Vlad’s father, King Dracul of Wallachia, is on a diplomatic mission to Edirne to meet Murad, the vastly more powerful Sultan of the vastly bigger Ottoman Empire. Vlad is determined to contribute and, against his father’s will, follows Dracul’s caravan across the Danube and into Turkey – eventually catching up and joining it by stowing away in one of the caravan’s wagons.
The action heats up when Vlad is found out. From then on, you accompany him on a physical and emotional roller coaster ride, with Mr. Foia masterfully dispensing alternate doses of adrenaline and dopamine to you all the way to the book’s cliffhanger ending.
Since I hate spoilers, I’m not going to tell you any more than that – other than to note that the story is replete with harsh, medieval scenes of stealth, pursuit, evasion, capture, torture, escape, robbery, slavery, treachery, espionage, tyranny both petty and great, people getting impaled with swords, and some decent spicy bits as well. All with Vlad at the center, as he … moves to fulfill his destiny against all odds. Vlad is a proper hero in the making, surviving, often just barely, through travails and traumas that would destroy a weaker character. This in spite of him being an impetuous, testosterone driven teenage male with zero planning skills, who really should have listened to Dad and stayed home. Parents of teenagers will relate.
I really enjoyed this book. This is only the author’s second novel, and Mr. Foia has already shown a powerful talent for spinning a tale, and building intriguing and sophisticated characters. He deserves wide exposure: this is the stuff of bestsellers and epic movies. I’d love to see Vlad and company up on the screen at some point.
(Vlad, by the way, is none other than Dracula. THE Dracula. But if your only exposure to that character is via horror stories, you’re in for a surprise. This book attempts to paint a picture of the real-life Vlad the Impaler … pretty different from Bram Stoker’s interpretation).