Thursday, March 4, 2010

Book Review: Incarnadine - The True Memoirs of Count Dracula Vol. 1 by R.H. Greene

In the richly descriptive Incarnadine: The True Memoirs of Count Dracula: Volume One, we are given a detailed account of the man that will come to be known as Count Dracula in his early years. We see what life was like for “Konstantin Kuzmanov” when he was a man and experience his life as a soldier during the Ottoman Empire, then his conversion to pious priest and witness his falling in love, only to see him lose his one true love and his subsequent defiance of the heavens that transforms him into one of the undead. During this transformation he takes several companions with him, three which survive and become his infamous “brides”. Incarnadine tells of Dracula’s early origins in Medieval Eastern Europe and author R.H. Greene fills the imaginative tome with historical fact, including religion, rule and superstitions, all of which make for a wondrous backdrop to the philosophical, religious, emotional and physical challenges the future Count Dracula encounters.

The novel is beautifully written by Greene, and has a rather bittersweet, melancholy tone that runs throughout. You really get a sense of Kuzmanov/Dracula’s point of view in Incarnadine, a perspective that runs much deeper and more philosophical than most books based on Bram Stoker’s character of Dracula. Since the book covers a large span of time, there are lots of profound and major events that occur, all of which add to the grand legend of Count Dracula. For example, at one point the newly undead vampire, distraught over what he has become, turns into a grand oak tree for a period of years. Yes, yes, I know how that sounds but instead of being outlandish and silly, author Greene makes the event a very poignant one.

Greene also weaves Slavic myth and legends throughout the novel, making it seem that much more realistic. Some of it (like the tree passage, mentioned above) seems straight out of a Brothers Grimm tale, but it is also nice to see some of the familiar vampire lore and superstition (crosses, the ability to shapeshift, the ability to control animals, sun sensitivity, etc.) peppered throughout the book. So while this particular book shows a wholly new perspective on Dracula, it still keeps some of the familiar vampire tropes and goes a step further by explaining their origins.

Indeed, there is so much both old and new going on in Incarnadine that I’m glad that these memoirs have been broken in two volumes. I haven’t had the pleasure of reading the second volume (though I hear it has already been written), but I eagerly look forward to it, as it picks up with Jonathan Harker paying Dracula a visit at his castle home in the Carpathian Mountains.

Incarnadine is a thoughtful, exciting and wholly engrossing novel that sheds new light on vampire lore and lets us experience the grand legend of Count Dracula through his own eyes. It has its share of gross-out gore (in particular, the description of some of the “brides” is cringe-worthy), but overall the novel delves into more profound, philosophical territory. If you like your vampire stories with a little more bite, I highly encourage you to check out Incarnadine: The True Memoirs of Count Dracula: Volume One.

Buy it on Amazon!

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