As I am beyond excited for autumn and Halloween, I started on my Halloween reading… In August. One of the books I was eyeing the most for Halloween was The Deathless Girls, which is a f/f reimagining of the brides of Dracula. I was lucky enough to be approved for an e-ARC of it and read it as soon as I could (I was so excited!). It’s coming out next week in the UK, so I thought I’d share my review of it with you all today!
Published on September 19th 2019 by Orion Children’s Books
Summary: Gothic, intoxicating, feminist and romantic – this is the breathtakingly imagined untold story of the brides of Dracula, by bestselling author Kiran Millwood Hargrave in her much-anticipated YA debut.
They say the thirst of blood is like a madness – they must sate it. Even with their own kin.
On the eve of her divining, the day she’ll discover her fate, seventeen-year-old Lil and her twin sister Kizzy are captured and enslaved by the cruel Boyar Valcar, taken far away from their beloved traveller community.
Forced to work in the harsh and unwelcoming castle kitchens, Lil is comforted when she meets Mira, a fellow slave who she feels drawn to in a way she doesn’t understand. But she also learns about the Dragon, a mysterious and terrifying figure of myth and legend who takes girls as gifts.
They may not have had their divining day, but the girls will still discover their fate…
MY THOUGHTS ON THE DEATHLESS GIRLS
I received an e-ARC of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
The Deathless Girls sounded like such a promising read, perfect for autumn: who wouldn’t want to read a f/f reimagining of Dracula, which gives a voice to the voiceless? In Dracula, it is mentioned that the vampire has three brides, two dark, one fair. The Deathless Girls is the story of two of them.
From the first few words, The Deathless Girls is a brutal story and doesn’t shy away from the realities of history. It follows Lil and her twin sister Kizzy, which see their family and community slaughtered and burned to the ground on the eve of their seventeenth birthday, before they are enslaved by the cruel Boyar Valcar, ruler of the land. They are then taken away to his castle, where they become serving girls and eventually cross paths with Dracula.
As expected, this novel is full of gothic elements and I really enjoyed reading about them. It goes from the darkness in humans’ hearts, which can be filled with hate and prejudice without any reason, to the more supernatural gothic elements, exploring the myth of the vampire. All in all, the setting was believable and was great for a book you’d read during autumn or near Halloween.
At its core, The Deathless Girls is a character-driven story, but I unfortunately didn’t connect much with the main character, Lil. I liked reading about her enough, but it never went beyond that, which is a shame. I was also really looking forward to reading about her relationship with her twin sister Kizzy, but their relationship was more told than showed, so I couldn’t understand the love they had for each other. Speaking of Kizzy, I didn’t like that she was depicted as the almost perfect, always right, almost superior to everyone else,prettier twin that everyone has to follow! It was really cliché and didn’t help me to connect with the characters either.
I have to be honest though, as this book is about the brides of Dracula, I had huge expectations on how the author would deal with the vampire myth. I think she did a great job… for the little bits we got. I expected most of the book to focus on the vampire myth and to pick up on Dracula’s story soon enough, but it wasn’t the case. The Deathless Girls is a slow-paced book and sure, it focuses on the backstory of two of Dracula’s brides, but you have to wait about two thirds of the way through before the vampires are mentioned. That being said, the last hundred pages of the book were amazing, as they were gripping and finally focused on the myth of the vampire. It was chilling and exactly what I expected from this book, but I’d have liked to read about that before.
The Deathless Girls is much more of a backstory book that doesn’t involve vampires that much, and while I didn’t expect that, there are some parts of that I enjoyed. Indeed, Lil and Kizzy came from a traveller community, I really liked how it was explored. I find it to be a very interesting topic, as it is rarely touched upon and the author discussed the prejudice people from settled communities can have towards the traveller ones. The novel also mentions folklore of the travelling communities, which was great to read about, but I’d have liked to know more about that. I understand that in part, as the girls are ripped away from their homes and in a way of their identity, but it’s only a very small part of the story when you consider the summary, and that was a shame for me.
To be honest, most of the book felt abrupt and rushed to me. I found the romance really sweet and I really liked Mira, but would have liked more build-up for some scenes to make it believable. Like I said, the vampire elements come into play only in the last third of the book, and so do The Deathless Girls themselves. This novel felt like such an interesting idea, but I didn’t really like its execution: I found the final decision of the main character to be barely explained and anticlimactic, plus the final bride of Dracula was barely mentioned in the epilogue, getting two lines and not even a real name, which I found a bit ironic.
Overall, I liked this book, but am a little frustrated. I wish this book had been longer, so it had gotten more build-up, because it ended up being underwhelming. This story was such a great idea, had a diverse cast of characters, but I felt like everything was rushed to go to the end, but because of that, I didn’t have time to get invested into the characters, the story or what was at stake for them. Still, I think readers will enjoy it more than I did and that it works well as a Halloween read.
Are you planning on reading this book or have you read it already? Do you have recommendations for books with vampires?