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Nollaig

Vlad: The Last Confession by C. C. Humphreys

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I've taken my time giving this it's own thread, though I've told a bunch of you about it before - because right after I finished it Chris kindly agreed to an interview and I wanted to post the two together, but for various reasons (I.e. life in general) I ended up not getting a chance to sort the interview out until recently. Anyway, here they both are:

 

AUTHOR INTERVIEW: ---> here <---

 

My review:

 

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(2009)

 

Genre: Historical Fiction

Synopsis:

DRACULA. A name of horror, depravity and the darkest sensuality. Yet the real Dracula was just as alluring, just as terrifying, his story not of a monster but of a man - and a contradiction. For the one they called 'The Devil's Son' was both tyrant and lawgiver, crusader and mass slaughterer, torturer and hero, lover and murderer. His tale is told by those who knew him best. The only woman he ever loved, who he must sacrifice. His closest comrade and traitor. And his priest, betraying the secrets of the confessional to reveal the mind of the man history would forever remember as Tepes - 'The Impaler'.

 

Review:

 

It may be worth pointing out (though I wish I didn't have to) that this IS NOT A BOOK ABOUT VAMPIRES. Anyway...

 

When I opened this book, and saw a three page Dramatis Personae and a map in the front, a bibliography, author's note and three pages of a limba Romanian glossary in the back, I'll admit, I thought the novel could turn out to be a heavy slog through over-researched and heavily detailed irrelevancies. Now, I feel bad even writing that in this review. Before I write any further, I would like to clearly state that this novel is as compelling and epic as the man himself. It gets full points and bonus points. Three characters are recovered from their little corners of existence, a forest, a convent, and a cell in the ground, to play the role of Vlad's biographers and confessors. Characters whose stories are as slowly and surely unfurled as Vlad's - this novel is not just about him, it's a faithful, largely historical dramatization of a period in political history, an illustration of life in 1400's Romania, of those nearest and dearest to Dracula. At it's heart it is not just a story, but a raw, emotional storytelling; woven from factual threads into a complex and fascinating expanse of possibilities.

 

From the outset, it's hard not to like Vlad. Starting with his life as a teen hostage in the hands of his fathers enemies - Turks ruled by Sultan Murad Han, we are introduced quite early to the intelligence, passion and heart of Vlad's character, as well as to the rivalry, which will last as long as he lives, with the Sultan's son, Mehmet Celebi. Sound crazy? Well, what the novel first and foremost does is place the man in his historical and cultural context. When he is no more than a name in a history book, imbued with exaggerated fabrications about his deeds (and lore unjustly associated with a character created some 250 years later), it is easy to forget he was also just a man. One raised by his father's enemy, taught against his will to torture and maim, while his family was viciously destroyed by those same enemies and traitors. It is easy to forget that he believed in a Christian God and in the times he lived, the greatest thing a Christan could do was declare crusade and wage holy war. Does that justify his actions? Not at all. Does it complicate his condemnation? Hell yes.

 

Absolutely, completely, utterly impossible to put down, you'll be awake at 3am and willing your eyes to just hold on to the end of the next (five) chapters. It's dark, graphic, uncompromising; awe-inspiring, sympathy-evoking, completely engrossing. It turned my stomach on occasion, it broke my heart on others, and I declare shamelessly that the ending is perfection. It's the ultimate juxtaposition of artistic licence and otherwise-faithful historical recounting. Vlad's is a undefined story embellished with myth and altered for fireside tellings over the years - if you're going to faithfully tell his story now it would almost be an injustice NOT to add a personal touch; a nod to his ongoing legend - a view to view his story anew. If there's a better touch out there than that of the masterful Mr. Humphreys', to coin a classic, I'll eat my hat.

 

The ONLY downside to this novel (and again, I hesitate to include this because I'd hate to think I deterred anyone from reading it), is the sudden skipping of weeks, months or even years from one chapter to the next. Of course, this is wholly necessary in a novel covering the stories, histories and politics of several people, their nations and their enemies, so it's not a mark against the novel in any way. It's skillfully done - it's adds a quality of human memory to the telling, fragmented though vivid; and after all, this is a collection of memories, painful, memoiric recollections, recounted by those who knew Dracula best. The only reason I feel it is a downside is because 430 pages wasn't enough for me - I could have read another 400 quite happily if only filled with the mundanity of those quieter years - a tribute to the ability of the author.

