A Dowry of Blood is hands-down one of the most beautifully written pieces of fiction that I’ve ever read. I hear queer polyam romance with vampires and pick up a copy of the book. I don’t make the rules. I’ve been on a Gothic fiction kick, and this novella came highly recommended to me. It is lyrical perfection and I loved every word of this queer reimagining of Dracula’s brides and it has stayed with me long after reading.
About A Dowry of Blood
Publisher: Nyx Publishing | Release Date: January 31, 2021 | Pages: 248
Age Range: Adult | Genre: LGBT+, Historical, Gothic | Format: Paperback & Audiobook | Source: Purchased
Saved from the brink of death by a mysterious stranger, Constanta is transformed from a medieval peasant into a bride fit for an undying king. But when Dracula draws a cunning aristocrat and a starving artist into his web of passion and deceit, Constanta realizes that her beloved is capable of terrible things. Finding comfort in the arms of her rival consorts, she begins to unravel their husband’s dark secrets.
With the lives of everyone she loves on the line, Constanta will have to choose between her own freedom and her love for her husband. But bonds forged by blood can only be broken by death.
🎶 Lyrical writing
💌 Epistolary narrative
🧑🤝🧑🧑🏽🤝🧑🏽 Polyam relationship
🖤 Gothic fiction
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✨ You can read an excerpt from A Dowry of Blood here!
bisexual rep (all four characters), polyamorous rep (m/f/f/m)
alcohol consumption, blood & gore, body horror, depression, emotional abuse & gaslighting, murder, plague, self-harm, sexual assault mentioned, verbal & physical intimate partner abuse, war
My Review for A Dowry of Blood
“It was never my intention to murder you. Not in the beginning, anyway.”
Part love letter and part confession, A Dowry of Blood is an epistolary written by Dracula’s longest bride Constanta detailing her long life and relationship with him. Every detail that led to his murder; every detail that ever slowly pulled the wool from her eyes to show her the truth.
“I will render you as you really were, neither cast in pristine stained glass or unholy fire. I will make you nothing more than a man, tender and brutal in equal measure, and perhaps in doing so I will justify myself to you. To my own haunted conscience.”
The writing is beautiful, haunting, raw. Every single line is quotable. By page 11 I’d purchased the audiobook to listen along to (15/10 would recommend – the format really lends to the format). I’ve never read a piece of fiction where every single word is quotable; the narrative is effortlessly crafted in a way which tugs at the reader’s heartstrings as Constanta pours her heart and soul to someone she loves and hates in equal measure.
“You did not let me keep my name, so I will strip you of yours.”
At its core, A Dowry of Blood is an exploration of abusive relationships. The narrative style carries both the naivete of youth and the knowledge of hindsight as Constanta documents their life together and the slow realization of all the little things one easily brushes off but together paints a picture of abuse. Dracula’s insidious power plays, manufacturing consent, and gaslighting control every aspect of the polycule’s life without them even noticing. How abuse masquerades as love.
“I knew then I would chase your tiny moments of weakness all the way to hell and back. What is more lovely, after all, than a monster undone by want?”
Words cannot express how much I adore Constanta, Magdalena, and Alexi, and just how each of their relationships with Dracula are layered and complex. How they learn to lean on and build true bonds with one another that would ultimately be Dracula’s undoing. The fact that this is a novella with such strong character development and relationships is a feat.
“Even loneliness, hollow and cold, becomes so familiar it starts to feel like a friend.”
There’s a philosophical thought that says life’s meaning comes from the fact that it ends, and each character struggles with the lack of finitude differently. They each long for the joys of life from which Dracula shutters them. Constanta seems to handle things best, which may be a result of Dracula “saving her” and giving her second life. Magdalena’s malaise brings secondhand depression representation, and as expected also brings Dracula’s useless dealing with it.
“There wasn’t any room to examine the past or future, there was only the eternal now.”
Ultimately, A Dowry of Blood is a novella to be experienced and difficult to review. It made me cry and I loved every damn second of it. It’s hauntingly and achingly beautiful, and I’ve never read anything like this before.
As a note, the audiobook is INCREDIBLE! I read along with my paperback and not only does Abby Craden do an amazing job narrating, but the epistolary style of narration lends to the medium.
This novella genuinely lives rent-free in my brain: I first read it in July and still think about it a few times a week. Despite its difficult subject matter, it’s a lyrical story of “desire, obsession, and emancipation” that will undoubtedly be one of my favorite reads of 2021. I’m still in awe of the beautiful writing, lyrical and flowing, never feeling cumbersome to read. S.T. Gibson is a new favorite author!
Also the free epilogue made me cry some more. If you’ve read Dowry, be sure to read An Encore of Roses to catch up on Constanta, Magdalena, and Alexi are doing!
No two readers experience a book in the same way; this was mine, but what about you?
💬 Have you read A Dowry of Blood yet? If so, what are your thoughts?
💬 Did I convince you to add this book to your TBR?
💬 What are your favorite vampire stories or books by indie authors? What should I add to my TBR?