Constanta, Dracula’s bride, steps away from the outskirts of history in S.T. Gibson’s mesmerizing novel, A Dowry of Blood (out from Nyx Publishing on January 31, 2021).
I received a digital review copy of A Dowry of Blood from Nyx Publishing in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.
In this astonishing adaptation of Bram Stoker’s Dracula, S.T. Gibson gives voice to one of Dracula’s consorts. The story, written in epistolary form, centers on Constanta’s life from when Dracula turns her into a vampire. After her village in Romania is attacked and raiders have slaughtered her family, she lies wounded and dying. Dracula appears before her, and she accepts his offer of a new life. Enraptured by Dracula’s beauty and passion, she becomes lovesick and relies on his guidance. But as centuries pass, Constanta starts to see the real Dracula: a cold and possessive figure capable of emotional manipulation and abuse. He sees her as just another one of his jewels, a tool to discard once it’s useless.
In her letters to Dracula, Constanta asserts her refusal to become a footnote in his life. She refers to him as “you,” not once writing out his name. The omission is effective as it challenges the role often regulated to women in Gothic fiction: domestic and underdeveloped. Instead of accepting her fate as another one of Dracula’s lovers, obscured by time, she reclaims her agency and detaches herself from him.
During her time as Dracula’s wife, he takes in two other lovers: Magdalena and Alexi. Like Constanta, the two fall for Dracula’s charm and promises of sweet immortality. Magdalena, an influential diplomat from Spain, spirals into severe depression after Dracula isolates her from the world, discouraging her correspondence with political figures across Europe. Alexi, who starts as a young man homeless and orphaned in Russia, grows frustrated over Dracula’s controlling nature and ignites heated arguments with him. In her letters, Constanta describes the dominance Dracula holds over them, the manipulation and coercion during sex and intimate moments. But even as he continues to break them further, Constanta’s desire for freedom never wanes. The characters are in a polyamorous relationship together, and it is Constanta’s love for Magdalena and Alexi that eventually propels her to finally destroy Dracula.
Calling A Dowry of Blood a quick read (around 178 pages) would be a disservice to the author’s prowess as a storyteller. Constanta’s story is a sculpture that has defied centuries-old threats of erosion and destruction, refusing to be reduced to rubble. Gibson’s prose is a divine treat, its flavor lingering on your tongue long after the last word.
Author: Brahidaliz Martinez
Brahidaliz (pronounced Bra-da-leez) is a 2019 graduate of American University’s MFA in creative writing program. Their cross-genre chapbook, Coquí’s Song, is forthcoming (2023) from Mason Jar Press.
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