Shane O’Neill’s ‘The Dracula Chronicles’ is an ambitious project. O’Neill combines elements of the traditional Dracula story with chunks of Goethe’s ‘Faust’ and positions his tale against an epic historical backdrop.
This Dracula is literally a child of Hell, acting both as the central protagonist but also as a pawn of the fallen Lucifer. Waging war against the forces of Heaven, the Devil is playing a long game against his immortal Adversary as he employs the damned Voivode to bring about the downfall of the Catholic Church.
The author cleverly intertwines the fictional vampire and his psychopathic family with actual persons and events from European history, ranging from Machiavelli and the Medicis to Martin Luther. In doing so he subtly (and sometimes not so subtly) re-writes several of the critical episodes of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. This is a difficult balancing act, but it is handled with skill and imagination and, might I say, not a little panache.
O’Neill acknowledges one or two ‘leaps of faith’/distortions in his methodology, but he peppers the novel with enough real historical research to give the reader a proper history lesson, as well as a slanted one. He is, for instance, one of the few re-tellers of the Dracula story to recount (correctly) that the real-life ‘Impaler’ ruled over Wallachia, not Transylvania.
The writing is visceral as befits the brutality of the age. Some of the violence and rapine may make the more sensitive reader wince, but the context is undoubtedly correct. As one might expect there is lots of sex, gore and medieval cruelty. This is NOT a vampire story sanitised for the ‘Twilight’ generation, but a tale of hatred and revenge, and of the struggle between the powers of Light and Darkness.
Volume 1 of the ‘Chronicles’ begins with a brilliant description of the aftermath of the Battle of Snagov in 1476 and ends with the stirrings of the Reformation. I am eager to see where Shane O’Neill’s restless mind takes us with Volume 2, and which specific historical happenings will provide further fodder for this bold re-imagining of the Dracula legend.
Follow Shane O'Neill on Twitter @ShaneKPONeill