Friday, October 6, 2017

Book Review: 'Princess Dracula' by John Patrick Kennedy

John Patrick Kennedy (Welcome Back!) continues his career as a writer with another deliciously controversial book, reminding us of his first novel PLAGUE OF ANGELS. Brooklyn born of Irish ancestry, now dividing his time between New York City and London, he seems to have inherited the Irish genes for wild tales and has the courage to make his own stories challenging to the conservative readers with such a flair for showmanship that the result of his courageous wanderings through myth, religion, and those oh-so-sacred stories that form our concept of a universe that makes sense (read `creationism') in such a way that within the scope of a prologue and first chapter he has everyone testing his talents assured that here is a new writer of style that is uniquely his own. This movie star good-looking young man is an adventurer (it doesn't take long to figure that out from his writing), having climbed Denali, hiked the Amazon, and even spent a year living in Japan with hardly enough belongings to fit in a backpack. John still loves Asian culture and practices both Jeet Kune Do and Taoism. He has said on his blogs: `I enjoy art (painting and illustrations are my favs), reading other authors, cooking, ballroom dancing, writing (obviously), tennis [a former Wimbledon champion!], fitness, and almost anything that doesn't involve politics. I've gotten about 300 messages about who I am. I'm just the guy who wrote awesomely sick book w/evil angels. Read it if you like angels :).' And that was in reference to the initial series - THE DESCENDED BOOKS 1 & 2. Then he offered a new series – the co-written THE PAX BLACK BOOK - and an entirely different world opened. Now (having read all of his books) he hits a zenith with PRINCESS DRACULA.

The flavor of his genius is apparent on page one – ‘January 1476 Our Lady of the Mountains Convent, near Bucharest Tomorrow I will be eighteen. Princess Ruxandra Dracula knelt in front of the cross in her initiate’s cell. This was the last night she would spend in the small, plain, whitewashed room. The cold of the stones bit at her knees through her thick woolen skirt and cloak. Winter had enveloped the convent, and the cold had wrapped itself around all the buildings, leaving the nuns and initiates huddling together for warmth. With the window and shutters closed tight and the candle lit, the freezing air from outside still crept in, turning Ruxandra’s breath into fog as she tried to call her mind to order. She wanted nothing more than to be in her bed. Her bed warmer—a heated, towel-wrapped brick—was already spreading its warmth beneath the thick woolen blankets. She shivered, then shook her head and closed her eyes. She had to pray before bed. It was her duty to pray. Only, after tomorrow, it wouldn’t be her duty anymore. Her father, Lord Vlad Dracula, the prince—or voivode—of Wallachia was coming for her on her eighteenth birthday. He had sent word two months before. Assuming he still lives.’

John Patrick’s version of vampires (an obviously enjoyed obsession of his) dewlls here - ‘All power comes at a price…Ruxandra learned everything she knows while growing up in a convent. Training to be the perfect nobleman’s wife, she relishes the prospect of a simple life. But everything changes when her father, Vlad Dracula, retrieves her on her eighteenth birthday. Securing her a marriage is the last thing he has in mind…After he performs a mysterious ritual over her, Ruxandra gains uncontrollable supernatural powers. Alone, terrified, and faced with an unknown future, she is left to forge a new life for herself. There’s only one thing she knows: if she doesn’t learn to control her unnatural instincts, she’ll destroy every last shred of her humanity. Princess Dracula is the first book in a dark fantasy horror series. If you like crisp writing, emotional gravitas, and intriguing retellings of classic tales, then you’ll love John Patrick Kennedy’s new twist on vampire lore.

John Patrick Kennedy is secure in his standing with readers and with critics alike. Wherever he takes us next is anybody’s guess – after a few more Princess Dracula episodes. Talent to burn here! Grady Harp, February 17

Editor's note: This review has been published with the permission of Grady Harp. Like what you read? Subscribe to the SFRB's free daily email notice so you can be up-to-date on our latest articles. Scroll up this page to the sign-up field on your right.

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