Sunday, June 6, 2010

Mina: The Dracula Story Continues

Written by: Marie Kiraly
Softcover: 342 pages
Publisher: Berkley Trade
Language: English
December 2007, $14.00
Genre: Fiction/Historical/Vampire

She tasted the blood of Dracula...

In Bram Stoker's immortal Classic, Mina Harker became the living breathing object of an obsession- only to fall prey to the stalker's seductive powers. There was only one way to save her soul- by destroying Count Dracula, the creature who controlled and consumed her. But was the spell broken? Could Mina really return to the ordinary turns of a day, to the constraints of a Victorian marriage, after the pleasure of such exquisite darkness?

She lives to tell the tale…

This is the haunting story, as told by the Dark Prince’s most infamous mistress, revealing an unsettling, sensual, and remarkable tale of love that refused to die.


Bram Stoker’s Dracula is a wonderful piece of fiction. Not only has it inspired hundreds of movies, television shows, books and movies and made vampires pretty much famous, but the book itself actually has a lot of themes that were fairly progressive for its time. When I was in college we looked at all of this: the role of women in Victorian times, sexuality, immigration, etc.

When I picked up this book, I was looking for a different interpretation of the Mina story. The tale itself is steeped in a woman coming into her own independence and sexuality, so I was hoping this would continue that exploration especially since the cover depicts a corset with the words: mistress, victim, lover. I was expecting a bit of an erotic retelling or at least a new interpretation like Susan Kay’s Phantom which deals with the Phantom the Opera story.

Maybe that is why I was so disappointed because I was expecting something different than the story I read. I was expecting something new and fresh while staying true to the overall story. However, the adage of never judge a book by its cover sadly came true.

It begins with Mina’s journal and her account of the events leading up to Dracula’s demise. Mina can never go back to the life she once led after all that has happened. She wants and needs something else. Alas…anything good stops there. Then again this is just my opinion.

Things I loved: As always there is something good in every book. I did like the cover. I just didn’t get what the cover promised. I will say that the author managed to get the speech right, at least there was not any jarring inconsistencies. I did like how she continued Stoker’s way of telling a story through the journals of those involved. For the most part the prose seemed to adhere to the Victorian style and for that Miss Kiraly gets a nod.

I did like an idea that was proposed halfway through and that was that perhaps Mina was mad. That there were never any vampires and that maybe a thirst for blood meant something else. That passion and blood were mixed and that Mina could not tell the difference. When she begins to crave her lover’s blood, is that really what she is craving?

The beginning of the book isn’t horrible. It continues very nicely with Mina forever being watched by Van Helsing to make sure she isn’t a vampire, to the rest of those involved trying to make sense of it all. It’s slow in pace, but I don’t mind that. I just wanted it to go somewhere. I wanted it to be expanded and explored.

Things I didn't love so much: I finished it, so yeah. I think my biggest gripe is this was not the book I was expecting. Instead characters were shadows of what they could be. Jonathan Harker becomes a corporate tool and lacks the loving persona he had while Dracula was alive towards his wife, Mina decides to have an affair (which I am not completely aghast to, it was just the way it was done that drove me nuts), and Van Helsing, Jonathan and Seward apparently forget all that they have seen and done because they lock Mina away for believing in vampires. To top that the brides didn’t actually die and continue to wreak havoc on the countryside. Also apparently Dracula had a sister. Bah.

The few sex scenes are not very well written and seem out of place with the rest of the story. Once again, I was expecting more and I didn’t quite get it. I think you can stay true to the time period, but have Mina be a woman who is growing comfortable with her own sexuality and who refuses to adhere to Victorian sensibilities after all that she has been through. I would have been fine if she had shown this independence through her marriage or in other ways. For me at the end of Dracula I have always felt or wanted Mina to be that woman that wore red while everyone else did not. The woman who would call her husband by his name while in public or shamelessly reach for his hand or a kiss. Mina traveled far from her home to save her husband. She risked much, including her soul just to have Jonathan safe in her arms. She loves him, that I do believe. I just wanted more from her and of her.

The last bit of course is almost eye rolling, but I finished it. Suddenly, the vampires that have not been throughout the entire story appear. Except they were the same women that Van Helsing decapitated in the book. But apparently their ghosts are just as scary. And one of them is a good guy, or at least that is what the convenient journal that she has left wants you to believe. Oh and did I mention that Dracula has a sister and that she was one of his brides?

I wanted Mina to be the liberated woman, the woman who is strong and independent. Sometimes we got glimpses of it. She does not want to be the dutiful, typical Victorian wife when she goes home. She wants more. I get that. I get that she wants to feel the same passion and lust that she felt with Dracula, but can not seem to find it with his husband who has gone from doting to…well a cold fish. So she goes for Lord Gance, a narcissistic arrogant ass because apparently he reminds her of Dracula.

Buy or Borrow: Borrow

Part of: Stand Alone

Also Recommended: The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova

2 out of 4 happy bibliosnark bookmarks

Have your own review? Let me know and I will post it.


Harry Markov said...

Sounds liek a snooze book. Now, I am all for Mina getting her kick-ass on like I sawe happen in the movie League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. It was not a true interpretation of the comics, but even in the comics Mina is far from being a typical Victorian woman.

Smirking Revenge said...

I love Mina in League (love the comic and I'll watch the film if its on cable because I adore Peta Wilson and apparently still mourning the demise of La Femme Nikita). I also dig her in the bad yet somehow entertaining Demons tv show. The cover was extremely deceiving. Kind of bummer.

Harry Markov said...

I was actually disappointed with the comics, because I really thought Mina was a vampire and so wanted to read about her as a vampire, but I am now quite interested to pick them again.