"He would have the eyes and ears of the wolf, and the strength of the wolf, but he would also have its hunger."
The Sultan, the Vampyr and the Soothsayer is written by Lucille Turner and published by Hengist Press.
Usually these days any book with vampire (or vampyr) in the title has me running for the hills, as it's usually some nausea-inducing teen love story, but when Lucille Turner approached me to review her book I was intrigued as it is based on the life of Vlad Dracula, aka the real life inspiration for Bram Stoker's Dracula. I'm also fascinated by the era and have a soft spot for beautiful Romania as I spent a month there doing a journalism internship (as you do).
The Sultan, The Vampyr and the Soothsayer is a fascinating book which is bound to appeal to historical fiction fans and provides an insight into an enigmatic figure. At times the book is a little over ambitious and gets swamped in facts and characters, but overall it's a good read and I now want to learn a lot more about the era and the Dracula legend.
1442: When Vlad Dracula arrives at the court of the Ottoman Sultan Murad II, his life is turned upside down. His father Dracul cannot protect him; he must battle his demons alone. And when the Sultan calls for the services of a soothsayer, even the shrewd teller of fortunes is unprepared for what he learns.
Meanwhile, the Ottoman Turks are advancing through the Balkans with Vienna in their sights and Constantinople, the Othodox Greek capital, within their grasp. As Eastern Europe struggles against the tide of a Muslim advance it cannot counter, Western Christendom needs only one prize to overthrow its enemies.
The main aspect that I enjoyed about The Sultan, The Vampyr and the Soothsayer was the era it covered. I've read up a little on Vlad Dracula but didn't know much else about the Ottoman Empire or Constantinople. Turner has obviously done her research and on nearly every page there was something that I wanted to look up and learn more about. But it didn't read like a text book, Turner really bought alive the religious and political power struggles and the effect it had on people.
Turner mixes this history with the vampire myth nicely. She uses a lot of the traditional old terms and legend for vampires, getting back to the route of the legend, undiluted by sparkling skin and neck sucking. Sometimes this did get a little confusing but there is a glossary at the back of the book to refer to, which explains words like Rumani, strigoi and upyr.
The character of Vlad Dracula is fascinating, maybe because as the reader you know a certain amount of legend around him, but Turner writes him as a fully rounded person instead of a horror figure, albeit with some mythical talents. Instead of focusing on Dracula at the height of his powers and fame, Turner looks at him as a young man as he discovers there is something different about himself.
Other characters jumped out as well, particularly Vlad's father Dracul who struggles to control his own dark tendencies. The Sultan Murad and his son Mehmet were also well written and I found the struggle for power interesting.
However, there are so many different characters in this book that some get lost. I wanted to know more about Vlad's brothers, but both, while touched on, got swept aside a little. I also wanted to know a bit more about some of the lesser yet still important characters, like Mara, who was a strong female character who could have been explored more.
Similarly, some important moments get lost in The Sultan, the Vampyr and the Soothsayer. It's so full of detail that some important events, such as deaths and battles, don't get shown but just mentioned later by a character. I think the balance could be a little better.
However, though there were elements that didn't flow well for me, overall kudos to Turner for writing such an ambitious and fascinating book. For the main it kept me turning the pages and I was submerged in the time period and cultures.
My Rating: 3/5
My thanks to the author, Lucille Turner, for providing me with a review copy of The Sultan, The Vampyr and the Soothsayer in return for an honest review.