Covenant with the Vampire:
The Diaries of the Family Dracul
Published 1994 368 pages
In 1845 Arkady Tsepesh, with his heavily pregnant wife Mary, returns to his ancestral home in Transylvania after several years of living in London. Arkady is called home upon the death of his father because the management of the family estate has fallen to his shoulders as the last male heir of his great uncle Vlad.
Mary’s initial delight at meeting her new family is soon tempered with doubts about Vlad’s relationship with Zsuzsanna, Arkady’s crippled sister. As Vlad starts to change in front of her eyes from a frail elderly man to a much younger, vigorous and terrifying patriarch it soon becomes clear that the family are in pawns in his horrific games.
The servants’ whisper of a covenant but will Arkady and Mary be able to see the danger and save themselves and their baby before it is too late?
I love this book! The story is a prequel to Bram Stoker’s classic novel Dracula. Covenant with the Vampire is actually the first part of a trilogy of books by Jeanne Kalogridis that takes the reader from about 50 years before the time of Bram Stoker’s novel Dracula and finishes with some overlap with the original Dracula novel.
Jeanne Kalogridis has written this story in the same style as Bram Stoker’s novel. The narrative comes in the form of diary entries by the Tsepesh family, Arkady, Mary and Zsusanna and covers the two week time period from where Arkady and Mary return home to where they finally realise the truth, that great uncle Vlad is actually a vampire. I usually have a problem with novels that are written entirely in diary form because, realistically, who has time to write huge journal entries when they are in the middle of being chased by hungry wolves or vampires? The diary style of narrative seems to work well here and certainly the story is very fast paced which probably helps to distract the reader from thinking of the logistics of journal writing. (And yes, before you say it I know that this is a fictional story and not real life!)
The setting for the novel is traditionally creepy with a classic gothic style. It has all the best ingredients for a vampire novel in a historical setting, family crypts, a dark forest, mouldy castles, surly frightened peasants, evil henchmen and gruesome fates for unwary travellers. It has some modern erotic content, not just the subtle hints of eroticism that Bram Stoker’s novel Dracula contains.
The action in the story centres around Arkady’s firm belief that his great uncle Vlad is a good and kind yet much maligned man, which is slowly eroded as the narrative progresses. Mary upon meeting her family for the first time can see quite clearly that something is not quite right and gradually she discovers more disquieting things.
The reader has the advantage over Mary and Arkady because we know that Vlad is an evil vampire. (This is not a plot spoiler, bring me someone who doesn’t hear the words Vlad, Dracula and Transylvania and think “Vampire!” and I’ll show you someone how doesn’t get out much.) In fact this is one of the ways in which the tension and dread is built up in the story because we can see the innocence of Arkady and Mary and yet we know that Vlad is an evil corrupter. It’s a little like watching a cat stalk baby birds. You want Arkady and Mary to see the danger but you are unable to warn them, and if you did warn them you wouldn’t have the thrill of watching them trying to avoid their fates.
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