Tuesday, November 08, 2016

I, Bathory, Queen of Blood – review

Author: Carole Gill

First Published: 2016

Contains spoilers

The blurb: Born in 16th century Hungary, Damita wasn't always known by her current name. A human monster with absolute power, she murdered and tortured for pleasure.

After her confrontation with Darvulia, she thought that blood could reverse any sign of aging. And in her death, she was raised by her vampire lover, Anton.

Spanning centuries and concluding in modern day, this is the story of Damita, previously known as Erzsébet Báthory - The Blood Countess.

The review: I have previously looked at Carole Gill’s Blackstone Vampire series and, for full disclosure am a friend with Carole on Facebook and was sent the e-version of this book for review.

One of my criticisms of Carole’s previous vampire series was that she writes an excellent victim but “I would like to see the author write a strong female lead, one who isn’t the victim and doesn’t need rescuing by a man”. Carole informed me that this book would do that and – with the lead character being Erzsébet Báthory I could well believe it. Unfortunately, it doesn’t, at least not in some regards, and I will explore that in review.

However we note that this is a Báthory novel and we follow her life and undeath through her own words. Her love, and vampiric sire, Anton is unconscious – a malaise brought on, it would appear, due to one of Báthory’s psychotic episodes – and we get a sense of being in a modern world where vampires are out of the casket and legalised. We do not stay there long, however. Erzsébet has been advised that, if he recovers, his memory might be damaged and is encouraged to write her memoires to remind him of their centuries long life together.

These take us through her life as a serial killer and then a vampire and we discover that she is prone to jealous psychotic rages where she kills – and this mental illness (as she sees it) followed her into undeath. It was Anton who came to her, walled in her castle, and turned her. The process made her become younger than she ended up appearing after three years walled in a room.

However it is, partly, with this I have a sense that this isn’t the strong female lead suggested. Erzsébet apparently doesn’t need rescuing (once she becomes a vampire, which was in itself a rescue) but she is a victim nonetheless. She is forever torn between her madness, at one with it for one minute but more often repulsed by her own behaviour. Thus, first and for most, she is a victim of herself – this is not a creature who relishes her madness (or evil) but who in many respects fears it and actually considers suicide often, when not making excuses for her own behaviour – or so it felt like to me. She is surrounded, as a human, by those who enable her darker desires – “eager accomplices” she calls them and she states that recalling their actions is upsetting and perhaps she is also a victim of them.

But then, as a vampire, she is captured and turned into a sex slave by Vlad Ţepeş (also a vampire). In some respects she saves herself (by threatening to stake herself) from that dilemma but not until she has served him submissively for quite some time and only with Anton as a catalyst (so in some respects he does rescue her).

Now, this in itself is not a criticism of the actual book – just a note that this isn’t the strong female character I know Carole Gill can (and will) write. And it segues into the thought around the book that it is very sexually driven (her vampires are sexual creatures) and so is, in itself, a strange mix of a paranormal romance in that the sex is quite deviant (orgies and S&M, as well as snuff, essentially) but is not written as explicitly as it might be. That said, it is probably pitched at the right level for the type of book it is. The living Báthory section strays away from being too explicit around the murders. Carole, however, does write a good character and whilst it is not the character I was hoping for she is a character worth reading. This is at the dark and twisted end of paranormal romance/erotica, enhanced by the author's keen sense of darkness and depravity. 7 out of 10.

No comments: