02 July 2010

Review: Vlad, The Last Confession | C.C. Humphreys

This historical fiction is an account of the life of Vlad The Impaler, told from the perspective of the three people closest to him: his lover, his closest friend and 2IC, and his confessor. We meet Vlad as a young Prince, being held hostage by the Turks in the early 1400s. In this period it is customary to hold the sons of a war lord hostage as a deterrent for attacking or invading your enemies. Devoutly Christian, Vlad receives tutelage in the Muslim faith with his younger brother Radu. When Vlad meets the young Sultan Mehmet their mutual hatred is born.

Vlad is soon separated from his brother and suffers cruel treatment at the hands of the Turks, and is forced to learn and practice horrific torture techniques. It is at this time that Vlad learns the motto "we torture others so they cannot torture us" and we see a significant change in his attitude to torture, and the development of his view on impalement relating to the Crucifixion of Christ. The author is careful not to justify Vlad's actions, but rather reveal the nature of his upbringing and his struggles and conflicts from the perspective of the three confessors.

There is much war, action, torture and conflict throughout the book, but it is surprisingly complex at the same time, with a complicated love story and heart breaking relationship with his 2IC and betrayal by his younger brother. There was also a lot of falconry which I enjoyed!

At one point in the book, Vlad takes control of Wallachia and punishes every law breaker - regardless of the severity of the crime - with impalement. This punishment acts as a deterrent, and within a short time the crime in Wallachia plummets, travellers and traders begin to cross the territory again and the people flourish and grow rich. Two years prior, Vlad had voiced his desire to be able to put a golden bejeweled cup on the edge of the well, and the townspeople would not be tempted to steal it. Vlad accomplished this and said that he couldn't make his people love him, but he could make them fear him. It was this particular aspect of the book that had the most lasting impact on me. Both the nature in which he used fear to reign, but also how his people prospered under this regime, which hadn't occurred to me before.

I absolutely loved this book and was enthralled by the history in the region at this time, and the ongoing struggle between the Muslims and Christians. This is definitely a book for those interested in historical fiction. Anyone interested in reading about vampires should look elsewhere. This is a serious book, with hard hitting issues and a twist at the end.

My rating = *****

Carpe Librum!

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