Friday, July 17, 2009

The Blood Confession

Almost everyone has heard of the legend of Elizabeth Báthory, otherwise known as the "Blood Countess." When I saw this book, I thought the premise looked interesting and decided to check it out.

Title: The Blood Confession
Author: Alisa Libby
Genre: YA horror/historical fiction



Publisher: Dutton Juvenile
Publishing Date: August 17 , 2006
Hardback: 360 pages

Stand Alone or series: Stand alone.

Summary: (from amazon)

As this novel opens, Countess Erzebet Bizecka, imprisoned in the castle tower awaiting trial for the murders of a number of her serving girls, recounts her gruesome story. A beautiful young noblewoman living in 16th-century Hungary, Erzebet becomes obsessed with youth and beauty after her mother goes insane, and performs a ritual that involves bathing in blood. As Erzebet herself teeters on the edge of sanity, she begins to hallucinate about an attractive young man, Sinestra, who encourages her hobby and eventually convinces her that she must commit murder in order to gain immortality.

Erzebet, based on a real-life Hungarian blood countess, is an interesting character. She feels trapped and powerless in a world dominated by men, but soon learns that her beauty is a source of power. Readers will sympathize with her feelings of loneliness and abandonment, while being repulsed by her actions. The descriptions are mildly gruesome without being overly graphic or sensationalized. Even so, the book is not for the faint of heart.


Review:

This is one of those books that are hard to explain. Even though I thoroughly enjoyed it, I’m having a hard time explaining what it is I so thoroughly enjoyed.

Something I found surprising was the way I felt about Erzebet. My expectation was that Libby would try to make us sympathetic to her character, but she really didn’t. Right away Erzebet was annoying and shallow. Worse off, she was sadistic in the sense that the only way she felt powerful was to hurt other people. Even though she has reason to be so obsessed with her looks (seeing as this is the only sort of attention or appreciation she received from her parents), the degree to which beauty becomes the sole reason for her existence is a bit repulsive and shows us that Erzebet obviously isn’t mentally stable.

I think my favorite aspect of the book was in regards to all the questions about morality and god. The book brought up some interesting questions about free will and the role of fate that each person really has to answer for him/herself. Even though there isn’t a lot of gore or action, I was still captivated by the characterizations and Erzebet’s decent into madness.

My least favorite aspect was actually Erzebet herself. Her obsessive vanity and lack of empathy gets tiresome after a while. It was interesting to watch her try to rationalize her behavior, but her blatant disregard for the lives of other’s could have been a bit more fleshed out I thought. And the way she leaps from one conclusion to another is a bit tenuous at best, but I suppose it’s that vagueness that’s the strongest and weakest aspect of this book. Did the blood ritual really work? Has she really not aged at all in the last few years? Was Sinestra a figment of her imagination or was he real? If he was real, who was he really? What happened to Snow? These are the questions that kept me racing through the book, but also made me feel a little unfulfilled in the end.

Most of this comes from the fact the story is all from Erzebet’s perspective though. It would be quite interesting to read a book from Snow’s point of view that overlaps with her participation in the blood rituals.

Notable Quotes/ Parts:

I loved this conversation between Erzebet and Sinestra on page 303. It's a prime example of how she is convinced that the only way to save herself is to kill these girls. Sinestra constantly strokes her fear while simultaneously quieting her conscience.

“What is Heaven,” he asked, staring into my eyes, “but freedom, and beauty, and comfort?”

“And salvation,” I added.

“Yes, of course” – he smiled – “but what is heaven alone? It is a dream for these pitiful creatures blundering through their common lives, eager to see what lies in the world beyond in the hopes that it may be better than what they have here.”

“That is greed,” I told him, “and pride. The sins are a part of us all. I sometimes think that humans were made entirely of sin. No wonder they are so consumed with a fear of damnation.”

“This idea of heaven is meant to show people the right path to walk, in order to end up sleeping in the arms of angels,” he mused, lowering the candle over the flames of the fire; I heard the wax sizzle as it sparked a flame. “Heaven is a gift from God – or is it a gift from the church?”

“That’s blasphemy!” I laughed nervously. “And what of your fascination with hell? If heaven in not real, then most likely hell is a construct of imagination as well, to terrify people into behaving themselves.”

“What have I taught you, Erzebet?” he asked, enclosing my hand in his. “It does not matter what is real, but what people believe is real. You must make them believe…There is only one thing that never dies”

I stared into his eyes, awaiting his answer.

“Death,” he said.

“I will create heaven and hell,” I told him. “I will be like a god to them. I will be their death, exacting their final judgment. What then? Will I be safe forever?”

“Yes,” he said.


Verdict: Overall, I loved this book. Even though it's hard to sympathize with Erzebet, in the end you can't help but be captivated by her. And pity her as well.

Rating: solid 7

I do want to point out that this book is a complete fiction. The real Countess not only lived to the age 54, but she was indeed married and had children. The idea of her bathing in blood has also been proven to be legend rather then fact (not that this makes her killing of these girls any better).

-You can read more about her here.

1 comment:

  1. she actually did truly bathe in their blood. it was her drinkin it like wine that was questionable. I've been studying Elizabeth Bathory for quite some time. and have read this book.

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