A biography of the 15th century Prince of Romania, Vlad Dracula, on whom Stoker based his fictional character. It covers his career as ruler of Wallachia, terrorizer of Transylvania and crusader against the Turks, and examines how closely he compares to his fictional counterpart. This biography shows "Vlad the Impaler" to be a man as extraordinary in his political and crusading abilities as he was in his evil. He was considered a hero by the Pope and by Romanians whom he liberated from the Turks, and generations of Russian Turks studied accounts of his political genius and used his regime as a model for their own. Yet Vlad is remembered first for his crimes, excessive in both nature and number. He kept a vastly superior Turkish force from attacking his capital by constructing an infamous "forest of the impaled". Only in the context of his times - times of plague, of the beginning of the Renaissance, of literally cut-throat politics and conflict between East and West - can one understand fully the many faces of Dracula. In this book the authors offer a view of Dracula and his influential era.
Dracula, that archetypal vampire made infamous in Stoker's 19th century Gothic romance cum horror story, is not entirely a myth. His prototype, Prince Vlad III of Wallachia (now Romania), alias Dracula (not of the devil but of the dragon, after the Order bestowed on his father by Luxemburg's King Sigismond in 1431), sobriquet "The Impaler," was a Byzantine/Balkan 15th-century condottiere who by adroit diplomatic realpolitik kept his principality independent of both Turk and Magyar. Internally he stayed in power by decimating the feudal boyar aristocracy, by centralizing the state administration and building up a peasant army. Dracula is known, however, not for his nation-building but for the means he used - "he blinded, strangled, hanged, burned, boiled, skinned, roasted, hacked. . . nailed, burned alive and had his victims stabbed." Considered a folk hero in Romania, his reputation as a legendary monster is based on tales originally spread by German refugees from Transylvania. The authors, astoundingly multilingual, have sifted through a plethora of surviving documents and artifacts to produce this portrait of the man - "stem, unyielding" and sexually disturbed - his times and his society, including tidbits from their earlier In Search of Dracula. They do not claim that this is a "definitive biography" (because "too many pieces of the puzzle are still missing") but it's a sturdy enough reconstruction. (Kirkus Reviews)