56 of 60 people found the following review helpful
Excellent first novel....,
This review is from: The Bloodletter's Daughter (A Novel of Old Bohemia) (Kindle Edition)
Linda Lafferty's first novel, "The Bloodletter's Daughter", is an excellent, if not slightly too long, book that takes the reader back to the early 17th century in Bohemia. I picked the book as a Vine choice last month because of the time and setting. Lafferty writes her story in a time where religion and politics played an equal part in people's lives. The Habsburg's ruled Bohemia as part of their empire but possession of the land, and that of Hungary to the south, was contested by the oft-invading Ottoman Turks. Also, though the predominant religion was Catholic, the various Protestant faiths had made inroads in central Europe. The Thirty Years War would begin in 1618, a direct result of the religious contention within the Holy Roman Empire, and leave the area in ruins through warfare and disease.
"The Bloodletter's Daughter" is set in the real village of Cesky Krumlov in 1606. The mad, illegitimate son of the Habsburg emperor Rudolf II - himself considered extremely eccentric - was imprisoned by his father in the castle overlooking the village. Don Julius was considered insane - today maybe he'd be seen as bi-polar - and his manic phases constituted a danger to himself and those around him. Locked away in the castle, he was being treated by his father's doctors and priests, primarily through "bleeding" Julius with leeches. Relieving the humours, they thought, would relieve his manic actions. The bloodletter's daughter, Marketa, was a local beauty who also wanted to learn medicine and was her father's assistant in his practice. Since she was also her her mother's assistant at the family's village bathhouse, she was also quite conversant with anatomy.
Linda Lafferty is quite knowledgeable about the politics of the time. The on-going familial strife between Rudolf and his younger brother, Matthias, who aspired to the crown of the (legitimate) childless Rudolf. Rudolf had hidden himself away in his Prague castle, content to immerse himself in the study of the occult and the collecting of strange and wondrous "things".
Lafferty's book was a hard one to rate with stars. I don't know if the book would appeal to a wide range of readers because of it's subject. But that's not a reason to knock off a star from a 5 star rating. I would just advise the reader looking at all the book's reviews to think hard about sitting down for 500 pages of Bohemia, the practice of medicine and of the dark arts, and Habsburg politics. I certainly enjoyed it, but I merely caution others.