I Am Dracula by C. Dean Andersson
Published by Zebra Books in October 1993
I have enjoyed the character of Dracula ever since I was a wee lad and saw Bela Lugosi appear as the undead count one Halloween season. I was also a big fan of the In Search Of series hosted by Leonard Nimoy and remember being fascinated by the Dracula episode and learning of Vlad Tepes for the first time. Needless to say I've read a few books and watched many more documentaries on the historical figure over the ensuing decades. Having an interest in both the fictional character and the historical figure, I'm rather demanding when it comes to mixing the two together; even in fiction. If I'm reading a historical fiction book about Vlad the Impaler, I don't take kindly to the idea of him turning into a vampire. On the other hand, if the story is about Bram Stoker's creation and it mixes in the historical figure, then this can be quite entertaining, such as in C. Dean Andersson's I Am Dracula.
Reminiscent of Bram Stoker’s novel, I Am Dracula is written as if you were reading a book that was penned by Dracula himself. The story opens with four year old Vlad learning a deadly secret: he is told by his servant that she is actually his mother. His father, who has forbidden this secret to be revealed, finds out and has her executed for practicing witchcraft. Vlad is made to watch and holds his mother’s gaze as she is burned alive. Time goes on and young Vlad Dracula has a vision of a young gypsy girl whose name is Tzigane and she proclaims that one day they will marry. This dream stays with Vlad as the story follows the historical Vlad Tepes as he and his brother, Radu, are given to the Turkish Sultan Mehmet II as hostages for their father’s betrayal. It is here, as it was for the historical figure, that Vlad is shaped into becoming the man of legend.
When history has sufficiently unfolded, Mehmet sends Vlad back to Wallachia to be his puppet on the throne; history has taught us the consequences of that decision. It is here in the novel that the fictional character’s story takes over. Shorty after his return to Targoviste, Vlad has the remains of his father and older brother, who were killed by their fellow nobles, found and interred in the family crypt. They prove to be vampires and are about to feed on Vlad when Tzigane appears and wards them off. She convinces him to meet her the following night at her cabin in the woods – she would enchant Vlad’s horse and it would take him to her if he came alone.
Vlad and Tzigane meet and the gypsy witch explains that he is to be Satan’s king on Earth and her his queen. Some time is spent in convincing him that Satan is not the evil one and that the false God of light is not all that he appears to be. They fall deeply in love and Tzigane begins to train Vlad in the ways of the occult in preparation for his role as king. Before that can come about, certain prophecies must be met. With Tzigane’s superior powers, she is able to help Vlad fulfill these prophecies – although he still struggles with the idea of Satan not being evil.
Vlad Dracula loses his throne, as did the historical figure, but here Vlad and Tzigane go to a secret coven of the undead where she becomes a vampire to help further Vlad’s occult powers and knowledge. He is at first repulsed by the very idea of the undead, but their love carries them through that obstacle and guides him to accept his destiny and become Satan’s Earthly king.
After years of training, the time has come for Vlad to once again return to the world of the living and finish fulfilling the prophecies by becoming a hero in his land and reclaiming his throne. The story then tells some more of the exploits of the historical figure until all the prophecies are fulfilled and Vlad has decided to join Tzigane in undeath as a vampire himself.
This he does, meets with Satan and learns many more occult secrets, including the ability to freely walk in the daylight; something that Tzigane has missed so very much. With Satan’s permission, he shares this knowledge with her and they spend the next day in the sunlight. On their return to the castle, Satan betrays them and gives Tzigane to the false God of light where she is to suffer an eternity of torture. Enraged, Dracula vows to destroy Satan and rescue his beloved. It’s not that easy though, as Satan used his powers and erased the memory of Tzigane from everyone’s mind, including Dracula’s. It takes him a year to remember her and in that time the legend that we know as Dracula is born.
Needless to say, Satan is outraged and so imprisons Dracula, who eventually manages to escape. It is here that he meets another witch, this one is not a follower of Satan or God, but Mother Earth. She helps Dracula regain his powers and remember his past lives which explains Satan's jealousy of Dracula and Tzigane's love. There's an interesting passage where it is said that they both have lived many different lives throughout the ages and have loved each other in all of them. It is also implied that one of Dracula's past lives was that of Jesus Christ! With the help of Mother Earth, they take the battle to Satan and the false God and are able to rescue Tzigane. Dracula nurses her back to life and they live together through the centuries...
The book turned out to be more of a love story than what I was expecting, but I really enjoyed I Am Dracula. It's an easy read and quite the page turner. I've read online that some people don't take kindly to this book and it's pagan/religious beliefs. I don't anything about that really, and just went along for the ride. And what a ride! The book kept my interest all the way through and I really wanted Dracula to rescue Tzigane before the end. It's a little light on the historical Vlad the Impaler, but still a good read nonetheless.