Synopsis: London, 1917. England is caught in the grip of war. Every day the casualties grow in number. Every day the outlook appears bleaker. And every day the need increases to win this conflict at any cost. Now the most dreadful possibilities are considered which would not be thought of in peacetime.
From a strange and secret nunnery to the library of the King, from a cell with an impossible occupant to the house of Mina Harker, a wicked plan is set in motion and a long-awaited revenge begins.
For this age of death and battle, this world sunk deep in blood shall seem – to Count Dracula – very much like home…
Review: With Dracula’s War, writer Jonathan Barnes faced the unenviable and frankly thankless task of all scribes of historical fiction. He had to construct a story that credibly threatened the status quo without actually threatening the status quo. Additionally, though, he had to conclude the trilogy established with Dracula’s Guests and Dracula. Did he thread the needle in an engaging and meaningful way despite the structural limitations? Yes, he did.
Barnes compensated extremely elegantly for the tactical constraints placed upon him by history. He allowed the military aspects of World War 1 to recede in favor of the psychological impacts on the characters. I truly appreciated how Mina’s isolation and desolation mirrored her son’s. I felt the power of Mina’s domestic losses as keenly as Quincey’s in the field. I understood the lack of exposition concerning all the deaths. It was enough that they occurred and that they weighed down the living.
Throughout the existential dread and melancholy, Dracula acted and forces opposed him. I won’t bore with the details, because Dracula narratives exploit a limited number of tropes and the wonderfully lyrical surprises Barnes sprinkled into the story should be savored. Suffice to say, internal logic is our friend.
The entire cast was superb and obviously had a blast with the old-school acting by declamation. Supporting standouts included Hannah Arterton reprising Sabine and Deirdre Mullins returning as Mina Harker. Both women had multiple levels to play, often simultaneously.
Of course, Mark Gatiss effortlessly took center stage in a role he has absolutely made his own. Gatiss’ power throughout came from his acute awareness that less is more in audio. The King of the Undead never needed to shout; it was enough that he spoke at all. Gatiss perfectly portrayed coiled menace preceding inexorable action — perfectly portrayed Dracula!
Dracula’s War was an excellent conclusion — sounding all the main and grace notes it should. That said, it would be lovely if these characters were incorporated into the wider Big Finish universe. Some crossovers practically write themselves.
- You can purchase Big Finish: Dracula’s War here.
- Audio Production10