By Ryan Bradley
Embrace the darkness in this gender-bent Dracula retelling. Maddie is excited about the new adventure’s college life will bring. She dreams of rallies, weird roommates, and exciting courses of study.
Blood Born starts with the same issue many horror novels struggles with today: the characters in the book cannot believe that they are dealing with a vampire. It is a realistic reaction, but there is a vampire on the cover, the book is called Blood Born, and the vampire is named “Dulcara,” an obvious anagram of “Dracula.” The reader knows. Maddie says, “Like a vampire or a werewolf? Do you know how ridiculous you sound?” halfway through the book. It is a slow one-hundred and twenty pages watching them figure it out.
Once Maddie and her friends admit what Dulcara is, the book gets instantly more interesting. Lake does good work playing with the expectations that readers bring into a Dracula adaptation. She questions whether Dracula or Van Helsing or in this case Dulcara or Heeler, is evil, leaving Maddie caught between them. She is having an affair with Dulcara, who Heeler wants dead. Maddie must choose between Jo, Heeling, and their living friends and Dulcara.
By questioning whether vampires are inherently evil, Lake is also digging into the heated immigration debate. The original Dracula is an anti-immigrant story, with Dracula trying to change Londoners into vampires like him, the sub-text being “bad immigrants” from Eastern-Europe would corrupt England into being like them. Van Helsing, a “good immigrant,” assimilates and helps kill Dracula. By challenging this dynamic, Lake is challenging the idea that there are “bad immigrants” corrupting culture.
Lake manages to do that critical work while presenting a diverse cast of characters. While the first half is a bit of a slog, Blood Born sticks the landing. (★★★☆☆)