Both are fitting for this tale of wickedness, deceit, lies, and passion. Marion Shaw was raised in the slums of Prane, works as a maid for the hateful Lady Gertrude, and lives with her older brother who spends most of his time drunk or high. She longs to escape her life of deprivation and finally sees an opportunity when she reads a newspaper listing seeking a bloodmaid.
Marion doesn’t know much about the far north where nobles live in luxury and drink the blood of those in service to them. She soon finds herself the newest bloodmaid for the House of Hunger where Countess Lisavet and her court engage in their ideas around the pursuit of pleasure. Marion wants to please Lisavet, but there’s more going on than meets the eye. When another bloodmaid disappears one night, Marion is determined to find out what happened to her.
Marion is a convincing protagonist and is well-drawn. She feels guilt, but is determined to make a better life for herself. However, she’s somewhat naïve for someone who grew up on the streets and comes across as too trusting. The other characters had various degrees of depth, but a few weren’t developed as much as I would have liked.
The premise is great, and while there was a sense of potential danger, it didn’t quite create the suspense and sense of urgency that I expected during most of the book. After a strong beginning, the pacing slows during the middle section of the story. However, the last 25 percent is very dramatic and action-packed, but somewhat rushed. There are many disturbing scenes scattered throughout the novel. While vampires are never mentioned, there are plenty of hints around why Lisavet needs blood. However, why do her nobles need it? Any more details would be spoilers. The world-building is fantastic from the slums of Prane to Lady Gertrude’s home to the huge isolated mansion on an island in the far north. Themes include class, race, jealousy, contempt, mistrust, depravity, despair, power, wealth, gender, passion, friendship, and exploitation of others.
Overall, this story is engrossing, original, and has an impactful horror conclusion. If you enjoy gothic horror and historical fantasy, then this is a book to consider reading. It seemed right to read this during the fall.
Berkley Publishing Group –Ace and Alexis Henderson provided a complimentary digital ARC of this novel via NetGalley. This is my honest review. Opinions are mine alone and are not biased in any way. Publication date is currently set for September 27, 2022.