Sunday, January 31, 2021

Book Review: A Dowry of Blood by S.T. Gibson


a dowry of blood

A Dowry of Blood
S.T. Gibson
Release date: Jan 31, 2021

A lyrical and dreamy reimagining of Dracula’s brides, A DOWRY OF BLOOD is a story of desire, obsession, and emancipation.
Saved from the brink of death by a mysterious stranger, Constanta is transformed from a medieval peasant into a bride fit for an undying king. But when Dracula draws a cunning aristocrat and a starving artist into his web of passion and deceit, Constanta realizes that her beloved is capable of terrible things. Finding comfort in the arms of her rival consorts, she begins to unravel their husband’s dark secrets.
With the lives of everyone she loves on the line, Constanta will have to choose between her own freedom and her love for her husband. But bonds forged by blood can only be broken by death.

Trigger Warnings: - emotional, verbal, and physical intimate partner abuse, gaslighting, war, famine, and plague, blood and gore, consensual sexual content, sadomasochism, self harm, body horror, violence and murder, alcohol use, depression and mania


a dowry of blood

A dowry of blood is a poetic haunting re-imagining of Dracula's wives. Spanning centuries, it is written as open letters to Dracula from Constanta his war bride. Dracula is never referred to by his name only as ‘you’. This feels impactful as Constanta is not her real name, it is given by Dracula when he changes her and not giving Dracula a name feels like a flip of that power dynamic.

The epistolary second person works smoothly, immediately putting us closer to the brides. I wished it was longer, and as much as Constanta's point of view felt raw and personal, I would love to know the stories from Magdalena and Alexis. The writing is poetic and so immersive. Starting the book, I was a little hesitant about the second person POV but it works beautifully. The way the European cities are described is vivid and alluring. The way Constanta describes the other consorts with so much love and pride. The writing is perfect.

One body could not hold such fevor, such feeling.

Constanta is the first bride, a peasant whose home is ravaged by a war. For her Dracula is a saviour, her love turns into obsession and then dependence on him even as she begins to wonder about her place in Dracula's heart. Things change when Dracula brings in Magdalena, a cunning aristocrat who is looking for an escape from her social norms. Magdalena brings new merriment to their lives and for a while they are all happy. When Magdalena descends into depression, then Constanta begins to question her ‘lord’. And when Alexis- a starving orphan looking for a home- is brought into their dynamic Constanta knows they have to get out. Their family, love, and drive for freedom was beautiful and I loved reading about it.

Only violence felt like holiness to me anymore.

This book deals with brutal and heavy topics, more in the emotional part of an abusive relationship. I do think they were dealt with respectfully and also showed the trauma of all three brides but I also feel that I don't know enough about that to actually make a comment on it. Reading about abuse is always difficult and this book is no different. So just make sure you are aware of the trigger warning before diving into the story.

This was one of my most anticipated releases for the year and I am so glad I got to read and review it. Recommend it to anyone who wants a gothic, immersive and lyrical phenomenal retelling.

Thank you to Nyx Publishing and the author, S.T. Gibson (@stgibsonauthor) for an opportunity to read and review this title.