Hunting Prince Dracula by Kerri Maniscalco

4/5 Stars
Published by Little, Brown & Company
Published September 19th, 2017

Synopsis: Following the grief and horror of her discovery of Jack the Ripper's true identity, Audrey Rose Wadsworth has no choice but to flee London and its memories. Together with the arrogant yet charming Thomas Cresswell, she journeys to the dark heart of Romania, home to one of Europe's best schools of forensic medicine...and to another notorious killer, Vlad the Impaler, whose thirst for blood became legend.

But her life's dream is soon tainted by blood-soaked discoveries in the halls of the school's forbidding castle, and Audrey Rose is compelled to investigate the strangely familiar murders. What she finds brings all her terrifying fears to life once again.

After what seems like years without reading, I decided to pick this one up for a quick and enthralling read, and boy was it the right choice. Stalking Jack the Ripper was one of my favorite reads of 2017 and I just knew Hunting Prince Dracula would be right up my alley. In middle school I recall reading about Vlad the Impaler for fun in history class, thinking his story was certainly disturbing, yet incredibly fascinating. What I never expected was for his gruesome legacy to be taken to the pages of a YA novel in such an engaging and fun way. Maniscalco takes Prince Dracula's entire being and plays with his characterization like putty, crafting him into this figure that instills fear into the audience with even the slightest mention of his name. Obviously you should be scared of him from just the implication of his name, but Maniscalco was able to rewrite this story in such a way that made it so much more than the historical facts we know about Vlad the Impaler already.

One of my favorite things about this book is the writing. Kerri Maniscalco has to be one of the best writers of this day and age. Her ability to craft characters whose personas are so distinguishable from one another and establish a story line that flows consistently without discrepancies in the time frame, plot, etc.. makes the story that much more intriguing and enhances the readability. Maniscalco is able to write astounding imagery and characterizations that are so distinct from anything I've read before, which makes her already one of my favorite authors. I read this one nonstop for two days and could not put it down without craving more. Hunting Prince Dracula has just the right amount of mystery and angst that makes it literally addicting. Plus, the setting of the story sounds beautifully ghastly, with the main location being Bran Castle, also known as Dracula Castle. As if the name alone doesn't set your nerves aflame, imagine studying the art of forensics in Vlad the Impaler's home while Vlad the Impaler is supposedly running rampant around the town. 

I love the cast of characters in this book. Audrey Rose's perspective is a blast to read from considering she's a badass, fearless, genius forensics student. She has zero tolerance for anybody that undermines her and tells it like it is. I thoroughly enjoyed watching her character grow from the SJTR to HPD, as she ultimately becomes a more resilient person following the aftermath of the first book. She was able to take what she felt like were her personal weaknesses and turn them upside down on their heads, developing into somebody who finds strength in the darkest of moments. Along with Audrey Rose, Thomas Cresswell remains as irritatingly charming as ever. His knack for comic relief is truly unparalleled. Cresswell is honestly a character I admire for his optimism and outgoing personality, but also for his ability to retain a state of privacy and confidentiality. He is a multifaceted character that drives the story forward as more secrets emerge and pieces of the puzzle slowly fall into place. Besides these two, I thought the inclusion of characters like Daciana and Ileana really brought more life to the story that was not present in the first book. 

Overall, I thought Hunting Prince Dracula was executed brilliantly and brought the story of Vlad the Impaler to life in a way never seen before. It featured epic, adrenaline infused, action-packed mystery that left me wanting to pack up my things and become a forensic scientist myself. This series is absolutely fantastic, unique, and gets my heart racing at the mere thought of what is to come in the future installments. The stories are getting darker, more haunting, and just straight up powerful in its own right. Kerri Maniscalco has been writing bangers and I just cannot wait to see what she brings to the table next. I am thankful for the rare book that has me paranoid at 3 in the morning about what is behind my closet door -- HPD is exactly that rare occurrence.