The sequel to 2016’s Stalking Jack the Ripper, Hunting Prince Dracula continues the story of Audrey Wadsworth, an intelligent young woman with a scientific mind and curious inclination who is recovering from the discoveries made in the previous book. Haunted by the memories of the events that occurred in London, she leaves for the Academy of Forensics Medicine and Science in Romania, the home of Vlad the Impaler (aka Dracula). The castle the school is located in sets the tone for this dark sequel filled with pain and mystery as Audrey must uncover the truth behind the murders that occur there, inspiring one horrific question: is Dracula alive once more?
Published: 19 September 2017
Publisher: Little, Brown & Company
Category: Historical Fiction/Young Adult/Mystery
In this hotly anticipated sequel to the haunting #1 bestseller Stalking Jack the Ripper, bizarre murders are discovered in the castle of Prince Vlad the Impaler, otherwise known as Dracula. Could it be a copycat killer…or has the depraved prince been brought back to life?
Following the grief and horror of her discovery of Jack the Ripper’s true identity, Audrey Rose Wadsworth has no choice but to flee London and its memories. Together with the arrogant yet charming Thomas Cresswell, she journeys to the dark heart of Romania, home to one of Europe’s best schools of forensic medicine…and to another notorious killer, Vlad the Impaler, whose thirst for blood became legend.
But her life’s dream is soon tainted by blood-soaked discoveries in the halls of the school’s forbidding castle, and Audrey Rose is compelled to investigate the strangely familiar murders. What she finds brings all her terrifying fears to life once again.
Rating: 4 Stars
Hunting Prince Dracula begins with a train journey that, of course, is anything but peaceful. There is the tension between Audrey Rose and Thomas; even with her chaperone Mrs. Harvey right beside them, albeit napping, there’s some flirtation that makes the compartment a bit full: of emotion, of romance even? Escaping for a brief walk, Audrey Rose mistakes a fellow passenger for her brother and later on stumbles upon the body of this man just outside her compartment.
What a way to open the book! There is, as I said, flirtatious tension and then that gets smacked aside for a murder. Right there on the Orient Express!
The first few chapters of the book aboard the train deal with Audrey Rose’s state of mind, her traveling to Romania, and then dealing with the murder of this man in a suspicious manner, reminiscent of the method used by Vlad the Impaler. Not a moment’s piece for this heroine. Attempting to assist in the collection of clues, Audrey Rose is confronted yet again by the expectations of male authority figures, who usher those in the corridor away from the body before anything useful can be ascertained.
That doesn’t mean that the situation is out of Audrey Rose’s head. Far from it, in fact, as she considers again the facts and the mistake she made in thinking this man was familiar to her. What sort of frame of mind is she in? Will she be able to make something of herself at the famed forensics school she’s on her way to?
I liked that the societal limitations of the time were included in Audrey Rose’s story. They weren’t hidden in order to make a more palatable story for the reader. We go along with our main character as she deals with pressures and expectations and prejudices. As a woman in the 19th century, she has a lot to contend with. Being more than capable mentally, she has to dodge the insipidness of those around her that doubt her abilities because of her gender.
Thomas was a bit of a challenge to like. I remember his character from the first book, but even so, he has a bit of grating personality, what with the constant teasing and making fun of Audrey Rose. She likes him quite a lot and I assume he reciprocates, but his manner of showing it was not really palatable.
There were many side characters that were introduced, though only a few that we got to know with an degree of familiarity. Anastasia, the ward of the headmaster of the academy, was a good friend for Audrey Rose in place of her dear cousin Liza, as was Daciana, Thomas’s sister. Anastasia could be more than a little “energetic” at times, pulling Audrey Rose into headstrong adventures that might not be 100% wise, but she tried her best to work with what she had in terms of allowances and freedom.
Moldoveanu, the headmaster, was such a pill and quite horrid towards Audrey Rose because of both a somewhat sexist attitude and, as Anastasia explains, a tragic loss that changed his view of the world at large. Radu, a teacher of folklore at the academy, was something of a funny character. He had moments when it felt like watching a train wreck, such as when he told Audrey Rose that she had a delicate constitution and hysteria was common for girls like her. I was mentally screaming at him the whole time he dug himself that particular grave.
The revelation of the person behind the “reanimation” of Dracula was a delightful surprise and the person’s connection not only to Dracula, but to another famous historical figure, was exciting. Their character was not one I would have guessed at being involved in such bloody things and that the author was able to keep that a secret until the very end was good writing. So often I find myself being able to pick up on easy clues and I don’t think I failed here, rather Kerri Maniscalco was just that good.
The aesthetics of the book were an attractive asset to the book. Throughout there are pictures of the places where the book takes place, such as a vista view of Bucharest, a castle like the one in which the forensics academy is located; there are also pictures of excerpts from antiquarian books that offer details about Vlad the Impaler and his legend, as well as a post-mortem room that adds a creepiness factor to the time that Audrey Rose is spending in the academy.
The chapter headers are not left out of the embellishments within the book. Each chapter is topped with a frightening looking scalpel, driving home that Audrey Rose has tools with which to work, but also emphasizing that these tools can be deadly and that this is not a happy-go-lucky novel.
I will admit that the writing style might be a bit sluggish in the middle. The events of the books happen at a relatively good pace, but it felt somewhat difficult to keep my attention during longer passages, such as the evening meals/meetings with Daciana, Thomas, and Audrey Rose or prolonged teasing/romantic interludes with Thomas and Audrey Rose. The intimate moments were alright, I’ll say, but I did feel like there were rather more that felt repetitive and thus affected the flow I had while reading.
Hunting Prince Dracula continued in much the same vein as the previous book in the series, with a brilliant main character who is not perfect. There are plenty of things haunting Audrey Rose from her previous foray into mystery solving, not to mention her attempting to move on from the familial tragedy and discovery in the previous novel. The romance aspect was pleasing and funny, lots of flirtation going on, though seriously frustrating at times due to Thomas’s behavior. The events of the book, the intelligence, the mystery, the adventure, all within the confines of a mountain retreat, made for a great read that will appeal not only to fans of Stalking Jack the Ripper, but fans of period “ghost”/mystery books as well.
Kerri Maniscalco grew up in a semi-haunted house outside of NYC where her fascination with Gothic settings began. In her spare time she reads everything she can get her hands on, cook all kinds of food with her family and friends, and drinks entirely too much tea while discussing life’s finger points with her cats. Her first novel in this series, Stalking Jack the Ripper, debuted at #1 on the New York Times bestseller list. It incorporates her love of forensic science and unsolved history.
I received a copy of this book as part of the Fantastic Flying Book Tour in exchange for an honest review.