Saturday, November 8, 2014

The Dracula Chronicles: For Whom the Bell Tolls by Shane KP O'Neill

  Voivode Dracul is the ruler of Wallachia.  He is married and ends up having three boys, a fine legacy to leave behind.  It is an assurance that there will be an heir to the throne.  However, that throne is continuously threatened by one or another.  The Turks on one side of Dracul are always some sort of issue because he has made a truce with them, even though he has made an oath to the Catholic Church to help protect their interests.  In an age where the Crusades were fought, the two do not get along and have had many battles.  When the church wants a crusade, it calls up those who swore an oath to them and they go off to fight.  Not so with Dracul.  He is an Orthodox Christian and doesn't believe the way the Catholic church does.  Not to mention he regularly ignores Hunyadi, one of the main men leading many of these battles, when he wants Dracul's help.
   Because of his truce with Sultan Murad, Dracul ends up imprisoned with his two younger sons, Vlad and Radu.  Had he but listened to his wife, his sons would have at least been at home safe and sound.  Now they were all at the mercy of the sultan and Dracul's oldest son, Mircea is taking his place trying to rule the country until Dracul's return.  But no one knows when that will be, if it ever happens.  The sultan would as soon kill them all if it pleased him.  All of this over a truce and an oath taken by one man.  Bad choices not only affect the one person in this book.  It reverberates throughout the family and the country.  And Dracul makes a few critical errors that could cost him everything.  As it is, his son, Vlad, is becoming friendly with Lucifer without knowing it.  Lucifer has plans for the boy quickly growing into a man.  He will be something to fear when he is an adult, as long as he reaches adulthood.  On the flip side of things, Vlad has a half-brother he doesn't know of that is the exact opposite of him.  A good to balance out the evil to come.

   Shane KP O'Neill paints us a picture of a life that is difficult even in the best of times and much of the time fraught with ever lurking dangers.  A hard life even for the elite in society.  Even though they have the good life compared to most, if ever captured, their fates are much worse than a commoner's would be.  This is the life of the Voivode Dracul and his family.  It is a tragic and devastating story really once you read this first book all the way through.  In the end, even his own allies turn against him and there are few to try and help save him.  The fall of the mighty is a hard fall indeed.
   I enjoyed the fact that this is a historical fiction book.  There was an actual man with the name Dracula and he was a very brutal man.  This man would have been Viovode Dracul's son, Vlad Dracula.  Vlad Dracula was in real life Vlad the Impaler.  We don't see a lot of that brutality in this book, but it begins to emerge at the end.  He is an insanely gifted warrior and his past struggles have molded him with an iron heart.  I do love that O'Neill crafted this story with the main thing being the age old fight of good and evil between God and His angels and Lucifer, A.K.A. the Devil.  It is very creative and you can tell that the author has done his research on the 15th century, the Ottoman empire, and the Balkans.
   This book IS NOT for anyone under the age of 18.  It has some rather graphic parts to it and there is a certain brutality to it that would not be suitable for younger ages.  Even as an adult I found some parts rather shocking.  And this book is no doubt a shocker as well as an eye-opener to what the real Dracula family might have been like instead of just about fangs and drinking blood.  Perhaps that will come later in the series.  For now, we have some very human men in the story that make some mistakes and pay the price for it.  Unfortunately, in this day and age, the price to pay for mistakes is unbearably high.


Interested in a little more background information on Vlad the Impaler/the real life Dracula?  Check out this link:

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