Trigger warnings: threats of sexual assault, attempted rape, animal cruelty, mild horror, gore, kidnapping.
They say the thirst of blood is like a madness – they must sate it. Even with their own kin.
On the eve of her divining, the day she’ll discover her fate, seventeen-year-old Lil and her twin sister Kizzy are captured and enslaved by the cruel Boyar Valcar, taken far away from their beloved traveller community.
Forced to work in the harsh and unwelcoming castle kitchens, Lil is comforted when she meets Mira, a fellow slave who she feels drawn to in a way she doesn’t understand. But she also learns about the Dragon, a mysterious and terrifying figure of myth and legend who takes girls as gifts.
They may not have had their divining day, but the girls will still discover their fate…
This book came at such a serendipitous moment for me – I’m studying Dracula and had literally been discussing the Brides of Dracula scene an hour before starting this book. So I was drawn in by the concept and the fact that it comes form the new imprint Bellatrix, which centres around reclaiming stores through a feminist lens.
For me, this was the feminist, queer origin story that I didn’t even know I needed.
Hargrave’s writing is absolutely stunning – lyrical, enticing and beautiful. It is deliciously Gothic and rich, creating this stunning story that I was completely entranced by. There were so many gorgeous quotes that I pulled out and I now know I want to read so much more of her work. The story is dark, but it’s more of an atmosphere and overall tone of terror rather than too many bloody elements.
Lil and Kizzy’s relationship was such a strong exploration of the power of sisterhood and I loved the elements of their travelling culture. I also loved Lil’s romance and how it seemed so natural and beautiful. It was like the sole thing light amongst the darkness. Our main trio of characters filled the story with so much heart, despite its embrued nature.
I actually really liked how Dracula was never named as such, instead being given this moniker of the Dragon. It really emphasised how this was Lil, Kizzy and Mira’s story and provided a perfect contrast to the dehumanised, nameless and mainly silenced Brides of Dracula from the original story. Hargrave has truly allowed them to reclaim their story and become active characters in the tale.
This story is ultimately about the strength of women, without falling into the ‘strong female character’ trope. It is quiet and understated, allowing us to connect with the characters and this lushly described world around them. For me, this was a real, underrated gem of a book that I look forward to pouring over time and time again.