(Cover picture courtesy of Goodreads.)
Buda, Ottoman Hungary, 1599: Yasamin, the naïve daughter of an Ottoman bureaucrat, finds herself trapped in an arranged marriage to the son of the powerful governor of Buda. She is unprepared for the gossip and scheming rampant in the palace but realizes she faces more than petty jealousies when someone tries to drown her in the baths on the day before her wedding. An unearthly menace lurks in the palace corridors, and the one person able to protect Yasamin is a soldier named Iskander, who seems to appear whenever she needs him. Charming and confident, he is nothing like her new husband, but trusting either of them could be a deadly mistake.
Berlin, Germany, 1999: Adam Mire, an American professor of history, discovers a worn, marked-up copy of Dracula. The clues within its pages send him on a journey across the stark landscape of Eastern Europe, searching for a medallion that once belonged to Dracula himself. But a killer hounds Adam’s footsteps, and each new clue he uncovers brings him closer to a beguiling, raven-haired woman named Yasamin Ashrafi, who might be the first of Dracula’s legendary Brides.
Adam has an agenda of his own, however, a quest more personal than anyone knows. One misstep, and his haunted past could lead to death from a blade in his back … or from Yasamin’s fatal embrace.
[Full disclosure: I requested and received a free ebook through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.]
The first thing you really need to know about this first book in the Daughters of Shadow and Blood series is that it’s told in three different points of view. We have the point of view of Yasamin from when she was human, the present day with Adam Mire and the past with Adam Mire as he tried to unravel the mystery that is Dracula and his brides. I personally loved Yasamin’s point of view the most because I love history but Adam’s point of view was really just as good in a lot of aspects (particularly during his banter with Yasamin).
The thing that really stood out to me in this book is that Saunders is a master of plot pacing as well as suspense. Sometimes the point of view shifts can be a little disjointed or disconcerting (in some cases quite disconcerting) but in each little chapter there’s that undercurrent of tension as we move closer and closer to the end of the story and the end of Adam’s time talking to Yasamin. Will she decide to let him live if she enjoys his tale enough or will she kill him anyway because he knows too much? Not only that, we want to know what happens within each story: how Yasamin came to know the man known as Dracula and how Adam Mire stumbled across the truth about Dracula and found Yasamin. And of course, what does Dracula himself think of all this? I don’t want to give too much away but let’s just say he’s not missing from the face of the earth like everyone seems to think he is.
Both main characters were fascinating for different reasons. Yasamin is fascinating not only because of her association with Dracula but because she was a remarkable young woman when she was still human. She grew up in the provinces and so never really was prepared for the secluded nature of the royal harem when she marries the oldest son of Buda’s governor. When she realizes she isn’t really attracted to her husband and that she’d really rather have his little brother, things definitely get interesting. Yasamin stays true to herself without and when she develops a dangerous attraction to the mysterious Iskander, things start to spiral out of control. Adam Mire is fascinating because he’s an historian with a pretty exciting past. After his best friend died he tries to search out clues hidden in his friend’s books and other documents to see what he was looking for and what he died for. In the process, Adam encounters more than he’d bargained for but he’s not as unprepared as Yasamin would like to think.
Of course when you have fantasy colliding with history there are going to be some liberties taken with the facts but Saunders does a really good job of mixing the two together to create a great story. I loved how he meticulously researched the Ottoman Empire and gave little details of everyday life to make Yasamin’s story all the more authentic. And he mixes in parts of the Dracula legend everyone will recognize while adding in some other parts to make it more of his own. (I particularly liked the Michael the Brave and Iskander connection.) If you’re a fan of the Dracula legend or just vampires in general I think Daughters of Shadow and Blood: Yasamin is at least worth checking out. Who knows? Maybe by the time you finish the book you’ll be as eager as I am for the sequel.
I give this book 4/5 stars.