Review: Dracula's Child by J.S. Barnes

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J.S. Barnes' Dracula's Child was published by Titan Books in September 2020.

J. S. Barnes

Jonathan is the author of three critically acclaimed novels: The Somnambulist, The Domino Men and Cannonbridge (“original and monumentally inventive” - Washington Post). He writes regularly for the Times Literary Supplement and the Literary Review and is the author of numerous adaptations of classic Victorian novels, including The Invisible Man (starring John Hurt) and Dracula (starring Mark Gatiss). He is married and lives on the fringes of London. Last year, he made a pilgrimage to Transylvania.

A pseudonym of Jonathan Barnes.

Dracula's Child by J. S. Barnes
Dracula's Child
by J. S. Barnes

Evil never truly dies... and some legends live forever. The dark heart of Bram Stoker's classic is reborn; capturing the voice, tone, style and characters of the original yet with a modern sensibility this novel is perfect for fans of Dracula and contemporary horror.

It has been some years since Jonathan and Mina Harker survived their ordeal in Transylvania and, vanquishing Count Dracula, returned to England to try and live ordinary lives. But shadows linger long in this world of blood feud and superstition - and, the older their son Quincy gets, the deeper the shadows that lengthen at the heart of the Harkers' marriage. Jonathan has turned back to drink; Mina finds herself isolated inside the confines of her own family; Quincy himself struggles to live up to a family of such high renown. And when a gathering of old friends leads to unexpected tragedy, the very particular wounds in the heart of the Harkers' marriage are about to be exposed...

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J.S. Barnes' Dracula's Child is a brilliant sequel to Bram Stoker's Dracula. It's one of the best vampire novels of recent years and also one of the most compelling horror novels of the year.

Before I write more about this novel, I'll mention that I'll try to keep this review as spoiler-free as possible, because the less you know about the happenings, the more you'll enjoy the gradually unfolding dark and Gothic story.

When I heard that J.S. Barnes has written a sequel to Bram Stoker's Dracula, I was slightly worried about the news, because this kind of sequels seldom work well and often end up being more or less bad in terms of quality, prose and storytelling. Fortunately, all my fears and worries were proven wrong when I began to read this novel. I was positively surprised when I noticed that Dracula's Child is an atmospheric and beautifully written horror novel that feels like a homage to Bram Stoker's novel. In my opinion, this novel is a prime example of how to write a sequel to a classic novel, because it's excellent in every regard. I have nothing bad to say about this novel, because it's a perfect sequel to Dracula.

Here's a bit of information about the story: Dracula's Child tells of what happens a few years after the events in Transylvania. Jonathan and Mina Harker have returned to England and try to live as normal a life as possible. As their son, Quincey, grows older, darkness begins to linger around the Harker family and soon it's evident that the past has returned to haunt them...

This novel is an excellent and wonderfully crafted horror novel that has been written in the vein of classic Gothic stories, paying attention to depth, style and prose. The author uses epistolary storytelling to his advantage and effortlessly creates an unsettling atmosphere that is intensified by beautiful literary prose.

One of the things that I love about this novel is that the author uses journal entries, letters, notes, newspaper cuttings and telegrams in the same way as Stoker did in his story. I loved this in the original novel and I love it here too, because it makes the narrative intriguing. The alternating viewpoints are rewarding to follow.

If there are readers out there who are worried about this novel repeating what Stoker has written, that is not the case here. The author brings a sufficient amount of his own writing style and originality to the story to make it different from Stoker's novel (this novel is both similar to and different from Stoker's novel). His way of writing about the familiar characters from Dracula feels fresh and exciting, because he deepens the characters.

The atmosphere is satisfyingly dark and unsettling, because the story evokes a gradually growing sense of dread in the reader. The first chapter creates the basis for the dark atmosphere as Professor Van Helsing utters a prophetic warning during Quincey's birthday party and falls gravely ill afterwards. Ever since this moment, the following chapters deepen the atmosphere and lure the reader deeper into the story.

One of the highlights of this novel is what happens between Maurice Hallam and Gabriel Shone. I enjoyed reading about Mr Hallam's travels and how he felt about Gabriel's companionship. It was also compelling to read about the Council of Athelstan and their machinations to control Britain.

I was truly impressed by how fluently the author writes about Jonathan and Mina Harker and their marriage. He fleshes out their difficulties and tells how the shadows begin to deepen in their lives and how Jonathan turns to drinking. Their encounter with Dracula has left them mentally scarred and despite having seemingly normal lives, they've been traumatised by the events.

J.S. Barnes' Dracula's Child is a modern masterpiece of Gothic storytelling. If you're a fan of Bram Stoker's Dracula, you won't be disappointed by this novel, because it's a lovingly written sequel that respects the original story, but is original and unique in its own way. The story is so captivating that it could've been written by Stoker himself.

Highly recommended!