The Blood Confession

Written by Alisa M. Libby
Review by Bethany Skaggs

This disturbingly dark young adult novel is based on the life of Countess Erzsébet Báthory, the notorious female Dracula who holds the distinction of being one of history’s most prolific serial killers. Born in mid-16th century Hungary, the Blood Countess was accused of torturing and murdering numerous young women, allegedly in order to bathe in their blood as a beauty treatment. Due to her nobility, she was not executed, but imprisoned for the remainder of her life. Libby’s tale is a confession Erzebet, her Báthory-like protagonist, writes while in prison.

Libby successfully portrays the absolute power landed aristocrats had over their social inferiors, and it is telling that Erzebet, like the real Báthory, is not brought to account until she murders a noblewoman. Libby slathers on the gothic atmosphere with a trowel, however, and Erzebet’s evolution from unbalanced orphan to murderer is painfully slow. The endless bloodletting scenes become repetitive very quickly, and there is also an unneeded supernatural element added to the story. It is not enough for Erzebet to make a figurative deal with the devil; Libby bashes the reader over the head with a literal person coaxing Erzebet to greater evil. Thankfully, most of the horrendous tortures allegedly inflicted by the real Báthory are not in evidence in Libby’s tale. There are sensual descriptions of gore galore, however, assuring this novel will appeal to the Anne Rice crowd, if no one else – the novel’s lack of subtlety is not likely to interfere with young adult readers’ enjoyment of the tale if they are fans of that genre. For a more well-written story (but even more disturbing and less appropriate for young audiences) involving Erzsébet Báthory, see The Blood Countess by NPR commentator Andrei Codrescu.