Title: The Blood Countess
Author: Lana Popovic
Genre: YA historical fantasy
Spoilers: minor spoilers, if you don’t know the story of Elizabeth Bathory
Trigger warnings: torture, satanic rituals, disturbing depictions
Release date: January 28th, 2020
~ I received an ARC from Abrams in exchange for an honest review ~
A riveting and enthralling book, THE BLOOD COUNTESS had me hooked from page one. Written about real-life historical figure Elizabeth Bathory, THE BLOOD COUNTESS goes beyond the history books and gives Elizabeth her own unique personality and an opportunity to finally see her motives in detail. I highly recommend this book to fans wanting a particularly dark read about one of the most interesting women in history.
Here’s a short summary taken from Amazon.com:
In 17th century Hungary, Anna Darvulia has just begun working as a scullery maid for the young and glamorous Countess Elizabeth Báthory. When Elizabeth takes a liking to Anna, she’s vaulted to the dream role of chambermaid, a far cry from the filthy servants’ quarters below. She receives wages generous enough to provide for her family, and the Countess begins to groom Anna as her friend and confidante. It’s not long before Anna falls completely under the Countess’s spell—and the Countess takes full advantage. Isolated from her former friends, family, and fiancé, Anna realizes she’s not a friend but a prisoner of the increasingly cruel Elizabeth. Then come the murders, and Anna knows it’s only a matter of time before the Blood Countess turns on her, too.
If a book can keep me hooked throughout my read, it has done its job. There are few books out there that I’ve ever read through without stopping, and this is one of them. But, even though it kept me hooked, I was disappointed in the main character, Anna.
The story centers around Anna and her relationship with the Countess. After the Countess enlisted Anna to help save her young son, she asked Anna to come and be her personal chambermaid. Anna declines, and is given the dreadful job of scullery maid instead. Anna works her way up to the Countess’s “right hand” and begins to enjoy her place of luxury.
While in the scullery, Anna befriended many of the other girls, and I was looking forward for their relationships to grow, but alas, that was not the case. This is one of those books that I’m not sure if I’m supposed to like the main character or just feel sorry for her. If it is the latter, I definitely feel sorry for Anna. To me, the Countess really was “the star” of the book, and I really appreciated her character development.
The character of the Countess is extremely detailed and so much so that I felt like this book could have been written by someone close to her. Anna, on the other hand, felt rather static to me. Anna feels something like love for the Countess, but that is mainly all she does. For those who know the true story of Elizabeth Bathory, you will know that she tortured and killed over 600 young girls.
Anna hears rumors from the other maids that the Countess has done horrible things to them, but she is blinded by her infatuation for the Countess and chooses not to believe them. Then, later in the second half of the book, when Anna stands by and watches her former friends be whipped and tortured, all I wanted was for Anna to understand that what she was participating in was wrong. Again, all Anna wanted to do was please the Countess, even if it meant watching all her friends die. That frustrated me to no end, because Anna was very strong-willed in the first half of the book.
Speaking of the second half of the book, I actually found it much more engaging than the first half, BUT it was exceedingly dark. It made me regret reading it at night, to be honest. That’s where the content warnings come in - if you are at all triggered by descriptive torture or satanic-type rituals, the ending of this book is NOT for you. That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy the story, but the ending was a little startling.
I think at one point in the story, the Countess truly did love Anna, even though Anna loved her for 90% of the book. I felt like it was wrong to encourage their relationship, especially since the Countess was “loving” Anna for the wrong reasons - because she was good with herbs and healing. I found myself hoping that the Countess would stop her evil ways and just love Anna back, but knowing the story of Bathory, that was not the case.
The epilogue was absolutely brilliant, and obviously I can’t spoil it, but you’ll understand when you read it. (And if you get the book, make sure you let me know what you think of it!)
Lana Popovic is a wonderful writer. She writes in a way that (like I mentioned above) made it seem like we’re reading pages from the diary of Anna or someone who witnessed the whole story. Her writing style is what I imagine to be very true to the time period.
All in all, THE BLOOD COUNTESS is a moving book. Maybe not moving in the way I had wanted it to be, but it is nonetheless. It hooked me from page one and kept me in suspense throughout. Even though the second half of the book isn’t my cup of tea, if I read it again, I wouldn’t be so startled. I definitely recommend it if you’re a fan of the YA horror genre, because that’s what I would label this book as. If you’re looking to learn more about the Bathory fandom, I think this is a good place to start too!
THE BLOOD COUNTESS receives 4 stars out of 5.