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Chris Humphreys, better known by his pen name C C Humphreys is an author of 'historical adventure' novels. He used to be in The Bill before publishing his first book, The French Executioner (about the man who came over to behead Anne Boleyn - also a great book), in 2002. Vlad was published in 2009.
Vlad, The Last Confession, is a colourful and brutal book, combining legends and facts together. It is based on the story of Vlad III, Prince of Wallachia, known after his death as Vlad the Impaler ,and the basis for the legend of Bram Stoker's Dracula. This is far from the vampire book that you would expect with it being about Vlad. The book is set five years after Vlads death in 1481 when three people from Vlads life, his former mistress, comrade and priest, are summoned to bear witness to Vlads life and deeds. It is a fantastic way of getting a large amount of information about a character from three different sources and the differing relationship he had with each of them. Its starts with the Vlad being a hostage of the Turks and shows where he learnt the horrific punishment and torture techniques. It is always where he learnt the motto 'we torture others so they cannot torture us'. It shows him in a different light to any other story I have ever heard of - as a champion for Christendom trying to bring peace and prosperity to his lands rather than a bloodthirsty tyrant. Maybe he is bloodthirsty, but so was everyone else around at the time trying to keep a kingdom together! It also looks at the struggle between the Christians and Muslims - Vlad is raised as a Christian but then moved to be raised by the Muslims Turks.
I thoroughly enjoyed the book, though some of it is incredibly gruesome, but back in the fifteenth century, I am not sure it would really have been considered so bad. There were times when reading it that I wanted to stop as I found it quite disturbing as the torture is so explicitly described, but part of me wanted to continue to see what happened in the end! It is a refreshing look at a story which has been told many times before, but never in this way. I don't want to give too much away, but it is definitely worth a read for those with strong stomachs - you don't even need an interest in the historical facts - I found it was so well written that I would have read it regardless. Humphreys seems to describe a period of history that so little is known about, it is almost as if you are there, but at the same time, so please you are not!
C C Humphreys is such a good author, I have recently read The French Executioner, as mentioned before, and have just ordered Blood Ties from the library. I will definitely be looking up more of his books in the future.
You can currently buy on Amazon for £1.11 + £2.80 postage!
I am giving him 5 stars for the well written and well researched book, where you can draw your own conclusion about Vlad from his last confession!
As my vampire obsession seems to be growing, I decided a while ago that I should really find out more about Stoker's inspiration for his novel. I saw this book in Asda for just under £4 and it sort of made its way into the basket without my partner noticing. This book is a fictional work of Vlad Dracula's real life. C. C. Humphreys has done his best to stick to the historical facts that are known about Dracula whilst weaving a tale that is enjoyable to read.
Vlad Dracul 'The Dragon' - Warlord of Transylvania. Father of 3 boys. Dracul means dragon and the name Dracula means son of Dracul
Mircea Dracula - Eldest son
Vlad Dracula - Born is 1431, he became known as Warlord of Ungro-Wallachia, Lord of Amlas and Fagaras and Brother of the Order of the Dragon
Radu Dracula - Youngest son born in 1436
Ion Tremblac - An ex knight who has been imprisoned for 5 years so he is nearly blind and unable to stand up straight. He was Dracula's closest companion in boyhood.
Ilona Ferenc - Abbess of the Sisters of Mercy at Clejani. She was Dracula's mistress in her younger days
Brother Vasilie, the Hermit - he was Dracula's confessor
Hearing the last confession
Petru Iordache, Spartar of Poenari Castle - His boss is the Warlord of Wallachia. He is very polite and knows his job well but he desperately wants to become a Brother in the Order of the Dragon if it becomes active again.
Janos Horvathy, Count of Pecs - Still secretly grieving the death of his wife 20 years previously and he believes it happened because he is cursed. He was a member of the Order of the Dragon.
Cardinal Domenico Grimali, Papal Legate - a great fat man who is full of his own self importance.
