This is the author’s first work and it’s well done. The overall effect is of a town elder taking his time to unfold a tapestry of events for your singular pleasure. The storyteller’s work puts you in that place where you’re not just reading. That place where you’re on a river, ever flowing forward, carried along by a current that can at times be blissful or malevolent. When reading the book for the first time I quickly heard a thick, rich Romanian accent orating the story from a chair in front of a fireplace in a tavern. Eventually everyone is listening.
In this historical maelstrom we find the human story of two brothers – Vlad Dracula and older Marcus – who are bound to one another by blood but also in duty to their father Vlad II – King of Wallachia, the ‘Dragon.’ Marcus and Vlad find their way through the world together as the younger Vlad goes from his ‘coming of age’ into manhood. The author’s depiction of the brothers’ relationship is the brightest spot of the story. At every turn the connection between them feels natural and organic.
Son of the Dragon brings the violence of the era alive in vivid fashion. Eyes are burned out of skulls, heads are crushed flat with maces or cleaved asunder and teeth are knocked out of mouths. The detailed violence is necessary to depict the grim reality of the day. This was a time when survival relied on quick thinking and often meant being more vicious than the man you were facing. Mr. Foia presents that with satisfied glory.
The author works very well in metaphor here, too. One particular example that stood out for me was when Vlad was spending a night with a sultry performer named Tulip. “Her skin gave out a fragrance of unfamiliar spices that conjured for him exotic places along the Silk Road,” writes Mr. Foia as Vlad finds passion in the Gypsy girl’s embrace. With his reference to the Silk Road Mr. Foia tells us all we need to know about the wonder, pleasure and intoxication Vlad experiences at that moment. What is passion? Here it is a luxury.
I very much look forward to the other books in this series, the second of which is now out. We will learn that while the dragons of fantasy inspire awe, the dragons of our own reality invoke a cold dread.
On a side note, I meant to write this review much earlier than I have been able but my copy was literally passed around through my family. How popular is it? I still haven’t gotten it back. Thankfully I had ordered the Kindle version as well.