Thanks to Irish writer Bram Stoker and Hungarian-American actor Bela Lugosi, just about everyone in the world knows about the myth of Dracula in at least one way, shape or manner. As far as iconic characters go, Dracula is surely a top contender.
But the reality of Dracula’s existence is just as undeniable as the power of his myth. And the story of Vlad the Impaler(known to Romanians as Vlad Țepeș) has all the makings of a page-turner.
And I’m about to discuss just that type of book. Written by Ms. Lucille Turner, (to whom my gratitude for the copy of her work extends the novel I’ve the honour of reviewing today is called THE SULTAN, THE VAMPYR, AND THE SOOTHSAYER, and it is a thoroughly compelling read. Beginning during the early life of Vlad, the middle of the three sons of Wallachian warlord Vlad Dracul, the book chronicles his becoming one of the most feared rulers in Europe at a time of great turmoil due to the conflict with the Ottoman Empire. The polarizing nature of young Vlad is very well portrayed by the author: the young man is caught between two clashing cultures: too warlike to fully embrace Christianity, too defiant to become a Muslim, even though he spends most of the period described in the book at the Ottoman court. In fact, that’s one of the reasons for which I found the book to be interesting: for a work of historical fiction set at a time of great conflicts, there’s not too many details about battles in and of themselves. This is, nevertheless, a dark, dark novel. I think I can see it as an HBO TV series, in the vein of GAME OF THRONES. I also like the way the vampire myth is woven into the story: here, the supernatural aspect of it all is more a matter of perception than something palpable. However, the fear that the Romanians, here referred to as Rumani, feel whenever the subject of “strigoi” is brought about permeates every page where it’s mentioned. The “otherness” of Turks to Wallachians and viceversa is also very well done. No one here is fully a hero or a villain, all of the characters are quite complex and very well thought out, from Vlad, defiant to the very end, to his father, Vlad Dracul, forced into an ultimate compromise, to Radu, bearing the marks of captivity in more ways than one.
For those who are interested in the real Dracula behind all the myths and superstitions, for those who like their stories filled with intrigues, conspiracies and mysterious ancient scrolls, THE SULTAN, THE VAMPYR AND THE SOOTHSAYER is just the right book. The one thing I could point out as a small inaccuracy is that the Romanians are descendants of the Getae, rather than the Goths, but that does not take away from the pleasure of reading this page-turner. Five out of five. While I reiterate my gratitude to the author for the copy of her novel, the views expressed herein are my own. Thank you, Ms. Turner. Great, great job!