At the Turkish court
Hamza agha, later Hamza pasha - Dracula's teacher who he respects greatly. He is also the greatest falconer of the Sultan. He is kind to his students and a good teacher.
Murad Han, Sultan of Rum - An unspectacular man who regularly walks among his subjects without being noticed. He is a harsh but fair leader.
His son, Mehmet Celebi, soon to be "Fatih" or "The Conqueror" - He is a very arrogant young man, full of his own self importance. He was Sultan for 2 years until his father was begged to come back due to Mehmet's bad decisions.
Abdulraschid, his favourite - Arrogant towards the other slaves due to his position as Mehmet's favourites. He seems very haughty
Hibah, mistress of concubines - She knows her job and expects things to be done properly.
Tarub, maid - very kind soul who has nothing bad to say about Ilona
Abdulkarim, or Sweyn the Swede, janissary - No one knows how he became to be a slave of the Sultan
Hostages at Edirne
The Mardic Brothers (Serbian), Constantin (Bosnian), Zoran (Croatian) & Petre (Transylvanian) - These 5 have formed their own little group. They all hate Vlad, Ion & Radu and tease them at any chance they get. This normally ends in a fight between them
Abdul-Mahir - He is a torturer at Tokat. He is a mountain of a man although he is a eunuch and has no tongue after a previous indiscretion on his part.
Wadi - Another torturer. Vlad first thinks he is a dwarf due to his height but he isn't.
Samuil - The Christian martyr.
The Wallachian Boyars
Albu "cel Mare" ("The Great") - a traitor who tricked Vlad and joined the enemy army
Codrea, vornic (judge)
Buriu, Spartar, commander of cavalry
Cazan, Dracul's logofat, or chancellor
The Metropolitan, head of the Orthodox Church in Wallachia
Black Ilie - Vlad's bodyguard, fiercely loyal to him
Laughing Gregor - One of Vlad's trusted men, also very loyal to him
Stoica the Silent - a mute who is Vlad's body - servant
Pretenders to the Wallachian throne
Vladislav Dan - Vlad's cousin but the two families hate each other and always have.
Basarab Laiota - Another of Vlad's cousins
Matthew Corvinus "the Crow", King of Hungary
Thomas Catavolinos - Ambassador for the Turks
Abdulmunsif - Ambassador for the Turks
Abdulaziz - Ambassador for the Turks
Mihailoglu Ali Bey - Radu's army commander
Jan Jiskra - Corvinus's mercenary commander
Elisabeta - Vlad's first wife, Turcul's daughter
Vlad - Dracula's son
Ilona Szilagy - Vlad's second wife, mother of two of his sons and cousin to King Corvinus. A kind and wise lady
Janos Varency - Thief-taker
Roman - a Moldavian
Old Kristo - Gatekeeper
Hekim Yakub - Physician
The book is split into parts. The first chapter of the prologue tells the story of how the three witnesses are captured ready for the last confession. The story then goes on to explain why the last confession is taking place and you get to find out more about the three witnesses. It is here that you first hear of the Order of the Dragon.
Part One - The Fledgling
Part one of the book tells the story of Vlad's younger days. It explains how he ended up doing his schooling in the capital of the Turkish Empire. It gives the reader a great insight into the early character of Vlad. Vlad is conned with bad odds to play a game against Mehmet, everyone is sure that Vlad's team will lose. 5 of his team members choose not to listen to Vlad and are struck out by the wooden javelin that is thrown. This means that they are out. With only Vlad, Ion & Radu left against a team of 8, will they be able to win? The first meeting of Vlad and Ilona was enthralling and I was almost pleading with him to save her. Vlad and Ion at 16 at this point in the book and Radu is 11. Does Vlad manage to save Ilona? When Vlad is taken from his bed along with his brother, the reader gets to meet the Sultan. He is not happy with how the eldest Dracula Mircea has been behaving and feels that a message should be sent to Vlad Dracul. Vlad Dracula is sent to be a hostage at the torture cells of Tokat. All the students know of this place and fear it. Hamza turns out to be more than I first thought. What happens to Radu & Ion? What happens to Vlad while he is at Tokat? What happens that allows Vlad to return home? Does he get to see Ilona again?
