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

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You did not let me keep my name, so I will strip you of yours. In this world, you are what I say you are, and I say you are a ghost, a long night’s fever dream that I have finally woken up from. I say you are the smoke-wisp memory of a flame, thawing ice suffering under an early spring sun, a chalk ledger of debts being wiped clean.

I say you do not have a name.

After two DNFs in a row threatening to push me into a slump, and a general over a month long streak of mostly unsatisfying reads, I needed something good. And short. At barely over novella length, dark, and beautifully written, A Dowry of Blood, luckily, turned out to be the perfect recommendation.

A Dowry of Blood is a sort of retelling of Dracula’s brides. We follow Constanta telling her centuries-long story, from a young peasant woman dying on a battlefield chosen to be turned into a vampire, to new additions to the family, to her finally killing her unnamed sire and master (this is, by the way, not a spoiler).

The nature of the relationship between the old vampire and his brides is, of course, highly toxic and A Dowry of Blood is, perhaps even more than a vampire book, an exploration of an abusive relationship in all its complexity, the good and bad. I love how the relationship between the consorts wasn’t antagonistic, despite some initial jealously – the only monster was their abusive sire.

But, most importantly of all, the writing style is intoxicating. I’m weak for pretty prose and this is some of the prettiest I’ve seen, a combination of first and second person addressed to Constanta’s now-dead, intentionally nameless master, as gorgeous as it’s easy to read.

If there is a flaw, it’d be that Constanta was maybe a little too sympathetic, only choosing bad people as her victims. In an otherwise very dark vampire book, it felt a little out of place, to say the least. But that aside, it was perfect.

Note: There is a sort of epilogue available to read here.

Enjoyment: 5/5
Execution: 4.5/5

Recommended to: vampire fans, those looking for poly relationships and bisexual characters, prose lovers
Not recommended to: those sensitive to abusive relationships

Content warnings: majorly deals with abuse, some sexual violence (I think?)

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