F. D. Gross' Review of The Lair of the White Worm / The Lady of the Shroud
Wrapping up the fall season (I know its a little late for Fall now) I finished reading the dual combo book The Lair of the White Worm / The Lady of the Shroud by Bram Stoker. Although Bram Stoker is one of my all time favorite authors of more recent times (may his soul rest in peace), this particular stories were much different then other works of his, and these being one of his last works ever created. One cannot compare these works to his famous "Dracula" because in essence, they are completely different in the intent of the message he was (I think) trying to convey. Regardless, he will always remain as one of my favorite authors to date (in my long list of living and dead authors) who
have influenced my own writing and rightfully so educates me in the wisdom of being a writer.
The Lair of the White Worm turned out to be more of a gothic mystery more than anything. Although it had its moments of suspense and one liners that make you pause and go “uh huh...” it was a glorious read despite its format of “telling” rather than “showing.” It is a period piece. I rather do prefer a little more action then this descriptive tale of gothic architecture and forests (even though its usually my forte). But that’s just it, this story was a super gothic, almost mega. I will not compare it to the level of Dracula, but I will say it had some similar elements of Frankenstein. A stone tower/castle, a flying kite with electricity, Diana’s Grove and the wrym hole deep in the earth. This melodramatic romance borderline between romantic fantasies and bizarre love triangles. Coupled with some suspenseful moments involving mongooses (mongeese?) and witch doctors, and you get some genuine conflict. Even though the reader is under the pretense that this story is one of Bram’s most “goriffic” works (horror and gore), there wasn’t much shown until the end in the way of intriguing plot lines, and this was one of the few times you are actually shown anything in the form of action. There is tons of speculative explaining in the narrative throughout the entire novella type story, which for some may bore, but I found them intriguing nonetheless as long as I was in the “mood” for drawn out descriptions and banter. The way the story ended seemed unfinished, for it stopped abruptly and left me saying to myself “uh-huh”. 3 out of 5 stars for this one.
Moving on, after finishing The Lady of the Shroud after a somewhat long break for me to allow reflection, written by Bram Stoker, which I learned to be one of his final works before his death, seems to have been more satisfying than White Worm. More specifically, in the parts where the actual meeting of the lady in the shroud took place; she is a mysterious woman who suddenly shows up on Rupert Sent Leger’s back door step who seems to possess the qualities of a vampire or worse, a ghost. In a way, it reminded me of scenes from Dracula when Lucy ran through the gardens in loose flowing garments, or in relation to this story, “a shroud.” In the manifestation of its beginning and ending in The Lady of the Shroud, which turned out to be long logs of journal entries relating to wills left behind by Roger Melton and later on, the birth of a nation, the story came around excitedly when the parts where “the Lady” came around. And by god, it took a while, so much to the point where I was mulling pages to see if some sort of plot thickening would endure. The book itself overall lent itself toward an immense gothic tale of romance and mystery without a doubt. There was plenty of it (as long as you are willing to read on and plow through the hours of disposition and “telling”. But regardless of this oversight, the story truly was the embodiment of so many ideas and concepts of love, war, adversity, honor, mystery, under dog, black sheep, and bravery, that it felt like an epic saga So much material unfolded among the pages in such a short amount of time! A history on the birth of the Balkan empire. This might have killed the story some, but I will say this, the descriptions of Vissarion castle are truly worth the read, even if that’s all you read. Some of the finest gothic nature in writing I’ve seen in a long while. Things such as stained marble of various colors and the interior stone work of rooms and balconies. I will say this, that the first chapter of the book, the Will of Roger Melton could have been done without. It read like a document with clauses. An actual will and testament of Roger Melton. I know in a way it was necessary to have this in there for backstory purposes, but oh the dullness. The integrity of sticking to diary and journal entry format is evident. However, as mentioned earlier, the story gets under way after the fact and the entire middle section is fantastic. But then, as the beginning fell short, so did the ending, and a long ending it was, falling into a somewhat of a historical denouement. The reoccurring theme was the lady of The Shroud and she portrayed symbolism on many fronts. I say, if you like classical literature and have the time to read, which most folks don’t have, read it. There is so much to learn about the empire of the air.
I give this particular story a 3.5 out 5 stars.
My closing remarks, although both stories portrayed elements of mystery and the macabre, the overall execution of the stories could have been told a little less and shown a little more. The lady of the Shroud, to me , was it’s redeeming quality. Averaging out the two, my overall rating is 3.25.
F. D. Gross