________________ CM . . . . Volume V Number 13 . . . . February 26, 1999

cover Vlad the Undead.

Hanna Lützen.
Toronto, ON: Groundwood Books/Douglas & McIntyre, 1998.
190 pp., paper, $7.95.
ISBN 0-88899-342-0.

Subject Heading:
Dracula, Count (Fictitious character)-Juvenile fiction.

Grades 8 - 10 / Ages 13 - 15.
Review by Val Nielsen.

** /4

Originally published in Denmark in 1995 and translated by the author for the 1998 Canadian edition, Vlad the Undead is the tale of Lucia, a young medical student who inherits a case full of old documents from her grandfather. The pages that Lucia reads have been written by her great grandfather and are the story of Joseph Maresciu, captain of the Demeter, a Romanian ship discovered stranded outside the Whitby harbour in 1894. Maresciu, its sole survivor, is found half-frozen, unconscious, and lashed to the mast. His narrative is a gruesome tale indeed. On a voyage to England, Maresciu takes onto his ship a mysterious and charming fellow-Roumanian along with forty-nine boxes of Roumanian soil. Despite a vague feeling of unease, the captain is taken in by the pleasant ways of his fellow countryman, and installs "V.D." in his inner cabin. It is not long before the crew starts to disappear, one by one, until finally Maresciu is left alone on board with his "guest" who, as the reader has long ago surmised, turns out to be none other than the infamous vampire, Count Vlad Dracula. Unwilling to abandon his ship, Maresciu ties himself to the wheel, in which position the Count finds him a suitably receptive audience for his life story. The dark and terrible history of Vlad Dracula is then re-counted through Marescui, and, although Lucia is at first repelled as she reads it, she is gradually seduced by the story of the evil count.

      Although well-written and replete with the imagery and language of vampire tales, this little horror tale is hardly compelling reading. A great deal of the book is taken up with the story of the ruthless prince known as Vlad the impaler. Descriptions of his favorite methods of torture abound. From the preface of the novel, written by Lucia's uncle, the reader knows that his niece has disappeared without a trace; hence suspense is minimal, if not non-existent. Older students keen on vampire tales will find Vlad the Undead thin stuff, and certainly prefer the Anne Rice novels, or that fine blending of fantasy and reality which marks Annette Klause's young adult novel, The Silver Kiss. For younger readers, there is Dracula, Tim Wynne-Jones' wonderful re-telling of the Dracula story with illustrations by Lazlo Gal, which was published in 1997.

Not recommended.

Valerie Nielsen is a recently retired teacher-librarian who lives in Winnipeg, Manitoba.

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ISSN 1201-9364