(Cover picture courtesy of Goodreads.)
Set in the 1820s, The Tale of the Vampire Bride is sure to thrill fans of vampires of literary past with its lush, gothic atmosphere and terrifying spectacle.
All Lady Glynis Wright ever wanted was the freedom to live life as she pleased, despite her aristocratic parents’ wishes for her to marry into wealth. But her fate is far more terrible than an arranged marriage when her family becomes prisoners to one of the most fearsome and powerful vampires of all time, Count Vlad Dracula.
Imprisoned in the decrepit castle in the Carpathian Mountains, Glynis’s new life as a Bride of Dracula is filled with bloody feasts, cruel beatings, and sexual depravity. There is no hope for escape. Vlad Dracula has elaborate plans to use her familial connections in England and she has become his favored pawn. Even more terrible is the bond of blood between them that keeps Glynis tethered to his side despite her deep hatred of him.
It’s only when Vlad Dracula takes Glynis to the picturesque city of Buda on the Danube River and she meets a mysterious vampire in the darkened city streets, does she dare hope to find love and freedom.
Rhiannon Frater sure wasn’t kidding when she said that this book was ‘gothic horror’ on Goodreads. It’s pretty bloody and it’s definitely not for the faint of heart but at the same time none of the violence is really unnecessary. There’s always a point to it; none of it is gratuitous. And the most important part is that it really jars the reader in the same manner that poor Glynis herself is jarred as she’s thrown into the life of an unwilling wife to one of the most famous psychopaths in history: Vlad the Impaler.
Glynis is a pretty extraordinary woman for her time. She really doesn’t want to get married; she really just wants to be her own woman, independent and free. In her time that’s certainly unconventional but not an impossibility when you have wealth on your side so it’s not like she’s a stand-in for a modern woman. No, she definitely tries to rebel within the narrow confines of society and that’s part of the reason why she runs afoul of Count Dracula and his brides once her family is killed and she is turned. Glynis loves her independence and being raped and controlled by Dracula isn’t exactly being independent. So as she suffers, Glynis begins to plot to gain her freedom by any means possible. I don’t want to give too much away but let’s just say that when Dracula begins to love her in his manner (because realistically he is not the sort of man to fall in real love) it’s the beginning of the end of his reign of terror over poor Glynis and the other brides.
One of the things that struck me the in the first novel I read by Rhiannon Frater, The Last Bastion of the Living, was the complex psychology involved. The Tale of the Vampire Bride is really no different in that it presents some pretty abnormal psychology without condoning or condemning it. She simply portrays the characters without judgment and leaves it up to the reader to figure things out. Is it a result of all of the trauma she’s gone through that Glynis starts to actually feel something (not love) for Dracula? Or is it that she’s finally accepting her vampire life? I personally think it’s a result of the trauma combined with an acceptance of her vampire life but Rhiannon Frater smartly leaves things up to the reader for them to figure out themselves. She’s not one of these authors that tries to beat her readers over the head with the obvious stick. Her writing is subtle and ambiguous, which is perfect for this kind of gothic tale.
I was a little hesitant about this book in the beginning because it starts off relatively slow with Glynis and her family travelling around in Transylvania to try yet again to find Glynis a husband. But things pick up pretty quickly when they get mysteriously diverted to Dracula’s castle and meet the count himself. After that the story involves a lot of the push-pull dynamic between Vlad and Glynis as both of them try to assert their authority. Sometimes Dracula wins, sometimes (particularly toward the end) Glynis wins. She learns to survive and there’s another level of intrigue dropped in when the two of them go to Buda and find that humans aren’t the only things they need to worry about. Glynis’ journey is one of sorrow, torture and strife while at the same time it’s a story of hope, redemption and even love. Even when the pacing itself is slow, it’s hard not to be captivated by the story itself and the amazing, memorable characters.
That’s why even if you’re not a big fan of gothic horror novels, The Tale of the Vampire Bride is worth a try. I certainly didn’t expect to love it as much as I did and maybe you’ll surprise yourself as well.
I give this book 5/5 stars.