
Bram Stoker’s Dracula, still the most famous of all vampire stories, was first published in 1897. But the bloodsucking Count was not the only member of the undead to bare his fangs in the literature of the period. Late Victorian and Edwardian fiction is full of vampires and this anthology of scary stories introduces modern readers to 15 of them.
A travel writer in Sweden unleashes something awful from an ancient mausoleum. A psychic detective battles a vampire that has taken refuge in an Egyptian mummy. A nightmare becomes reality in the tower room of a gloomy country house. Including works by both well known writers of the supernatural such as M. R. James and E. F. Benson and less familiar authors like the Australian Hume Nisbet and the American F. Marion Crawford, The Rivals of Dracula is a collection of classic tales to chill the blood and tingle the spine.
Cut because I ramble on forever, as I do…
Okay, first, allow me to confess that one: I have been a sick, twisted little vampire freak since I snuck a big golden hardcover called INTERVIEW WITH A VAMPIRE out of the adult section of the library when I was about 7 (and gobbled it up like… well, insert your own vampire pun here), and it hasn’t abated since. Second: I don’t just adore our modern “hero” smexy awesome vampires (which many say were born from Ms. Rice’s precious pen). I’m an amateur scholar of vampire lore. I love the way the stories cross history, reflect the times and the cultures from which they sprang. I love studying the way people respond to the idea — why do vampires exist in some form or another since the dawn of humanity? What do we look for in them? How have their stories evolved as time passed, and why? Why does the popularity of the vampire story wax and wane (sparkly ones notwithstanding.)? The topic of vampire lore is one of my dream theses for my MFA or PhD someday (knock on wood).
So it can be no surprise that I ADORED these “lost” vampire stories, all of which were born in the general era surrounding Stoker’s classic. Each one is unique, reflects different themes, reads differently in language and cadence. It was so much fun to read them, and so edifying to my greedy little vampire-loving mind. It’s a blast looking at these old stories, and thinking about how the vampires today evolved from them. Most of us who know a bit of the history of “modern” vampire lore (from the Victorian Era onward) know Dracula, Carmilla, Varney the Vampire, Lair of the White Worm, etc. But I don’t think I’ve heard of more than two or three of these before. If you’re interested in vampire lore on an academic-ish level, you’ll love these. Or if you enjoy Victorian Era stories, they’ll tickle you as well.
Actually, I also liked them as entertainment. They were really creepy, and had me looking over my shoulder in my dark house at night, and wonder if that shadow in the yard might be getting closer?
Now, why I didn’t give it 5 Batty Moons. It might not even be fair to knock off that half, because it’s the nature of the book that may not make it palatable to my sister and brother PNR/UF readers. It’s a difficult trick to switch your mind from a modern storytelling style to one over a hundred years old. Everything is different: syntax, grammar, turn of phrase. I’m not saying the book is lofty and the rest of us are dumb, but I think the average PNR/UF or even modern horror lover might not want to work this hard to get the scare… or they might not get the scare at all. It’s not for everyone.
Nonetheless, I still have to recommend it for anyone who’s looking for something a little different from the vampire genre, and anyone who has an academic interest on how the lore has evolved over the years, from the vampire’s ancient roots in the far east to modern America.
Don’t forget to keep the lights on!
OOOOO – Five Full Moons: OMG I LOVE THIS BOOK GO GET IT RIGHT NOW!
OOOO – Four Full Moons: I REALLY liked this. Well worth reading, and possibly re-reading!
OOO – Three Full Moons: Good! Worth a read.
OO – Two Full Moons: Not really to my taste, but not terrible.
O – One Full Moon: Has serious flaws that make it difficult to read and review fairly.
DNF – Did Not Finish: Poor writing, flimsy plot, badly drawn characters, etc.
I also use half-moons as necessary. I should make it clear that I do review books on a number of levels, emotional and structural being the major ones. I might read a book with serious grammar and spelling flaws, but it could still win my heart due to characterization or story. Or a perfectly structured novel might leave me feeling nothing, and won’t get a great review. I DO always try to find something positive to say about a book, or I won’t say anything much at all. I DO NOT engage in mean-spirited snark, although I do give constructive criticism. As a writer, I can’t stand the former, and always appreciate the latter, even if it’s “negative.”