TITLE: Stoker’s Wilde West
AUTHOR: Steven Hopstaken & Melissa Pruse
GENRE: Historical Fiction, Horror, Adventure
PUBLISHER: Flame Tree Press
PUBLICATION DATE: 11th August 2020
MY RATING: 4.5/5
“Thinking they have put their monster-hunting days behind them, Oscar Wilde and Bram Stoker return to their normal lives. But when their old ally Robert Roosevelt and his nephew Teddy find a new nest of vampires, they are once again pulled into the world of the supernatural, this time in the American West. A train robbery by a band of vampire gunslingers sets off a series of events that puts Bram on the run, Oscar leading a rescue party and our heroes being pursued by an unstoppable vampire bounty hunter who rides a dead, reanimated horse.”
Thoughts & Opinions
People are often considered to be creatures of habit. We have our morning routines, our favourite spots for lunch, even our preferred spot on the sofa. These habits and routines provide us with a sense of familiarity that offers comfort and security. No doubt we can all think of several things that we do on a daily or weekly basis from which we take great pleasure in and would be disappointed to lose that sense of familiarity were things to change. That desire for familiarity can also be seen manifested in how we react to films, music, and books; bands whose latest albums are perfectly good but I’ll never listen to them because they differ too much from what I liked about them in the first place, Star Wars movies that are lambasted (rightly or wrongly) for not having that same ‘Star Wars’ quality to them as the original trilogy, or even book series that end up veering too far from what made them successful in the first place. It’s a fine line.
When I learned of Stoker’s Wilde West, my thought immediately turned to the old adage “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” What had made its predecessor, Stoker’s Wilde, so successful was its epistolary form and fictionalised versions of real people, and I loved it (You can read the review here). I was excited at the prospect of a sequel but also concerned that what I loved about the original might not be there. Fortunately, my concerns were unfounded.
Stoker’s Wilde West brings the series protagonists to fight an assortment of monsters on the American frontier. Once again, the story is told in an epistolary fashion that allows for both plot progression as well as character development. Indeed, much more of this novel is told from sources ‘written’ by secondary characters, providing readers with a deeper and greater insight into this alternate history. The extra attention afforded to these secondary characters, Florence Stoker and Henry Irving in particular, was especially welcome. Combined with what we learned about them from the original novel, these characters have added dimensions that allow focus to be shifted away from Stoker and Wilde, much to Stoker’s Wilde West’s benefit.
Where the antagonists of the original novel were, if anything, its biggest flaw, in Stoker’s Wilde West they complement the protagonists excellently. The ‘Pale Horseman’ is kept shrouded in mystery so as to create a sense of mythology and foreboding whenever he appears (or indeed is even mentioned by another character). The fact that he is one of the few main characters not to author any of the documents used to tell the story certainly adds to his seemingly enigmatic nature.
In Stoker’s Wilde, we got our first taste of a fantastical alternate history and its peculiar characters. With Stoker’s Wilde West, Hopstaken & Prusi have taken this and developed it into a world that is vivid, encapsulating, and thoroughly enjoyable. With the ending written to set up a third book in the series, I look forward to their future adventures.
Thanks to Flame Tree Press and NetGalley for the ARC in exchange for an honest review