It is no secret that I read what interests me in a huge swath of genres. I have my favorites, of course, but I try not to limit myself just because a publisher lists a book as women’s literature for example. There are some subjects for which I will move heaven and earth for the chance to read. Most of the time, my efforts are successful and the book is as glorious as I hope it will be. Other times, well, are not quite as positive reading experiences. Sadly, Blood Countess by Lana Popović is one of the latter examples.
I do have an unholy fascination with Vlad Dracul II and anyone or anything associated with him. Of course, Dracula is one of my all-time favorite novels. It stands to reason that I would want to read a novel about Elizabeth Bathory, the infamous Lady Dracula. I mean, who wouldn’t? So, to say I was really looking forward to reading Blood Countess would be an understatement.
The thing is, even if I tempered my expectations, Blood Countess would still disappoint. For one thing, Ms. Popović spends more than half the novel building up Anna’s and Elizabeth’s relationship. As a result, there is too little time devoted to the Countess’ malignant predilections. Plus, the ending literally comes out of nowhere. One minute, Anna and Elizabeth are the throes of a dangerous cat-and-mouse game, and the next minute, the cat rolls over and gives up everything. Anti-climatic doesn’t even begin to cover how inadequate the ending is.
I get that there is very little we do know about Elizabeth Bathory as there is very little hard evidence showing irrefutable proof of her killer ways. However, there are some aspects of her life we do know, one of them being the person who arrested and later imprisoned her. Except, Ms. Popović chose to use that person in a different capacity. When you could write almost anything about your story’s villain and have it be possible because no one really knows the truth, why would an author deliberately choose to use real-life people and change their allegiances? Days later, this still strikes me as an odd choice to make, especially because everything else about Bathory is open to you do with as you choose.
Finally, maybe it is the type of young adult novels I normally read, but Blood Countessis the rare occurrence where it was obvious I am not the author’s intended audience. Everything from the voice to the sentence structure to the word choices screams teenager. It matters not that Ms. Popović incorporates plenty of gore and violence into the story. In spite of that violence, it still reads like a tale for younger readers. In fact, you could almost liken it to a modern-day fable, one in which the heroine’s plight is a warning to readers about the dangers of lust and infatuation. It bears repeating that this is the last thing I was expecting.
To be fair, I was not expecting Blood Countess to be award-winning historical fiction. However, I was expecting a fairly grown-up story that contained a lot more suspense. I was also hoping to read a story that spent more time attempting to explain Bathory’s supposed penchant for violence. It was none of these. As such, I feel like I need to read a good vampire story now to ease my disappointment.