Part 2 - The Impaler
The sultan has died and Mehmet has become Sultan again. He takes Constantinople in 1453. By 1456, 8 years after part 1 finishes, when Vlad is 25 he is ready to try taking back his throne. The first section of this part tells of how he goes about this. I can't tell you too much of the plot now without giving the whole story away. Vlad inspires fear in people to sort out the problems of crime and treachery in Wallachia. As tragedy befalls Ilona, the reader learns why Vlad Dracula became known as the impaler. You learn of Vlad's plans for the future during his first confession with Brother Vasilie. What has happened to Ilona? Will she survive? What are Vlad's plans for the future and will he succeed?
Part 3 - The Crusade
This part starts 4 years after the end of part 2. It tells the story of the crusade and Vlad's role in it. Vlad struggles to keep things under control while he waits for the other Christian countries to join the crusade. I can't say much more or I will give the story away. Does Vlad manage to save Radu from the clutches of Mehmet? Does he finally kill Mehmet? Does Vlad marry Ilona? Which of Vlad's trusted men becomes a traitor? Who is the man in the monk's robes who looks so like Vlad's father? Does Vlad finally get captured and if so who by?
Part 4 - The Last Crusade
This part begins in Feb 1475, 13 years after the events at the end of part 3. There is a surprising twist when the reader finds out what has happened in between those times. Vlad is urged to crusade again but as always his help does not come and he is horribly out numbered. Yet another of his closest friends leaves him. Another almighty twist happens near the end of this part.
I found the first chapter really difficult as I had no idea what was going on but it did become clear as I read a bit more. The book is very well written and has very visual descriptions. I had no problem setting the scene in my mind. The characters are very well described and you can almost imagine them and the way that they act and move. The prologue easily leads in to the first part of the book. I found the information about the social hierarchy and the way life was lived back then very interesting. I thoroughly enjoyed the description of the games played in the Turkish Empire. They were described really well so it was easy to understand the purpose of the game and the rules. The torture at Tokat was sickening but necessary to help the reader understand what happened to Vlad. It really isn't pleasant reading though and is certainly not for the faint hearted. The book took me a couple of chapters to get into it but after that I was hooked and found it really difficult to put down.
The battle scenes were amazing. I had my heart in my mouth during the early chapters of part one. They are so clear, you can almost hear the sound of lance hitting shield. I felt so sorry for Ilona at the end of part 2 after tragedy strikes her. While Vlad is giving his first confession to Brother Vasilie, I found I could easily understand for doing things the way he did. I believe that he honestly did what was best and right for the people of Wallachia. I found part 3 very dark when the traitor is announced and what happens to Ilona. I was quite surprised at how unloyal people were to their royalty back in the times of Vlad. I had always assumed that the majority of people were loyal to their sovereign but I was wrong, money mattered more or being on the side of the one who would win. It was really nice to see the softer side of Vlad at times when he was with his beloved hawks.
The twist at the beginning of part 4 threw me completely as I was not expecting it at all. I finished part 3 before going to bed and had all ready decided in my head what was to happen next but I was completely wrong. I really enjoyed being wrong through as it made the story so much better. I did have a few tears in my eyes; I have to admit when Dracula is returned to Ilona even though the circumstances were not how I had planned it earlier in the book. The huge twist near the end of part 4 left me reeling. Where it came from, I have no idea. I really didn't see it coming at all. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and was really disappointed when it ended as I wanted it to just keep going. I found the glossary of words at the back of the book really useful as it helped me to understand what some of the foreign words meant.
I would thoroughly recommend this book to anyone who likes history, Dracula stories or anyone who loves to read a gripping book.