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4.1 out of 5 stars
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4.1 out of 5 stars
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on 23 April 2014
This book has a storyline which is quite promising, although I feel a fair amount of it has been cribbed from the far superior The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova. However, the writing is appalling, and seems to get worse the further through the book you get, as if the editor simply gave up. Also the book is too long for the plot and got so tedious that I gave up before the last quarter. It is extremely tame given the subject matter, when it should have been really chilling. I was also annoyed at the inconsistencies such as not one swear word in the first half and then suddenly loads of swearing in the second half. I don't mind either, but one does expect the tone to remain the same throughout the whole book. It seemed pretty amateurish to me, and did not do justice to a potentially interesting and frightening subject.
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on 29 April 2014
Quite honestly, I got bored and never finished it. In theory the plot was good, but something was lacking. Not even close to Barbara Erakine, the plot could have been one of her devising but just didn't have the ability to capture my attention. I struggled on, but suddenly realising I'd got over 1/3 of the way without really enjoying it, I gave up.
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on 25 November 2016
A difficult read with the constant swapping between time periods but a good book if you can stick with it.
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on 28 November 2014
did not enjoy
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on 30 October 2014
I guess I didn't really know exactly what I was going to get with this book when I first opened it, I knew I loved the sound of it, I knew it featured Elizabeth Bathory, one of the world's most infamous serial killers and was often suspected of being a vampire. Just having her in the book was what drew me in in the first place. Did I get the book I was expecting? Well no but that's not to say that this book isn't great regardless as it's a great read.

The book opens on October 31st 1589 in Western Hungary with the birth of a Magyar (Magyars are members of a people in the Urals who migrated west to settle in what is now Hungary in the 9th century AD). This Magyar boy is special as he also a 'Taltos' (Taltos in Hungarian tradition are humans similar to shamans. A Taltos can be either male or female and should be born with more bones than usual, like six fingers, or with already fully formed and grown teeth. They are taught during childhood to be a shaman although many learn there craft preternaturally and know it from birth. Taltos tradition has horse linked closely with it.), he has been born with five fingers on one hand and with all his teeth fully formed. To hide the baby's condition the mother and midwife plan to remove the extra finger and take the babe away until such time that his teeth can easily be explained so no-one would expect his Taltos status.

Then the book splits it time between two times periods........

The first begins in modern day 2010, Colorado on October 31st Here we meet Dr. Elizabeth Path or Betsy as she prefers to be known. She is a psychologist, a psychiatrist, a therapist or whatever they prefer to be called these days. She's of Eastern European descent through her father, she was married once but now live alone with her dog and works from home, in a office her father used to use as his own too. One of her current patients is a teenage goth girl called Daisy Hart who's case is rather odd and interesting. She keeps on having strange choking events where she begins choking for no apparent reason but there are other issues to including some really peculiar dreams and nightmares

The second is during the seventeenth century at Cachtice Castle in Hungary, one of the many homes of Countess Elizabeth Bathory. Here we catch up with the Taltos baby from the prologue, now he's a grown man called Janos and he's about to enter the service of Countess Bathory as her new horsemaster. Over a period of time we learn of the strange disappearances of many of the Countesses female servants, what is the Countess hiding, why will she not be seen during daylight hours, why will she only allow disfigured serving girl Zuzana into her dressing room? Something is deeply afoot at Cachtice Castle and rumours of wrongdoings at the castle have even reached the ear of the king.

What is there to love about this book?

It is a very interesting book but both time periods have different things going for them.

The modern time line was intriguing through the missing girls in Hungary and through Daisy Hart and her growing issues but while this part of the book seemed to focus more on Betsy it was Daisy I wanted to read about as she's fundamentally a more intriguing character. You can see throughout that there has to be a reason why Betsy is the focus, there must be something to link her story to the Countess and the fun of the book is trying to work out what they link is and how Daisy and her dreams fits into it.

