Vlad the Impaler was real. Also known as Vlad Dracula, he was a ruler of Wallachia in the 15th century and became famous for his use of impalement as a form of execution. A controversial person, he is even today still considered by some to be an example of leadership. However, most everyone else considers him nothing less than a terror. And of course, the name he used for himself, Dracula, is more famous as a fictional vampire.
This slim graphic novel, which has colored pictures on every page, starts in Vlad’s childhood and goes on to his death. He is definitely not shown in a positive light. There is no hero running through the book’s pages. Vlad is a vengeful, murderous, raping, depraved psychopath. He finds no redemption by the end. It’s basically a no-frills story of his life, and it’s gory…yes, it’s gory. This book is not for the sensitive reader. To be fair, it’s not as gory as it couldbe, considering what Vlad did, but it still has more than enough to turn a reader’s stomach.
As a child, Vlad lives with his good-looking brother Radu as hostages in the Ottoman Empire. Radu takes to this new culture like a duck to water, converting to Islam and becoming lovers with the sultan’s son. He’s a gentle spirit and tries to reason with Vlad’s dangerous anger. It’s no use. Vlad resents where he lives, hates people who aren’t Christian, and wants revenge against anyone who’s wronged him, or whom he believes has wronged him. He watches people get tortured and he kills animals because he can. During this time, his father and other brother are murdered by their enemies, which only makes Vlad more ferocious and raging.
In adulthood, Vlad takes over Wallachia. Being in power only lets him take his depravity to new heights. He slaughters men, women, and children to show people that his rule is absolute. Sometimes he kills for revenge, sometimes as a matter-of-fact business, and sometimes out of pure enjoyment. It’s his enjoying the torture and death that’s the most disturbing. Throughout the book, he becomes progressively worse. One of the most brutal and stark images comes about halfway through the story, when one of Vlad’s helpers looks up in horror at all the impaled people. There aren’t any words and there don’t have to be.
Vlad eventually dies in battle, his head held up. After this, the fictional Count Dracula makes a cameo, complaining, “Frankly, I’m ashamed of my accomplishments compared to those of this so-called human being….” Count Dracula lets readers know the real Dracula was far more evil than the fictional one.
Reviewed by Danica Davidson on October 15, 2009
Vlad the Impaler: The Man Who Was Dracula