Review of “For Whom The Bell Tolls (Vlad Dracula, #1) (The Dracula Chronicles, #1), by Shane K.P. O’Neill

oneillThis is not your grandmother’s Dracula story. In fact, it’s more about his beginnings, and how his formative years led him to become Vlad the Impaler.

And at the end of this story, you will be saying to yourself, “Well, I can certainly understand why he did what he did.”

It starts at the very beginning of the Christian era. Satan, upon having learned that his hold on humans has been destroyed by Jesus’ crucifixion, makes a vow: at some point in human time, he will find the one who will wreak his revenge.

He finds him in the 15th century–the child Vlad Dracula. But what he doesn’t know is that Vlad’s father’s illegitimate child has also been born to the gypsy woman he raped. This child, too, is destined for greatness–but of a different nature.

A masterful mix of history and fiction, this tale is nothing short of genius. It focuses on the early years of the Dracul reign, and a strange curse that falls over both legitimate and bastard child alike. The reader is taken back and forth between historical facts and fictional encounters without any stop in the action.

The military strategies, the protocol, the constant mental chess game that flows in peace negotiations–so much more than is outwardly obvious to the casual reader. But every lift of the eyebrow, every sigh–it means something, whether in defense or in capitulation. And there is always an equal and opposite reaction that carries the reader from one even to the next without a stop.

The historical facts of Vlad’s imprisonment by the Turks, and the possible fiction of his military prowess deeply impressing his captors, the battles, and the results of their outcome, all play a part in this fantastic story.

And then there is the presence of the evil malevolence that seems to overshadow the lives of the Draculs from the very beginning of Vlad’s life. Regarding the crucifixion narrative that starts this story, I was very much gratified by the respect the author has for this very sensitive scene. The connections he makes between the denizens of the dark and the angels of light are very unique.

What impressed me the most was the love the elder Dracul had for all of his sons, and the way he strived to stay faithful to his oaths of defending the Faith. He knew that going against the Turks, which was what he had sworn to do, would be the death of Vlad and his brother. The way he agonizes over this, and how his decision affects both sides, are skillfully told by a man who knows his 15th-century history.

To the squeamish or sensitive, I give fair warning–there are some brutal scenes in these pages. But without them, would we consider war less brutal than it is?

History fans–both of fiction and non-fiction–would love this book.

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