The historical storyline shows the fall of Countess Bathory. We get to see suspicions about her conduct grow as girl keep disappearing while in her service or turn up just dead. Rumours are flying wildly and have reached the King who wants to put a stop to whatever is going on Cachtice Castle but as the Countess is a noblewoman he needs some kind of proof to be able to do anything about her conduct. From a historical standpoint it's brilliant and as I haven't read anything based on Bathory before it was fabulous to read. Most people know the legend of Countess Bathory, about how she killed hundreds of young virgin girls and bathed in their blood to keep herself young and it's been insinuated often that she was actually a vampire through her links with Vlad Tepes, this time around looks more at the killings of the girls and stays away from the vampire legend..... shame, I quite like the vampire legend myself.

One of the other things I did love about the books was the relationship between Betsy and her patient Daisy...... why? Because it's very strange, Daisy goes from not being able to connect with her therapist to following her halfway across the world to save her life. At first Daisy is unable to even speak to Betsy, then as their relationship develops it gets a bit creepy to the point where Daisy is breaking into Betsy's house and stealing from her, then next ting you know Daisy is flying across the world to find Betsy in Hungary to help her, to save her..... keeping in mind that Daisy is a teenage girl she's a brave, plucky girl. Creepy though the relationship can be at time it is the clue that binds the modern portion of the story together. As the childhood to adulthood relationship we find between Janos, the Taltos, and Zuzana, Countess Bathory's pox disfigured handmaiden in the historic portion of the book. Janos and Zuzana's relationship is sweet and I love the dynamics between them even if it wasn't feature enough for me. They are protective of each other and have a great deal of respect for each other but I was waiting for the romance to blossom between them..... and I was disappointed. Despite that their relationship is a beautiful addition to the story and could've been made a lot more of as I really liked it.

Was there anything not so good?
At time this book really is a book of two halves and it gets quite difficult to see how the two timelines fit together, what links them together to create a book. How are Betsy and Countess Bathory linked if they are linked at all, how does it all fit together. It does all come together towards the end but on reflection I don't think the links are entirely tangible, it seems like such a loose link that doesn't fit which is odd.

One of the more interesting aspects about the books was the Magyar Taltos thing that is hinted at in the prologue. As I was unsure on what Magyar and Taltos actually were I had to look them both up and found the legend of Taltos really intriguing and really hoped that the Taltos boy would have a huge impact on the story and might amp up any supernatural elements but it was sadly not to be. The boy grew into a man and entered into service of the Countess as horsemaster but there was no real follow through with the Taltos thing, I wanted more made of it and was a bit gutted that it never really happened.

I also felt a little let down by the character of Elizabeth Bathory herself, it felt like she was just a passing presence and I wanted to find out more about her, to watch her in terrible action, to get a more in depth glimpse at the woman. If this had been a book set purely in her time I think I would have got what I wanted from her but as this is a split time book I guess her presence had to be cut back on and I think the book is poorer for it.

Was it interesting and enjoyable to read?

While it may have let me down in some aspects overall it was a perfectly enjoyable book to read and it did have me intrigued throughout. It was full of mystery but of course the biggest mystery, for me at least, was how the two timelines link together, what the common thread between two times and stories really was and it was a lot of fun trying to figure it out ahead of actually finding out the truth of the book. The plot is completely believable both in the historic and in the modern sections of the book, it all makes sense and doesn't stretch the truth to breaking point like some books like this do sometimes. It was an intriguing read throughout the book and the ending , while being a bit predictable, was brilliantly done.

Was it a well written book?

I think so, it wasn't a hard book to read as it flowed easily and used everyday wording that's effortless to understand. The pacing was spot on and Lafferty painted a masterful picture of 17th century Hungary while keeping the modern day part fresh and up to date. It's book mired in a darkness, that had so much potential to go down the supernatural route but the author decided to avoid that route, it's a route hinted at but not travelled. Lafferty showed no lack of expression and handled the subject matter with a gentle touch. It's a well plotted book and the two storylines flowed flawlessly side by side until they meet but I do think that it needed a bit more of link than we got, something deeper but overall the book is well executed and is an eye-opening tale.

Would you recommend it to others?

