Title: Vlad: The Last Confession
Author: C. C. Humphreys
Synopsis (Courtesy of Powell’s Books):
“Dracula. A name of horror, depravity and the darkest sensuality. Yet the real Dracula was just as alluring, just as terrifying, his tale not one of a monster but of a man… and a contradiction.
His tale is told by those who knew him best. The only woman he ever loved…and whom he had to sacrifice. His closest comrade…and traitor. And his priest, betraying the secrets of the confessional to reveal the mind of the man history would forever remember as The Impaler. This is the story of the man behind the legend…as it has never been told before.”
Thoughts: Vlad Tepes is the victim of gossip and propaganda. Vilified during his lifetime, Bram Stoker slammed the proverbial nail into the coffin by making him one of the most recognized and well-known villains of all time. Yet, how much of the stories that persist today are fact and how much is simply history rewritten by the victors? In Vlad: The Last Confession, C. C. Humphreys successfully steps inside the mind of Vlad the Impaler, a.k.a. Vlad Dracula, in an attempt to sift through the fact with the fiction, presenting this notorious ruler in a more human light.
As one might expect of any novel about Vlad Dracula, it is not for the faint of heart. All historians are in agreement that Vlad was one brutal ruler. He earned and deserved his nickname, even if the total numbers or specifics have been lost over time. Yet, as Humphreys’ research proves, he was not doing anything out of the ordinary for the times. His life-long enemies, the Turks, practiced similarly brutal methods of punishment and torture as has been attributed to Vlad. With this in mind, there are some simply awful scenes to read. While the torture and descriptions are not explicit, it is often what Humphreys does not say that lingers with the reader. For those who may be squeamish or not comfortable with the brutality of humanity, then please be warned.
Humphreys definitely did his homework. Vlad: The Last Confession is well-researched, and it shows in every description. The reader has no difficulties imagining life in Wallachia or Turkey, no matter how foreign and historical the situation. Humphreys uses his detailed research to present a plausible alternative to Vlad’s story, one that shows him more as a victim of circumstances and pawn to greater men than a true villain. This humanity is surprising and yet welcome as a counterpoint to history books.
There is a reason why the story of Vlad Dracula has lasted for over 600 years. By all accounts, he was extremely charismatic and a truly remarkable man. Humphreys captures this magnetism and uses it to full advantage. More than average intelligence, distinctive features, a profound sense of family, honor and duty combined to create a man who is more than memorable but almost mythical. Vlad’s personality, while considered by Humphreys, oozes through each page, and readers better understand the fascination. Better yet, rather than ignore it, Humphreys nods to the Dracula myth several times throughout the story, recognizing one of the key factors which has added to Vlad’s mystique.
Vlad: The Last Confession is an honest, dark, and yet engaging hypothesis on the “true” story of Vlad Dracula. C.C. Humphreys’ excellent research brings this infamous man to life. Flitting back and forth between Vlad’s lifetime and after his death, the reader experiences Vlad’s struggles and the state of affairs once he is gone. Through Humphreys’ careful portrayal, Vlad Tepes loses some of the infamy that surrounds his name and becomes sympathetic in a way that is not obvious on the surface. A reader is forced to ask him or herself of just how s/he would react if put into similar situations as Vlad experienced. A relationship between Vlad and the reader develops through grudging admiration of this man, who was forced into situations that would break most people. Vlad: The Last Confession allows the reader to develop an entirely new image of the name, Dracula.
Thank you to Jen for sending me her copy!