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  • Writer's pictureHannah Zunic

Wanna Read About the First Female Serial Killer: A Review of Blood Countess by Lana Popovic

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.


I’ve got more Pumpkin Spice and Everything Nice for you this week. We’re talking horror, baby! Bloody, disturbing, toxic horror! I love it, you love it, it’s why we’re all here and you know it. We all want spooky vibes and pumpkin spice; it’s everything I want at least.


Dancing skeletons.
Did you know these skeletons are from Disney?

And Halloween spooky vibes do I have for you today. Please give a spooky welcome to Blood Countess by Lana Popovic!


Book cover of Blood Countess by Lana Popovic.
Let's crack into it.

As always, a spoiler alert is in order. This is your one and only warning cause you know I love to spoil things in every synopsis I write. I also must issue a content and trigger warning. Blood Countess is about the real life serial killer Elizabeth Bathory. She was sadistic. Blood Countess has scenes detailing torture in various forms. If that isn’t something you can handle then this book is not for you. This book also details mental, physical, and emotional abuse. It’s very prevalent to the plot so again, if you cannot handle that topic, this book is not for you. With that, let’s get to the synopsis.


Our story follows peasant girl Anna Darvulia. She grew up learning the tricks of the midwife trade from her mother. And by tricks I do mean herbalism. While this knowledge is mainly used to craft basic remedies to solve headaches and stomachaches, along with expelling unwanted fetuses, Anna develops quite the reputation. A reputation for being a master healer. Or what the Catholic Church would call a witch.


Witches riding a broom.
She ain't a witch, she's just smarter than the church.

This reputation reaches the ears of Countess Elizabeth Bathory. By this point, Elizabeth Bathory has quite the reputation herself. Young women who go to work for her rarely leave. Or if they do they’re horribly disfigured, broken mentally and physically, supposedly by the hands of Bathory herself. But Anna pays no attention to these rumors when she’s summoned by the countess.


Steve Harvey dancing with red flags.
Yep, definitely no red flags here.

Anna is tasked with saving the life of the Countess’s illegitimate son. By doing so, Anna earns Bathory’s favor. Thus leading Anna to join Bathory’s household as a scullery maid before working her way up to a chambermaid. It’s at this point that the Anna and Elizabeth form a relationship. A relationship that involves a lot of grooming and gaslighting towards Anna. Soon Anna is doing things she would otherwise never do that include, but are not excluded to, torture, murder, and burying bodies. Will she be able to get out from under Elizabeth Bathory’s thumb or will she be stuck in this toxic relationship for the rest of her life?


"dun-dun-dun"

First things first, this is obviously historically fiction. But Blood Countess definitely comes across more so as revisionist history. Elizabeth Bathory was a sadistic serial killer, Lana Popovic makes that very clear, but a lot of Bathory’s history is changed; hence why I call this revisionist history. Obviously, Popovic puts the fictional character of Anna on the frontlines to see every horrible thing Bathory does. The author has created a fully fictional character and created scenes and incidents that didn’t happen. I’m not knocking the book for this. Anna is the readers’ way into this world. She is the readers’ eyes and ears and a very necessary inclusion. But the author has sped up Bathory’s crimes to primarily happen over the span of roughly a year. The author also goes on to eliminate Bathory’s children, save for one she may or may not have had, and even kill off Bathory’s husband well before he actually died. It feels like Lana Popovic cherry picked what historical facts and incidents she wanted to include in Blood Countess.


Michael Scott cringe face.
Not vibin it.

This brings me to Elizabeth Bathory’s characterization. TL;DR, I’m not a super big fan. The way the story is set up, with most of Bathory’s crimes taking place closer to the end of the novel instead of being spread out equally across her life, it kinda feels like Elizabeth Bathory slowly descends into madness. I’m just not vibing with that. Especially considering she’s very put together at the start of the novel. I think the issue is I have an idea of this woman already in my head. I’m not claiming I’m an expert on Elizabeth Bathory, realistically I know nothing, but she’s an interesting rabbit hole to fall down and from that I feel as if I have an idea of who she was in my head. To me she is this cold, calculating woman who feels nothing, and while there are definitely some similarities between my version of her and the book version, they don’t fully align. Thus I’m not a fan of Elizabeth’s Bathory’s characterization even though there is technically nothing wrong with the way she is written. This version of Bathory is still a good depiction of an unbalanced, sadistic psychopath with enough charisma to gaslight the hell out of a young woman.


Anna is a much better character in my eyes. Her character arc is heartbreaking. She begins the story as a young woman full of passion, life, and ambition along with being a fairly just person until she needs to scheme in order to get what she wants. Once she meets Elizabeth Bathory, she begins to change. She turns a blind eye to Bathory’s cruelness, becomes depressed, and loses the drive she once had. In other words, she’s in a toxic relationship and the depiction is pretty hyper realistic as it takes Anna years to recover from. So many years that we don’t even see her recovered by the end of the novel. Is this one of if not the most disturbing part of this book? Yes, yes it is.


But this is a novel about Elizabeth Bathory, the woman who was one of the inspirations behind Dracula. I expected a lot more blood and guts than I got. The gaslighting and manipulation is pretty good, but I was left wanting more physical violence. Don't get me wrong, this book is still not for those who can’t handle gore. I just kinda expected more.


Honestly, I was left wanting more in general. Blood Countess is fine. I was really excited when I began this read. Things were kinda boring though. Nothing happened, and then when they did, they were over too quickly. Perhaps my hopes were too high. Blood Countess just needs some more meat because the story is definitely there, it just needs some work.


I will say this in Blood Countess’ favor. Lana Popovic’s words are truly beautiful. The imagery she provides is simply dreamy. Save for the few mentions of torture that is. All the nature imagery, the medieval castles, the class distinctions though? Yeah, they’re all stunning. I could feel myself walking down those cold oppressive castle halls.


It's just the lackluster story!


Emma Stone crying and eating ice cream.
V sad.

Elizabeth Bathory will always be a topic who is incredibly intriguing. Who will always be a spot of inspiration for creatives. That being said, I guess I can’t expect all novels about this woman to be top tier. Ugh, it pained me to write that. Tis true though.


Overall Blood Countess is fine. The prose is gorgeous but I wanted and expected more from the story. Things could have been worse but they could have been better too. Simply meh is my official review.


With that, I shall bid you all adieu. Thank you for joining me today. I do hope you enjoyed your time here. I will see you all again next week with another read for Spooky Season.


Until then, stay safe, wash your hands, and read some good books for me.


Bears waving.
See y'all then, bye!

Hozzászólások


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