cover image A Dowry of Blood

A Dowry of Blood

S T Gibson. Redhook, $27 (272p) ISBN 978-0-316-50107-1

Anyone going into Gibson’s purported retelling of Dracula expecting it to do what it says on the tin is in for a surprise; the few glancing allusions to the original are so brief as to be barely a footnote. The dark, seductive tale that Gibson (Robber Girl) delivers instead has far more in common with “Bluebeard.” It takes the form of a love letter/murder confession from the heroine, Constanta, to the captivating but tyrannical unnamed vampire who turned her and made her his bride before becoming her abuser, chronicling their relationship from plague-ridden medieval Romania through a violent, whirlwind tour of Europe, to 1920s France. Along the way, Constanta’s husband masterfully manipulates her into twice agreeing to expand their family, turning first Magdalena, a ruthless Spaniard, then Alexi, a boisterous Russian actor, into vampires and bringing them into their marriage bed. Passion and genuine love arise between “my lord’s” three consorts, and it’s Constanta’s concern for Magdalena and Alexi that finally allows her to break her husband’s thrall and see his strict rules and jealous rages for what they are. The result is a messy, in-depth portrait of emotional abuse that nails Constanta’s complex intermingling of love, pain, fear, and anger in mesmerizing prose. Thorny, fast-paced, and unabashedly queer, this is sure to draw readers in. (Oct.)