Title: Blood Countess
Author: Lana Popovic
Release Date: January 28th 2020
Publisher: Amulet Books
Genre: Historical Fiction, Horror, LGBTQIA+
Goodreads Rating: 4.08 (of 53 ratings)
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A historical YA horror novel based on the infamous real-life inspiration for Countess Dracula
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.
Disclaimer: I received this ARC courtesy of Amulet Books. I am grateful for the opportunity to review an ARC for my readers, but this will not influence my final rating. All opinions expressed in this review are my own and based solely on the book.
This is one of those books that gets so dark and twisted and messed up sometimes, you start to question yourself if you should really be enjoying it and binge reading it on Thanksgiving instead of that adorable and fluffy contemporary you have next up on your TBR. That being said, this is one of the best psychological horrors I have ever seen done with a brilliant historical backing and tense lead-up – but definitely not for the faint of heart and tbh, not really for the young adult crowd?
(y’all, i felt like i just wrote a thesis sentence. i’mma need to take a breath before i start flashing back to my college years and feel the need to rewrite entire paragraphs going in circles to meet a certain word count.)
🩸 The moment I saw this mentioned in the Yallfest ARC drops list, I knew I had to get it. In the past few years, I discovered the gruesome history of Elizabeth Bathory from TV shows, and it’s just one of those stories that shocks and awes you because it’s just so crazy and unbelievable. Bathory is said to have killed anywhere from 60 – 650 people (mostly young women) for sadistic pleasure – and some say as a way for eternal beauty (bathing in their blood to keep her skin looking fresh). It churns your stomach to think about just how depraved people can be. I was intrigued to see what Popovic would do with a YA novel – and it definitely didn’t leave me disappointed.
🩸 I think what I loved most about this book was the characterization and deep psychology that went behind it. These characters are incredibly flawed, unlikable at times, and have some dark sides to them – however, you see why they do the things they do and how they can be so likable sometimes. Popovic went so incredibly deep into their psyche, and each nuance was uncovered in realistic and fascinating ways. I understand why this characters did the things they did, and I was continuously impressed by the way Popovic mastered the characterization.
🩸 This book continuously felt like it was drawing breath. With each breath, we would add one more layer to the book and plot. It was a slow build up that allowed us to simmer in the good to reach all the way to the horrifying bad. I felt tense, knowing we were adding up to something, and I was still eager to get there. It has a few big bangs, and the twists and turns are subtle but brilliant. At times, I felt like it did get a little too slow, but it really was so easy to get back into and binge.
🩸 The setting and writing were incredibly done as well. This felt lush and gothic in the best way. I felt immersed, and it’s just everything that I wanted in this dark historical fiction novel. It feels like it transported me into a whole new macabre world.
🩸 Sometimes, things did feel a little too unbelievable? Like, the ending, I felt, really didn’t fit with the rest of the story. And there were a few instances of that as well where it didn’t feel authentic. At times, it just didn’t click for me. I don’t know how to describe it, but I found myself going mmmm not so sure about that.
🩸 I also thought that YA might not have been the exact right fit for this. I mean, the question is always asked what makes YA, YA, but I felt like a lot of this was really dark and far more adult than the regular YA reader. I would honestly put it probably NA (think probably more along the lines of Ninth House) than YA. There are still, for sure, elements of YA, but I think it was just a little too dark? There were parts that I had to skim over because I just couldn’t stomach it all.
🩸 The f/f romance was also amazing!! It had so many layers to this, and Anna and Elizabeth had amazing chemistry. It was both sweet and electric at the same time – especially since both characters were so intricate. Their love story was such an important aspect to the story, but it didn’t cause the story to dwaddle or anything. Romance and nonromance fans alike will be pleased with it.
🩸 Overall, this was such a bingeworthy and twisted read that was dark historical fiction done so right. Now, I must go cleanse myself with a super fluffy and adorable read.
rating: Anna because this was pretty great except for a few small things.
representation: f/f romance (one is bi and the other is lesbian), abuse survivor, rape survivor
content warnings: gore, violence, intense sequences, murder, sexual content (not much shown), abuse, rape (implied), abortion, torture
read this if you: your history dark, twisty, and totally thought out psychologically
What do you think? Let’s discuss in the comments below!