If the legend of Countess Elizabeth Bathory is one that has intrigued you then this book is one for you, if you like mystery book then this will suit you even more as it will be a great read for fans of historical novels too. It pretty much has something to suit most tastes so if you like the sound of it you might as well give it a go, it is worth a read in my opinion.
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on 6 April 2016
I was so excited to discover this book as I've been fascinated by the history and legend of Countess Bathory for a while. I've read a couple of non-fiction books on the subject and it was great to read about her in novel form as well. There is a lot of historical and political detail plus information on psychological analysis, but it's not so academic that it becomes difficult to understand, though it's still intelligently written. I felt that the historical sections of the novel were stronger than the modern day parts; the characterisation of the Countess was wonderful and just how I imagined her from my other readings. The accounts of her life and childhood experiences were historically accurate combined with imaginative depth that allowed the reader to understand the minds and motivations of the characters. The historical scenes were so realistic, vivid and horrifying that I found myself lost in them and often didn't want to come back to the present day! The contemporary characters seemed less strong, especially Daisy who seemed to be solely defined by the fact that she was a Goth, but I liked the way that the two stories intertwined. It’s different to most vampire novels in that it’s a lot more historical than it is supernatural; there are elements and hints of the supernatural, but it's not about immortal beings, the focus is much more on the human mind and the effects of having too much power. Vampirism is depicted as a product of a disturbed human mind, rather than anything otherworldly. Perfect reading for anyone interested in Eastern European history, psychology, vampire folklore or horror in general.
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on 29 April 2014
Took a long time to get anywhere with the story so a bit tedious. Can't say I really enjoyed it, but stuck with it, as I don't like giving up on as book, but it was not easy. Felt the writing was a bit basic and predictable. Not my cup of tea.
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on 26 July 2014
It's entirely possible that the disappointment I felt on reading this book is directly proportional to the great expectations I had for it. I read The Bloodletter's Daughter when it was first offered on kindle and thoroughly enjoyed it. I found Lafferty's style of wring, her character development, and blend of fact and fiction very engaging, sadly this book didn't have any of these characteristics. I'm not sure if it was the short chapters and constant flitting between past and present that somehow diluted my ability to immerse myself into the story or if there were simply too many characters with not enough time to develop them deeply enough.

To start of with I was delighted at at the promise of the variety of ideas Lafferty offered but as the story progressed I found these as underdeveloped as the characters; we are introduced to the Taltos, this bit of Hungarian mythology alongside Slovakian history is mixed into the bubbling cauldron of the book together with Gothicism and Jung, but instead of simmering together to form a rich stew we are left with a thin tasteless soup. This book was undoubtedly well researched but not very well executed, the grammar and typos bothered me and I don't remember them from her previous book; here we have 'Habsburg an cestors' alongside other mistakes that could have been easily corrected with basic proofreading.

I'm sure that we will see some more great books from Lafferty in the future, her previous work is proof of her passion for history and a great ability to create wonderful and believable fictional worlds so although I can't say I enjoyed this book I will keep my eye open for her future works.
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on 9 June 2014
I was very excited when I bought this book as I have already read the excellent Drowning Guard by the same author. The House of Bathory boasts an intriguing storyline that combines fact and fiction blending early seventeenth century with the present. The flitting between past and present works very well, the story is well researched, the characters and historical events are very interesting. Having read all this you may wonder, why did I not give it the five stars it should deserve? On the negative side I am afraid that I did not find the book living up to it's promise. I did expect it to be much more gripping and chilling, we are after all talking about the equivalent of a female dracula. Instead it was even tiresome at times, it sometimes felt like the essence had been sucked out of it. Maybe this was the factor that I felt was lacking, such a shame as this book could have been so much better.
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on 16 May 2014
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. An interesting departure from the usual vampire story and all the more fascinating because it's based on the real historical figure of Elizabeth Bathory whose vain, cruel and bloodthirsty reputation is well documented.

The author has researched the background details well and this prompted me to delve into my own research about the events and characters of the period; for example, the mythical 'Taltos' of Hungarian folklore and his/ her characteristics and affinity with horses.

For anyone who likes vampire stories and mythology this is an unusual and interesting read. I found the book quite absorbing.
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