If you are here to read about the latest vampire book, then you will be sorely disappointed. This book is actually a story of the life of Vlad Dracula (son of Vlad Dracul) whose actions during the 15th century have become the stuff of legend. Vlad the Impaler’s story is completely compelling in this fictional recount of his life.
Humphreys has chosen a format that I really enjoy, the telling of someone else’s story through the eye-witness accounts of those who were closest to him, Ilona his one true love and a peasant girl, Ion his trusted and devoted life-long friend and Dracula’s confessor the priest Vasilie. I confess that I was a little bamboozled by the first couple of chapters, it took me a while to really understand how this book was being established. However, after the second chapter it became quite clear who the key characters of the story were.
A very tiny spoiler alert, as I felt it was wasted time at the beginning of the book trying to work out the plot. The book starts with a type of trial that sees three witnesses (those people mentioned above) brought to give accounts of the life of Vlad Dracula. This is undertaken in Dracula’s family castle Poenari whose ruins still exist, with current commander of the castle, a papal legate and Horvathy, Count of the Pecs and belonging to Vlad’s Order of the Dragon.
I love history, well as a history graduate it kind of comes with the territory. People are inherently fascinating, why did they act the way they did, what motivations drove certain decisions to be made, how could someone turn to such vile tactics, why do we as human beings fail so often to learn from history? Ok big questions I know, but in the context of this story they are relevant. Dracula has become forever associated with the act of impaling, however, in this book it is established that he was taught how to do this in a Turkish prison Tokat. How did he end up there? It is of passing interest at this time of remembering the ANZACS, that Dracula’s father was double crossed by the Sultan Murad in Gallipoli. As a part of gaining his compliance the Sultan kept two of his sons (Vlad and Radu) as surety, they remained in Turkey for many years and it is here that Vlad Dracula’s future behaviour is molded.
For me the most interesting part of the novel was the tribal relationships and how suspectible they were to being over thrown in grabs for power and land. Vlad Dracula’s main aim seems to be to make the vassals of his land submit to his authority in Wallachia and he dealt with extreme harshness to any indiscretion – via impaling as a preferred and visually persuasive method. Dracula’s other great driving ambition was the desire to launch a crusade upon the Turks and capture back the Cathedral of Saint Sophia to Christianity. He was always committed to this cause right until the very end.
Certainly this is a rollicking good tale, horrendous when you actually comprehend the enormity of the violence portrayed by Vlad Dracula and I’m not sure I really wanted to know how to impale a person – but I do now! I do love a good historical novel, full of intrigue and Vlad The Last Confession delivers this in abundance. I can thoroughly recommend it, I can assure you that the truth is often far more terrifying and haunting than fantasy; who needs vampires when you have the real fascinating story of Dracula.