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House of Bathory
by Linda Lafferty
In her stronghold of Cachtice Castle, Elizabeth Bathory tortures and kills countless young women and bathes in their blood to preserve her youth and beauty. Other nobles are starting to notice, but they are content to allow Bathory to continue her bloodshed as long as she keeps the victims of her “night games” confined to the peasantry. Four hundred years later, a psychoanalyst named Elizabeth “Betsy” Path tries to reach through to Daisy Hart, an angry Goth girl. The two end up bonding over Jungian psychology and the famous psychoanalyst’s Red Book. When Betsy’s mother disappears in Slovakia, her daughter rushes to her rescue. Convinced that her psychoanalyst is in danger, Daisy follows, and the women are sucked into a dangerous world where the curse of the Bathory remains strong.
The story alternates between two timelines – the 17th century castle of the infamous Blood Countess, Elizabeth Bathory, and the 21st century adventures of Betsy and Daisy in Aspen, Colorado. Playing with Jung’s concept of synchronicity, characters and events parallel each other within the two time streams.
Of the two stories, the historical account is definitely the more interesting. Elizabeth Bathory is a monster, a demon, and while we actually see very little of her the effect of her deeds loom large as terrible rumors about the hundreds of girls she has killed ripple through her corner of the world.
Some of the modern day characters and their descriptions were just…embarrassing. Daisy is a Goth girl, and she wears her black eyeliner and white face paint like armor. How do we know? Oh, well…the author only makes a point of mentioning it in every single one of Daisy’s scenes! Heck, Daisy herself won’t stop rabbiting on about how Jung’s red book is so Goth or how she feels so Goth today. It seems forced and fake, and like the writer’s idea of Gothic subculture was formed by listening to Cure albums in the 1980s and hasn’t evolved since.
The story is somewhat sloppy, too. Although we are given endless descriptions of Daisy’s eyeliner and ghostly foundation, other useful information is left out. For example, in the opening chapter a child born and declared a Taltos, which apparently is a Big Friggin’ Deal. I’m not sure exactly what being a Taltos entails, because the book never bothers to explain it. But it’s important! When we meet the infant as an adult, many years later, the only exceptional thing about him is his uncanny ability to train horses. Not exactly what I was expecting from a mythical, powerful Taltos.
In the present, Daisy is the daughter of wealthy divorced parents. When she learns that Betsy has left the country, she follows – and as a minor is able to book a flight to Slovakia with no problem and leaves the country without notifying her parents. WHO DOES THAT??? Also, the fact that she knows so much about Betsy’s private life, to the point that she can stalk her all the way to Europe, is unbelievably creepy. I think the author meant for us to be touched by her devotion to her friend, but all I can think is that Daisy really needs a shrink, but it needs to be someone more professional than Betsy, who sucks at establishing personal boundaries.
The reading is pretty easy, and the plot is so ludicrously over the top in a soap opera sort of way that I actually rather enjoyed this book. But it isn’t a good book. It is the greasy potato chips and pork rinds of fiction. You know it’s bad for you, but you have fun with it anyway.
2.5 out of 5 stars
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Peeking into the archives...today in:
2013: Island of the Sequined Love Nun by Christopher Moore
2012: Vacation: Weddingpalooza
2011: Random Ranting: What NOT TO DO When Submitting a Manuscript
2010: Dawn of the Dreadfuls by Steve Hockensmith
2009: Henry V: The Graphic Novel by William Shakespeare