Friday, August 15, 2014

Daughter of the Night

Elaine Bergstrom, author of SHATTERED GLASS (1989), later wrote a novel based on the life of the infamous "Blood Countess," Elizabeth Bathori. In DAUGHTER OF THE NIGHT (1992) Bergstrom weaves her fictional version of Bathori's story into the history of her vampire clan, the Austras, including Charles and Steffen (major characters in SHATTERED GLASS) and Charles's son Matthew, but especially the passionate, untamed predator Catherine. The novel takes place in two different time periods. In the first, shorter part, set in the fifteenth century, Prince Istvan Bathori fights alongside Vlad Dracula, the Impaler. The bulk of the story, in the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries, centers on the life of Istvan's descendant Elizabeth from childhood to her final downfall. Throughout, the immortal Austras—known to those aware of their existence as the legendary Mountain Lords—play their roles behind the scenes of officially recorded history.

Elizabeth is portrayed as willful and potentially bloodthirsty even as a child. At the age of twelve, she forces her nurse to take her in search of the "Kisasszony," a mysterious, dangerous lady rumored to haunt the nearby woods. This supernatural being turns out to be real, and she is Catherine Austra. Catherine and Elizabeth, immediately drawn to each other, form a blood bond on their first meeting. As Elizabeth matures, marries, and descends into madness, her obsession with the power of blood continues to grow. She strives in vain to absorb life from blood as Catherine does. Meanwhile, a secondary plot explores the relationship of Matthew and his mortal love, Margueri.

By telling much of the story from Elizabeth's viewpoint, Bergstrom arouses sympathy for her without ever condoning her cruel, deranged actions. A woman educated far beyond the common level for even noblewomen of the time, forced into an arranged marriage in early adolescence, Elizabeth can be understood even if not forgiven. And the half-savage Catherine appears to cherish true, deep affection for the Countess, as shown by her role in the haunting outcome of Elizabeth's imprisonment and death.

The author's Historical Note elaborates on the factual background of the narrative and the compromises she made for the sake of effective fiction. Also, a separate Afterword draws an unsettling comparison between Countess Bathori and Jeffrey Dahmer, arrested in Bergstrom's home city during the very period she was working on this book.

Elaine Bergstrom also wrote a Ravenloft (D&D tie-in) novel, BARONESS OF BLOOD (1995), inspired by Countess Bathori.

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

1 comment:

SkyRhino said...

Countess Bathory is morbidly fascinating. If anyone also wants to read more about her real life, this book was pretty cool. Infamous Lady: The True Story of Erzebet Bathory
It contains letters she wrote and a lot of analysis of her trial and her life to make sense of what was real and what was hysteria surrounding her.