POWERS OF DARKNESS: THE LOST VERSION OF DRACULA by Valdimar Asmundsson and Hans Corneel de Roos. Book review

POWERS OF DARKNESS: THE LOST VERSION OF DRACULA by Valdimar Asmundsson and Hans Corneel de Roos, Duckworth Overlook, h/b

Review by Sandra Scholes

Did I ever mention how much I like coffee table books? This is the sort of thick tome your friend could brag about while inviting you into his new home. Through Bram Stoker we got to read of one of the most iconic supernatural villains in literature thinking his novel was the only one around. As readers we would be wrong. Valdimar Asmundsson an Icelandic publisher and writer translated Stoker’s work with a new title; Makt Myrkranna or Powers of Darkness. With a preface by Stoker, the book went unheard of by readers overseas until in 2014 Hans Corneel de Roos found it and realised it had not just been translated but reworked for an Icelandic readership who didn’t view erotica with distain, instead preferred their erotica and horror ramped up.

What gives this a more modern feel is the foreword by Dracula: the Un-Dead author Dacre Stoker, a relative of the original author. The cover is striking in its limited colour scheme with the count depicted as a looming figure comprised of bats, which reminded me of the 90s version of Dracula. There are illustrations through the book and diagrams of Dracula’s castle and other areas of Valdimar’s book which differ from the original Stoker version.

De Roos begins by telling the story of both Stoker and Valdimar’s upbringing and careers. The chapters are short, but there are a lot of sub chapters which suited me fine. At the start there is a foreword by Dacre Stoker, the great-grand nephew of the original author, Bram who has written his own version of Dracula; Dracula: The Un-Dead with Ian Holt. An introduction by the author later, along with the more interesting chapters; A Room with a View: The Floor Plans of Castle Dracula and the Powers of Darkness. ┬áThese are the longest chapters as they comment on the differences between Dracula and Makt Myrkranna. These also act as the juiciest titbits of information for any Dracula fan, for example in the Dracula notes there is a blood-red secret room in Dracula’s castle, while in Makt Myrkranna the Carfax house has a hidden room in a temple where satanic rituals occur. In Dracula there was a detective Cotsford, but the police are inactive in the book. In Makt Myrkranna there is a detective Barrington who investigates the murder of a housemaid. In one chapter, the emphasis is mainly on Harker’s stay at Castle Dracula as it has special relevance.

What is so amazing to us is that here we have a Dracula book that is unlike all the others and we wonder why we haven’t seen it as it offers an alternative to the original novel by Stoker. That someone else could create a more erotic, complete and different version is enough for us to welcome Makt Myrkranna for what it is, Dracula for a more accepting audience. As a book that was written in Icelandic, then translated into the English language, what readers have is a rarity and one I think ranks as a must-read book for its gripping content; the differences between the two books, the deeper and darker subject matter and also the elements of mystery Makt Myrkranna offered to an open-minded reader. When I had only seen books translated for other audiences from German, French or Scandinavian countries, I found this to be the goldmine it is for horror enthusiasts out there.