I love this book just as much as I did last year. Perhaps even more, if that’s possible. As far as I know, the English version hasn’t been published yet. Until then and before I write about some other stories by Oliviu Crâznic, I figured it would be a good idea to turn my attention to the novel I spoke about some time ago and post another review for it, as a sort of gift/ preview for our English-speaking readers.
If you ask me, I think that …And Then the Nightmare Came at Last is one of the best stories of its kind in Romanian literature and even beyond its borders. It’s well-written, well-documented and the afterword is a perfect starting point for research or simply light reading. I was listening to a presentation not long ago and one of the ideas mentioned there focused on the structure of certain successful literary works. Personally, I think that the plot is not enough to attract the reader. For that reason, I was pleased to find here not only a terrifying and beautiful story, maybe like a broken fairytale, but also carefully built characters. A year after reading the novel for the first time, I forgot some names. But that’s just a minor detail. I still remember sharing their joy, fear and flickers of hope. Looking back, I see the story placed somewhere outside the laws of the world as we know it. The characters remained in my mind as caught somewhere between archetypes and regular people.
This is a gothic novel, a story with vampires, dark forces and the ever-present death threat. The best way to speak of the plot is not to say too much. The less you know, the better. Just know this: along with Arthur de Seragens, we are invited to a wedding, a beginning which marks a mad race against time and death. Little by little, every bit of normality is taken away from the protagonist, revealing the darkest side of one’s soul. You see, it’s not all about monsters and fantasy. There is another part to be discovered, a question with different answers: how do mortals react when they face their worst nightmares? Every piece of information is beautifully crafted and integrated in a complex network of characters, secrets and fear.
There are quite a few aspects which will draw the reader’s attention. Once you turn the final page, you might not feel the need to break what you’ve read in smaller parts, but still. The title goes perfectly well with the text, even if I felt it covering a slightly different part than the original version. Has the nightmare come at the end or was it the only one standing as the final words were put to paper? What difference does it make? The nightmare is always there, even when nobody sees it and a part of it lingers long after it has been defeated.
Whether we speak of humans or vampires, one thing is clear: as enchanting as the night might be, evil is not something you’d want to face. The many characters we encounter could vouch for that. Nobody wins, nobody escapes the confrontation unharmed, not even the vampires. Speaking of which… what makes them special? Everything. I’m not saying that you won’t find similar ideas in other books, but I am so pleased with the way these creatures are presented here.
What makes them truly terrifying (as if killing and turning people into beasts like them wasn’t enough) is that the characters cannot always recognize them. Zombie-like creatures are easy to be spotted and the… hero, so to say, might be able to fight back and win. But vampires can also hide behind a human-like mask. Obviously, they still have weaknesses and they can still be defeated… if they are found. If not, they move on to another victim, continuing a seemingly never-ending dance with death. Word of advice: pay close attention to THE vampire presented in …And Then the Nightmare Came at Last, after you finish the book. You will not be disappointed. No, we don’t know much of its past, but you can fill in the blanks. I’d read a book where the actions are presented from this perspective faster than you can say “blood”.
I suppose this is a good place as any to stop. When you have the chance, take a night to learn more about the characters and what they hide or offer. Enjoy the descriptions and the fast-paced action. One final question: what other vampire novels grabbed your attention?
by Elena Atudosiei