Hello! It’s Thinking Thursday, and that means it’s time for a review 😀 I read this book for a book club I helped start up recently, and talking things through with the others in the book club definitely helped me think about the book a bit more.
Title || Anno Dracula (GoodReads)
Author || Kim Newman
Published || 2011 by Titan Books (Reprint)
Form || Paperback
Genre || Alternate History, Paranormal, Adult
Rating || 3/5
Yay || Writing style, the reference game, the characters, the worldbuilding
Nay || The reference game, dissatisfying, the last chapter
Summary || In a world where Count Dracula married Queen Victoria, our heroes hunt down Jack the Ripper, who goes around killing vampire prostitutes.
The key thing about this book is that it could have been so much better than it was.
It wasn’t bad. It was fun, it was entertaining, it was a quick read (I finished its 400 pages in about 2 days, between work and 6-hour gaming sessions). I found it particularly interesting that we know from the first two chapters who Jack the Ripper is–so the book isn’t really about finding out who he is for the reader, but rather watching the characters go through the trials and tribulations of doing so. Where one mystery is solved for the reader, others are not. Usually I’m not a fan of dramatic irony (I usually find it annoying rather than amusing) but I found that it worked well here.
Less well went the reference game. Newman mentions in his afterword that he’s misappropriated many characters from history and from fiction. Sherlock Holmes is in prison and Inspector Lestrade is hunting for Jack the Ripper. Dracula is the Queen’s consort, and Dr. Jack Seward is helping the poor and downtrod. Bram Stoker has disappeared, and Oscar Wilde makes an appearance. Dr. Jekyll and Dr. Moreau research vampires. Carmilla was apparently killed some time ago.
I have to admit, i was rather excited when I caught these references (among others). It didn’t work, however, for me in that I found myself glazing over other names, at once curious and too lazy to discover which were references and which original. Newman takes most heavily from Dracula, the stories of Sherlock Holmes, and the actual Jack the Ripper case from the 1880s (which, thanks to a class I took this past semester, I knew rather well). You don’t have to know these things to enjoy the book on its own merits, but I found that it helps (even as the other references, like Lord Ruthven, ran away from me).
However, Newman complimented this throwing together of worlds with splendid world building. I found the different bloodlines for vampires interesting to learn about, and the way in which vampirism changed London was absolutely brilliant. Honestly, I think it saved the book. The characters were decent, but I don’t feel like they stood out very much. Genevieve would be called a Mary Sue, I think, if we tucked her into fanfiction. I wish Charles’s motivations in marrying Penelope were clearer. An extra dose of character development would have done a lot for this book, honestly. There was too much going on for everything to matter as much as it could have.
The end, though. The last chapter just didn’t fit with the rest of the book, in my opinion. It felt rushed. The writing style mimicked that of a previous chapter–but where it had worked in the previous chapter, it didn’t work here. I wish it had been handled differently, spread out a bit more, so that the mystery (which, to me, wasn’t a mystery at all) were in the execution of the act rather than the act itself.
I’m just a bit torn on this book. When I give the first book in a series 3 stars, it usually means I’ll give the next book a chance. Here, though, I don’t know.
Recommended for? Fans of the above mentioned works, alternate history, and vampires in general.
Have you read Anno Dracula? What did you think?
If you haven’t, do you now want to?
How do you feel about allusion or appropriation
of well-known characters and works?