August, 1897, the Russian schooner Demeter, carrying fifty boxes of earth, ran aground in Whitby, her crew missing save for her captain who was tied to the wheel with a crucifix in his lifeless hands. The only living thing aboard, a huge dog, escaped into the night. With a few cryptic journal entries, Bram Stoker (in his classic ‘Dracula’) offered scant hints regarding the terrifying sea voyage that brought the vampire king from Transylvania to a blood-rich London. Now, the whole mind-rending story is told… The story of Trevor Harrington, a British scholar and fugitive. Of Swales, the old Scot cook, who deceives the ship’s commander, but knows a good deal “aboon grims and boh-ghosts”. Of Ekaterina Gabor, a beautiful Romanian who follows her lover to sea by stowing away. Of Captain Nikilov, fighting for his ship and crew while something evil, more virulent than the black plague, decimates their number. Of Demeter herself, named for the Greek goddess of renewal, lost and tossed on an unforgiving sea. And of Count Dracula, at rest in Demeter’s dark hold until the unintended actions of her crew resurrect the vampire and his unquenchable bloodlust.
I have to admit that I am always a little leery and somewhat apprehensive when I receive an email about reviewing a book that is closely associated with Dracula. There have been numerous attempts to re-invent, re-envision or re-imagine the Dracula mythos, some good, some not so good and some quite horrendous.
So when Doug contacted me about reviewing his new book “Dracula’s Demeter”, my fear and apprehension were again rekindled, but when I read the synopsis, I thought to myself, wow, this is a great idea, especially if the author can pull it off. Not having ever read anything by Doug I thought, what the hell, I will give a try and boy am I glad I did.
“Dracula’s Demeter” is a fabulous addition to the overall Dracula mythos. I for one have always wondered what happened on that fateful ship as it carried Dracula across the ocean into the arms of civilization. Thankfully, now we don’t have to wonder as Doug has crafted a tale that not only pays homage and respect to the the classic original, it also fills in a large and important gap of the story.
That majority of the story takes place on the Demeter herself, but also involves some of my favorite characters from the novel; Renfield, Dr. Seward, Lucy and Mina. Doug seamlessly draws them into his tale, adding a nice touch to the overall storyline while also staying true to the original classic tale.
In “Dracula’s Demeter” you are introduced to the crew and passengers of the ill fated ship, a divergent cast of characters that are wonderfully realistic and fully realized. I really enjoyed Doug’s characterizations and the overall storyline as Doug takes you from the cliffs high above Whitby to Castle Dracula, to the docks of Varna and finally on to the ship herself.
Even though I enjoyed the brief interludes with the original characters from the original novel, it was on the Demeter that this story truly shined. There is a palpable sense of dread throughout the journey, not just from the presence of Dracula either.
Doug beautifully describes what such a journey would be like from that time period. That is frightening in an of itself, as there are no guarantees that you would survive such a journey.
Add into the mix the malevolent evil that is Dracula, and the mounting dread and terror felt by those on the ship is arresting. Since all this takes place on a ship, the sense of claustrophobia is very real and unnerving. As the crew slowly disappears one by one, the sense of hoplessness, dispair and terror is tangible and at times very frightenting.
Doug also did a great job with Dracula, it is apparent that his love for the character and source material played a strong part in the crafting of this tale. His research into the time period shows as his descriptive prose sets you right in the middle of Demeter and my friends, that is not a comfortable place to be.
I take the Dracula mythos very seriously, he is by far my favorite character of all time and was extremely impressed with this tale and I highly recommend it to those like me who love the Dracula mythos and for anyone that is just looking for a great read.