 

An enthralling, disturbing, thought-provoking and wholly satisfying read.

 

Rating: 5/5

 

Anybody else read this? Reading this? I know a few of you ordered it a while back on my recommendation! :P

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I'm reading this at the moment (your review left me with no other choice but to order it and bump it right up on my TBR) :P Currently on chapter 18 and I'm definitely enthralled.

 

I've had to put it on hold this week while I finish the Count of Monte Cristo, but I can't wait to pick it up again at the weekend :smile2:

 

I love the historical era in which it is based, and it has such an atmosphere - a great book to get lost in. It has definitely turned my stomach a couple of times as well, there is a certain scene that I won't be forgetting for a while, and not through choice! *ouch*

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Aha I bet know the scene you're referring to; I had forgotten it until you told me. The one which gives Vlad his famous title, yes? It is a bit: :eek:

 

Can't wait to hear your thoughts on the ending - I thought it was absolutely superb. Delighted you're enjoying it, too. ^_^

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Brilliant review Nollaig. I almost wish I hadn't read it because now I've had to add the book to my wish list. :)

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This is a novel that I am going out to buy tomorrow, Noll. I cannot WAIT to get my hands on it. Fantastic review. Thanks. biggrin.gif

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I really enjoyed this book, full of atmosphere and character. It is a pity here in the west our view of Vlad is coloured by the legacy of enemy propaganda, this is a man who is still a hero in his homeland, and this novel helps explain why.

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Oh well, that's definitely going on my TBR list. I am more interested to read of Vlad as a historical character rather than a Vampire (although Bram Stoker's book is a masterpiece and I really loved the Historian) so this ticks a few boxes.

 

Marvellous review Nollaig, thanks.

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Thanks everyone. I don't think it's THAT good of a review, but I'm delighted everyone is planning on picking up a copy. Ye won't regret it.

 

Vladd: What did you think of the ending?

I'm slightly fixated on the ending. I have to say that I'm really glad that in at least one version of the story he got to live on, and to face Mehmet. As I said in my review, there's not point telling Vald's story without adding a bit of a spin because it's the stuff of legend anyway - but I was completely not suspecting anything like what I got and was so completely thrilled. I think I cried a little, actually.

 

I also find it very fascinating that, as you say, he's still a hero in his homeland. You would have thought, when it was largely the people of his homeland (or his enemies) that suffered his ruthlessness, that if their modern descendants still view him as a great political figure that the rest of the world would take that into account too. It's funny how 'legends' can develop, and it's funny how they can be limitied to and vary so much between various regions.

 

Mac: I can't wait to hear your thoughts, I always love reading your reviews of books.

 

I'd love to actually go to a lot of the places mentioned in the books, and the places the author went to research the novel. He has some pictures on his website of him at Targoviste. (See link at bottom of author interview, first post.)

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I also enjoyed the ending it also brought a lump to my throat.

 

After the mention of how much his son looked like him I wasn't that surprised with the identity of the priest at the end, it was a nice idea that he lived on to confront Mehmet.

 

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Here you go, Noll. Funnily enough, Since reading The Historian I've fancied holidaying in that neck of the woods and am hoping to go there after I visit Germany next year - this book makes me want to visit there even more! Particularly since the author listed some of the places he visited during his research. What a book. What a writer. I'm going to get all of his books now - have you read any of the Jack Absolute novels?

