Lovely image from here– Creative Commons licensed for commercial use and modification
Published posthumously, this short story is about an unnamed Englishman who chooses to roam around a desolate (Romanian?) valley, on none other than Walpurgisnacht, the Eastern-European Night of the Living Dead (so to speak.) It’s full of lovely Gothic tropes- a deserted valley/moor, a sudden storm, a creepy graveyard, and is written by the great Bram Stoker himself. It’s safe to say I had high expectations.
But, to cut a long story short (ahem!), this tale- the first in a collection- is given away free as a Kindle Classic via Amazon. I read it in about five minutes, and to be honest, I’m quite glad I didn’t have to pay for it, as so many questions were posed by this story, that were never fully answered. (I do like a sense of mystery, but it did start to get ridiculous.)
For example, who really is the anonymous narrator? Why is he travelling alone, through what appears to be some shadowy province of Romania, or perhaps Hungary? It’s hardly the picturesque Seychelles, after all. Why does he refuse to ignore good advice? Who is the wonderfully animated, sensual, utterly terrifying half-dead (or perhaps undead, mwa ha ha) Countess that we see, for just a brief, shining moment- all between flashes of lightning? And so on, and so on.
Creepy Gothic forest from here– Creative Commons licensed for commercial use and reproduction
The Countess was the best character, and arguably the best part, of the whole story. I would have preferred it if she had (SPOILER) crawled out of her grave, took a nice sip of a goblet full of blood, settled down by a roaring fire and started to tell the narrator all about her long, bloody life. At the same time fascinating, repulsing and no-doubt seducing him. At least that way I would have had some ANSWERS to these questions, dammit! Instead, the reader gets…well, I’ll try not to spoil it for you. Suffice to say, the mention of Dracula is- after all the Gothic preamble and the building-up of a tension- just that: a mere mention. It was enough to make the narrator faint like a lovesick woman in a Thomas Hardy novel, and enough to make me roll my eyes in sheer boredom. All in all, it was disappointing. If you’re looking for a Bram Stoker tale you can sink your fangs into, leave this one and concentrate on the real big bad vampire novel- ‘Dracula’ itself.
Overall rating: 3 out of 10 stars.