Blood Countess (Lady Slayers #1)

Blood Countess {Lady Slayers No. 1}

Author: Lana Popović

Genre & Themes: Horror, Historical, Fiction, LGBTQ+, Young adult

Editor & Publisher: Anne Heltzel, Harry N. Abrams

Graphic Trigger Warnings: Abusive\toxic relationship, descriptive torture and violence

Mild Trigger Warnings: Abusive parental relationship, blood, sexism

Synopsis

In 16th 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. 

My Storygraph Review | Buy on Bookshop.org*

*this is an affiliate link. I receive a small commission when you buy using the link. I prefer Bookshop.org to Amazon because it helps independent bookstores.

F\F Abusive Relationship

I need to go into this point first. A big reason I wanted to read this book is because it featured a f\f relationship, but I want to be very clear: this is not a healthy relationship, and is barely a relationship in the first place.

This is an abusive relationship, and there’s no doubt about that. And Anna is a character who doesn’t identify it. I have more to add about how they develop, but I will put it in a spoiler tag.

The toxic part aside, it felt rushed and I really didn’t see any chemistry between them. Anna describes Elizabeth as alluring and beautiful, but never why she is these things. Even if it had been a non-toxic relationship, I wouldn’t have really engaged with it.

Spoiler Anna still wants Elizabeth to love her at the end, even after extremely graphic depictions of torture and violence from Elizabeth. I don’t know if it’s just me, but I don’t understand that in the slightest, and it made her character arc fall flat for me.

I’m not saying every f\f relationship needs to be perfect. A diversity of relationships and experiences is important. Also the heteros have had years of writing good and bad relationships, and I think that wlw writers deserve to same chance. BUT. It did make me uncomfortable, and if you’re goal is to read a semi-healthy love story, this isn’t it.

Anna Darvulia

I already mentioned in the spoiler tag why her character arc fell flat for me, but I have to give props to the author for her characterization skill. Anna is described as cold and distant and standoffish, and that’s definitely how I felt about her in the novel. Her characterization was done really well – I was shown her character before I was ever told about her, which I liked.

Unfortunately, since I wasn’t connected to the rest of the novel, the fact that I couldn’t really connect to Anna didn’t help me enjoy the story overall.

Voice and Style

Blood Countess has a strong voice and style. It reads like a historical piece, and I really liked that! It was very immersive and atmospheric.

And the author’s voice is very clear. If you’ve ever wondered what “author voice” referred too, this is what it is. It’s impossible to replicate, everyone’s is different, and it’s really hard to find your own.

Feminist?

I’ve seen a lot of reviews calling this book feminist, and I really don’t understand why.

Anna was never a proactive character. In other words, she has no agency. The one time she makes a decision for herself was when she was literally forced to.

You learn pretty early on Elizabeth is an abuser (it even says so in the synopsis), and in the book she is compared to being as bad as her husband. There’s nothing about “being as bad as a man” that strikes me as feminist.

3) I guess it talks about how women are oppressed? Kind of? But it never does anything about it or really comments on how men put them in the position. It’s just like well…that’s the way it is!

To me, feminist stories are stories with empowering female characters, even if they’re not perfect (villain characters can still be super empowering tbh). They’re characters who have agency, and are allowed to have feelings. They’re characters who don’t emulate toxic masculinity to be “strong”, and they don’t tear other women down to feel better. None of these things apply to this book.

Happy Ending…?

To put it simply, this is not a happy book. If you’re looking for a f\f with a happy-go-lucky ending, this isn’t it.

I’d imagine that if you’re a victim of domestic abuse, this is a very frustrating\disheartening book. I’ll include the reasons in the spoiler tag.

Spoiler Even in the end, Anna doesn’t get a happy-ever-after. She doesn’t get to walk away and forget it ever happened. She never really gets any kind of closure, and is forced to be around her abuser’s family for, seemingly, the rest of her life. It’s not a happy ending, it’s not even a peaceful ending. I’d imagine that if you’re triggered by the initial abuse, the ending will only make it worse.

Final Thoughts

Not my kind of story. I couldn’t connect to anyone, and felt very uncomfortable throughout the whole book. Also was a little let down by the lack of a healthy relationship, and frustrated by Anna’s attraction towards Elizabeth.

Disclaimer: my review is based on my life experience and reading preferences. It’s not an attack on the author, or others who liked or disliked the book.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s