Vibe Check: A Review of House of Hunger by Alexis Henderson
Hello, Book Nerds! Welcome back to Reading Has Ruined My Life or welcome if you are new. As always, my name is Hannah and I am your captain on this journey into my bookcases. Special hello to South Africa, y’all have been popping off lately; nice to see ya!
I’m not ready to give up Spooky Season yet. If you’ve been here for a while then you know I keep the Spooky Season vibes and reads going at least one week after Halloween. I’m just not ready to say goodbye to the best time of year yet.
Which is why I bring you a new spooky read today. Please give a warm welcome to House of Hunger by Alexis Henderson!
I did a makeup look inspired by the book’s cover so please appreciate it before we continue on. As always, follow RHRML on Twitter (@RHRMLBlog) cause you’ll get to see my makeup looks there first. We have fun there, I sometimes post memes.
Now that you’ve appreciated my beautiful makeup skills let’s get to the synopsis. As aways, a spoiler alert is in order. I also must issue a trigger and content warning. This book features multiple types of abusive relationships so please be aware of that before going into House of Hunger. There are also a lot of mentions of drug abuse. Neither topic can be avoided so please read House of Hunger at your own discretion. Synopsis time now.
Marion Shaw, a poor, orphaned girl who lives hand to mouth with her dying, drug addicted, abusive older brother. She has nothing except for a hunger to better her life. One day, she comes across an help wanted ad for a Bloodmaid. This is her chance.
As a Bloodmaid, she will gain wealth, free room and board in a wealthy, aristocratic House, a pension that’s more than she’d see in multiple lifetimes, and freedom. The only catch, and the main part of her job, she must give the family she works for her blood. The pros greatly outweigh the cons so she applies and obtains the position.
She’s no longer poor, orphaned Marion Shaw. She’s now wealthy, orphaned Marion Shaw who works for the most powerful House in the country. That House is, of course, the House of Hunger. Once there, Marion learns that her new job is more rigorous, and dangerous, then she initially thought.
Her new mistress, Countess Lisavet Bathory, requires more blood than Marion and four other Bloodmaids can supply. The court that Lisavet presides over is filled with many pitfalls that Marion is unable to traverse. And the longer Marion lives in the House of Hunger, the more mysteries present themselves. Most notable is the fact that no Bloodmaid seems to last longer than a year at the House of Hunger before leaving in the middle of the night never to be seen again. Can Marion and her other Bloodmaids survive? Will Lisavet be Marion’s downfall? Or will another horror of court get to her first?
Right off the bat, if I was judging based solely off of vibes, this is a 10-out-of-10. Beautiful. Gothic. Dark Royalty Core. Eerie. All words I would use to describe this book. The vibes are just immaculate!
Alas, this is a book review and I cannot base my review on vibes alone.
There is no plot. I hate to say it, but it’s true. I know Alexis Henderson is capable of writing a compelling, chilling story, The Year of the Witching proves so, but House of Hunger does not have any sort of plot. The official synopsis promises an atmospheric horror story in which the main character must navigate a hedonistic court and survive a terrifying game of cat and mouse with her new mistress. Outside of dealing with an obnoxious court, nothing happens.
No joke, nothing happens. The only hints to something dark happening in Marion’s new home are finding a bloody tooth under her bed the night she arrives and discovering the word “wretch” carved into furniture around the mansion. Talk about being heavy-handed. Anyway, despite finding a bloody tooth Marion does nothing.
I have a lot of questions. Namely why the fuck did Marion not do something or leave the minute she found the tooth? If I found a bloody tooth under my bed I’d be running as fast and as far away as possible. Ain’t no way I would be staying in that place after that. But Marion is not me. She stays in the place where there are random teeth and does nothing about that red flag for 200-pages. Yes, you read that right, 200-pages.
I think it’s important to note that House of Hunger is only 288-pages long and Marion doesn’t discover the tooth until page 72. Now I know I was an English major, and I’m not good at math, but by my calculations that doesn’t leave a lot of pages left for really anything. I came for a creepy plot and found nothing. The pacing and plot is just tragic.
For doing nothing for well over half the novel, I must say that Marion is a horrible protagonist. Nothing against her or her personality, she’s likeable enough and her motivations are clear, I just have everything against her being an idiot. Girl had far too much time to get out or doing literally anything and yet she did nothing.
This book does have some highlights. As I mentioned, the atmosphere and vibes are immaculate. There are some good gothic vibes in House of Hunger with some beautiful, lush descriptions. Again, I sadly can’t base my review on vibes alone. This isn’t the only highlight though. If you read this book as a look on abuse relationships, there’s a lot there.
The relationship between Lisavet and Marion shows how easy it can be to find oneself in an abusive relationship. It shows the highs and lows of said relationship. The manipulation an abusive partner is capable of, the gaslighting, the toying with emotions; the list goes on. If one reads this book as a look on abusive relationships, it can be good, but it can’t save the book as a whole.
There are too many issues with pacing, plot, and character development to overlook. Marion is the only character with any sort of arc and backstory. The mystery and cat and mouse game are subpar to the point of verging on nonexistent. I never once felt tension that wasn’t forced. I was so looking forward to this book! I was so excited to read it and enjoy an Elizabeth Bathory inspired vampire book. Alas this book did not live up to my expectations.
House of Hunger had the best premise possible yet it failed to hit the mark in nearly every area. I wish this book had gotten another year of work done on it before it went to print. Alexis Henderson is a phenomenal author, and the gothic, atmospheric descriptions this book does have are marvelous, but this book as a whole needs a lot of help.
With that, I must bid you all adieu. Thank you so much for joining me today and I shall see you next week with another great review.
Until then, stay safe, wash your hands, and read some good books for me.