Book: A Dowry of Blood
Author: S. T. Gibson
Genre: Fantasy, Horror, LGBTQ, Vampires
Publication Date: October 4, 2022
This is my last love letter to you, though some would call it a confession. . .
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.
I received a free advanced reader’s copy of this book from Orbit books in exchange for an honest review. Thank you Orbit!
I have enjoyed reading vampire books ever since I was in middle school, and I frequently keep an eye out for new ones to read. I will read just about any of them – ranging from the likes of Twilight to Sookie Stackhouse to Interview with the Vampire. So, when I saw A Dowry of Blood on offer I immediately knew I’d want to read it.
A Dowry of Blood begins with the revelation that the narrator, Constanta, has killed her master, who she calls “My Lord” throughout the book. The entire story is written like a confession letter to My Lord, and it details how she first met him and leads up to his death and her life afterwards. It is a story that takes place over the course of centuries as one might expect with a story about vampires.
Constanta first meets My Lord as she’s dying in her village in Romania sometime in the early Middle Ages. She is the victim of an invasion, and as she lies bleeding, in pain and alone on the road between houses, she is approached by My Lord. He offers her his blood as a way to heal and become his wife, and she accepts without fully understanding what the offer is.
My Lord immediately steals her away to his crumbling castle nearby, and he dubs his new wife Constanta. This simple act of gifting her a new name, essentially erasing her old life and old self and molding her into a new identity, foreshadows the direction their relationship will take over the course of the next several centuries. She quickly realizes that she both loves and fears her new Lord and husband. My Lord is nothing if not exacting in how he wishes the world around him to behave.
If this sounds like an abusive and manipulative relationship to you, then you’d be right. Constanta even admits that it’s entirely possible My Lord manufactured the timing of their meeting after watching her from afar. He hunted Constanta, even if she didn’t realize it until she had been with him for many years. The entire story being written like a letter to him or a journal entry almost seems like an act of catharsis on Constanta’s part. She’s trying to come to terms with her long life of being subjected to emotional abuse by someone she loved, and she’s trying to figure out how she feels about it all.
That being said, the author’s note with trigger warnings at the beginning was very necessary. My Lord is psychologically and emotionally abusive, and he constantly gaslights Constanta. He uses knowledge, power, and her love for him to control her completely. It takes Constanta many years to realize how much he has been manipulating her, but even then she doesn’t bring herself to do anything about it until My Lord becomes physically abusive. So, anyone with sensitivities to these topics should be aware they are prevalent throughout the story, and I only recommend reading it if you are comfortable.
Another little disclaimer, there are a number of sex scenes in the book. I personally didn’t have a problem with that, but just fair warning that they are in the book. Although, the sex in this book was interesting in another way (besides being interesting for it being sex of course). My Lord is open to having lovers both male and female, and Constanta is as well. It just made me think about how if you were almost guaranteed to have a centuries-long life that sexuality would certainly be more fluid with less taboos than many people are used to.
Speaking of long lives, the story also touched on the idea that maybe human minds weren’t meant to live so long. Sure the characters in the story are vampires, but vampires start out as humans. My Lord becomes obsessive with scientific discovery, especially with the study of the differences between humans and vampires. Constanta mentions that they all begin to have interests to while away the time and keep their minds occupied, and it was interesting to see a vampire story approach that idea in a realistic way.
Overall, I really enjoyed reading A Dowry of Blood for multiple reasons. It seemed to explore what it might really be like to be a vampire while also diving into how emotional abuse and control can be just as damaging as physical abuse. I also enjoyed the protagonist taking back her power from her abuser and giving both herself and those she loved a better life. My only caution would be to readers who may be sensitive to triggering topics, but otherwise, this was an excellent read.
I gave A Dowry of Blood four out of five stars. It was an interesting take on vampire lore that managed to be realistic without resorting to typical horror fair. The story also explored relationships and power and manipulation in a way that felt respectful while still managing to tell a good story. I think anyone looking for a new vampire book to sink their teeth into should read this one.
Do you plan to read A Dowry of Blood? Do you enjoy vampire books? Let me know in the comments below!
2 thoughts on “ARC Review: A Dowry of Blood by S.T. Gibson”
Great review, I’m glad you enjoyed the book! I read the self-pubbed version of it last year and absolutely loved it.
It was so good! I’m excited for the sequel that’s planned to release in 2024.