Kim Newman’s Anno Dracula novels chart an alternative history of Britain, where Bram Stoker’s Dracula survives Van Helsing’s attentions in Transylvania and relocates to England. He woos Queen Victoria, takes over the British throne and become an undead Crown Prince of Britain.
This book isn’t an adaptation of an existing book but a standalone story that fits neatly into the novels’ timeline. In it a group of anarchists are plotting to disrupt Dracula’s Tin Jubilee, a public celebration of his first ten years in power. However, there’s a double agent amongst them, whose intention is to disrupt the plans and foil the plot.
What follows is a brilliant horror thriller, peopled with characters from history and fiction, similar to a vampiric League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. What initially starts looking like an overwhelming cast is deftly handled, as Newman guides us through a labyrinth of plot and counter plot, with an ensemble of characters that are refreshingly female-centric.
Paul McCaffrey’s art reminds us of Bryan Talbot, with a clear line style that would be perhaps too clean if it weren’t for the addition of suitably murky period colouring. It’s super gory, though, from the prisoners hanging from cages outside the Tower of London, having their eyes pecked out by ravens; to flayings that would make the producers of Game of Thrones avert their eyes, McCaffrey embraces gore by spraying blood from jugulars and zooming in on the details. Shockingly brilliant.