By Alexis Henderson
Published September 2022
Desperate to escape her life in the slums, Marion Shaw answers an advertisement for a blood maid and is, surprisingly, chosen for the position and finds herself whisked away to the frozen north to serve at the whim of Countess Lizavet of the House of Hunger. As a blood maid, Marion must bleed, literally, for her mistress to survive. Although blood was partaken of by all nobles in the north, it was a necessity for Lisavet.
Marion rises quickly through the ranks of blood maids and genuinely wants to please her mistress, until she uncovers dark secrets in the House of Hunger and realizes that the broken promises of rewards for fulfilling her indenture are the least of her concerns.
I wanted to read this in October when a bloody, Gothic horror story would have fit right into the season. Instead, I found myself surrounded by Christmas/Yule wrapping paper and a blinking tree by the time my library had it available. So, the mood of the season may have been working against my enjoyment of this one.
First, let me go through what I really, really liked. The atmosphere is delicious – just creepily Gothic. I love books that are obviously historical but I can’t quite place the time period. That gives the author so much leeway to play with it. And the take on history was also well done; my assumption is that Lisavet was a reimagining of Elizabeth Bathory, the Hungarian noblewoman said to be the possible inspiration for Dracula.
However, I’m not sure if this story started in the wrong place or if it suffered from the same thing I noticed in other stories where things are too easy for the protagonist. Little things, like how long it took to journey from the train station to the House of Hunger at the beginning of her indenture to how quickly she returns to the station. Or it was never explained why Lisavet took to Marion and she skipped over the other blood maids to the top position. I was never really connected with Marion or convinced of her deference. Things happened because they did and I couldn’t connect the Marion who dumped a jar of leech-filled water over her employer’s head to the same woman who was willing to pry out a molar because Elizavet asked her too. To get really technical, there was a lot of repeat phrasing that I found irritating but that’s a footnote to the fact that I never cared very much about the main character, which meant I was never terribly concerned about her plight.
Not a bad read, but not as riveting as I’d hoped.
3.25/5 stars ⭐⭐⭐+
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