 

Anyway - here're my thoughts initially posted on my thread. I wrote:

 

 

"Thanks to Nollaig for steering me onto this book. It grabs ones attention from the outset, drawing one into the 15th Century with all the sounds and sights almost visceral, almost physically transporting one there. The character of Vlad - indeed, Vlad's closest comrades and 'friends' - are interesting in that, despite the terrible deeds they perpetrate, as the reader I can't help but...erm...empathise with them somewhat. Should this worry me? Vlad has qualities I search for in my favourite characters in novels. He's loyal, honourable, strong minded and a pragmatist. He's determined, noble and fearless. Is this a man I would have loyally followed into battle were I of this time? The thought chills me a little, but it's a possibility...lurker.gif

 

Vlad himself commits some disturbingly gruesome acts throughout the book, and orders many others, but Humphreys' skills are such that it doesn't seem gratuitous (although they are disturbing). The writing is fast-paced, a little idiosyncratic, which I enjoyed, and accessible. The chapters jump from major incident to major incident, sometimes missing out huge chunks of the years passing, but this does not affect the novel negatively in any way. In fact, out of necessity, this ramps up the pace of the novel.

 

I can find nothing wrong with this novel at all. I loved it. It's up there with my favourite books now (along with The Historian, funnily enough). Thank you, Noll!

 

10/10"

Hope all are well. MM

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Fanks, Mac :D

 

I really want to go to all the places the author visited too, especially after reading his novel. You know, I wouldn't have enjoyed them as much without reading his novel I don't think, because he really gave a life and character to them in Vlad.

 

I haven't read his Jack Absolute books, no, but I too am going hunting down all his other books. As per the interview he has two more coming out this year - and I love the sound of the The Hunt Of The Unicorn :D

 

I'm also, as I said, glad I'm not the only one who thinks Vlad is a likeable guy! He IS! Not ALL the time, sure, but you can't help rooting for him against that awful Mehmet. :wink:

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I have it, and its now being hidden in the house so I don't read it before I go on holiday....I will resist :D

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I'm about halfway through it now and loving it .... and not a fang in sight :D

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Ahhh fantastic, I'm loving the response this is getting. Before this book, which I picked up TOTALLY at random, I'd never even heard of the author. Had any of you? But he's such a superb writer, and he has so many other books which I can't but imagine are just as good, so I'm delighted he's getting noticed here now.

 

I'm about half-way through my re-read of Vlad and I have to say, it's awesome to know the twists at the end of the novel and then re-read it, because there are a lot of wonderful details to be picked up with that extra knowledge.

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I've read a third of this book now and have really enjoyed it. However, I did find the first scene where someone is impaled in front of Vlad quite graphic and disturbing. Seeing as in real life Vlad was known as the impaler I'm a bit worried there may be alot more of this sort of thing to come. Am feeling a bit sensitive at the moment as well as a very close relative is dying of colon cancer. I'm not sure I can cope with more such scenes even though I'm enjoying the book.

 

Would others who have read the book recommend I continue or save the book for another time?

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Personally I find that scene (assuming it's the one where the students are being 'taught') to be probably the most graphic of the entire book, and it is certainly the most graphic impalement scene. I think there are a couple more slightly graphic scenes involving injury and the like though, so if you're feeling very sensitive, maybe give it a break. I do think that's the worst of it though.

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Fantastic review Noll, you covered all the bases and you also add some humour (which I always enjoy), I am investing this book ~ tonight! :)

Edited by Weave

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Awww thank you Weave :friends0: I'm sure you'll love it! :D

 

Its ordered, I know I am a bit over~zealous sometimes but I love a good read :)

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Personally I find that scene (assuming it's the one where the students are being 'taught') to be probably the most graphic of the entire book, and it is certainly the most graphic impalement scene. I think there are a couple more slightly graphic scenes involving injury and the like though, so if you're feeling very sensitive, maybe give it a break. I do think that's the worst of it though.

 

Yes that's the scene. I think I'll give the book a short rest.

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Yes that's the scene. I think I'll give the book a short rest.

 

Probably a good idea. I agree that the first impalement is probably the worst and most graphic, but there are certainly other graphic scenes and your imagination can fill in a lot of what isn't said.

 

I pretty much enjoyed Vlad, but it wasn't really the type of book I would usually read. It was quite graphic and disturbing and the writing style was driving me nuts because there were so many grammatical errors. I found it to be a bit of a slog compared to everyone else here, and I just couldn't wait to finish it and move on to something a bit more pleasant. Still, it was a very interesting read and led me to do a little more research on Vlad and that time period.

 

I've given the book to my brother because I think it will be much more suited to his tastes. :)

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