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Book Review

Powers of Darkness: The Lost Version of Dracula (2017)

A mostly good retelling of the Dracula tale, but may contain too much info for fans to sink their fangs into.

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Dracula is one of the most iconic vampires in the world of literature with his rich lore, Transylvanian roots, and his association with the very real historical figure Vlad Dracul. Powers of Darkness: The Lost Version of Dracula is the Icelandic adaption of the original novel written by Bram Stoker, Valdimar Ásmundsson, and  Dacre Stoker. The book was translated by Hans de Roos and even features an afterword written by John Edgar Browning.

Being a long-time Dracula fan myself from watching the movies, spending hours reading the anthologies from page to page, and even reading the original novel written by Bram Stoker – it surprised me to find a new part of the Dracula storyline pop-up.

There are a few differences with Powers of Darkness compared to the original text of Dracula. One of the most notable differences in the change in character names like ‘Jonathan Harker’ being renamed ‘Thomas’ Harker. I found the change in names a bit odd, but it didn’t take away from the overall storyline. There are author notes scattered across every page offering extra information on the Icelandic version of the story or pointing out differences between the original noel and the translated version.

The first third of Powers of Darkness details the life of Bram Stoker, giving greater insight and research into the author’s original masterwork, Dracula. It reads more like an in-depth observation and comparison of the separate works that can be hard to sort through with the intent of reading passively. The information is detailed as the author outlines minute details mentioned in the actual story, like how the infamous Jack the Ripper may have been mentioned, and even includes a map of what Castle Dracula looks like based off descriptions in the book.

While I eventually did some to appreciate the dense information presented and to learn more about Bram Stoker, it did cut down on my excitement for the actual story. I just wanted to walk back into Dracula’s castle and re-experience the terror of meeting the count face-to-face and being trapped within his domain. What new horrors awaited Thomas Harker and how would he overcome them? How did this representation of the Count differ from the one readers were introduced to in the original one originally written by Bram Stoker?

One of the neat aspects of Powers of Darkness is the preface written by Bram Stoker when the Icelandic translation of his novel was published in 1901. Stoker details the different experience readers can expect with this re-telling of the Count. This whetted my appetite enough to expect notable differences from the original Dracula and for the first half of the story, and that’s exactly what I received.

Thomas Harker is on his way to meet with his client, Count Dracula, at his home in Transylvania. The visit is all business, helping the count get set-up for his move to London. One of the most notable differences are the erotic elements sprinkled throughout Thomas’ visit in the form of a ‘cousin’ the Count has living in the castle. This woman makes her appearance known to Harker, and several times attempts to seduce him. She appears to have the power to bewitch him at certain points during Thomas’ visit, but each time is unsuccessful due to the cross he wears around his neck.

The Count himself has a few notable differences compared to the original Bram Stoker version which were expanded upon during the time Thomas is in the castle. Dracula has a following of creatures described hairy, ape-like creatures with wolfish tendencies who worship the Count on occasion. These creatures follow his orders and do his dirty work, and during a worship ceremony even devour a young woman.

During his imprisonment, Thomas’ situation progressively worsens until he reaches the conclusion there’s no choice but to escape Castle Dracula, even if he dies in the process. The story then switches over to his fiancé Wilma Harker –”Mina” in the original Dracula story – and details her search for Thomas. During this point in the story, things change from a cohesive narrative to more of an outline of the events taking place, similar to an editor’s version with notes detailing the actions of the characters without fleshing out the story.

The ‘notes version’ of the last third of the Powers of Darkness was never fully fleshed out into a full story. One example is the journey Wilma undertakes to Transylvania to find her husband, there is barely any dialogue, transition, or descriptions given during her travels. Each chapter thereafter is only a couple of pages long detailing the actions of the characters and topics discussed between them, but not fully fleshed out into a story. It felt like reading the author’s annotated version of the story taking place, but instead of going back to fill in all the fine details they stopped working after fleshing out Thomas’ captivity in Castle Dracula.

Powers of Darkness: The Lost Version of Dracula is a good read, but the way the story and detailed information is presented is confusing. While I enjoyed the first 2/3rds of the book, the last third of the novel did nothing to whet my appetite for revisiting the story of Count Dracula. Fully fleshed out, the Icelandic version of the story would have been phenomenal. My only hope is someone decides to pick up the manuscript for Powers of Darkness and fully flesh out the rest of the story, instead of simply presenting the editor’s version of events.