Vlad: The Last Confession

Written by C.C. Humphreys
Review by C.W. Gortner


To undertake the tale of Vlad Dracul, known as the Impaler, a 15th-century Wallachian prince whose savage battle to defend his kingdom against the Turks has been overshadowed by his later incarnation as Bram Stoker’s Dracula, is no mean feat.  In C.C. Humphreys’ evocative and unsettling new novel, the vampire myth is discarded as he painstakingly extracts the historical prince from folklore, presenting a multifaceted portrait of an intelligent youth whose imprisonment by the Turks introduces him to the horrifying practice of human impalement; a defiant ruler faced with a treacherous nobility and the subjugation of his homeland; a paranoid man whose obsessive need for loyalty turned him into a fearsome personage; and a human being denied the privilege to be merely humane.

While the historical record is distorted, what is known about Prince Vlad is not edifying, and Humphreys doesn’t make the mistake of trying to justify him for our modern-day sensibilities. Instead, he frames his character’s increasingly terrible transformation through the eyes of three of his intimates—his closest companion, his confessor, and his mistress—each summoned to tell their story by a warlord seeking to redeem the prince’s Order of the Dragon years after Vlad’s demise. Through their inescapable bond with their prince, we learn of the flesh-and-blood being behind Vlad’s dreadful persona, even as he strips himself of all benevolence. It is here where the heart of the story lies, showing us glimpses of the man Vlad might have been.

Humphreys’ elegant prose and command of his obscure subject matter creates an uncompromising, extraordinary journey into the brutal times and tortured soul of an oft-misunderstood ruler whose reign became synonymous with terror.