Another 4.5 but I'm rounding up.
This book released almost a year ago and I've know about it for a while too, but I thought it was a horror novel by looking at that cover and never thought of picking it up. It's really not the sort of cover I gravitate towards and the vibes felt totally off. But I kept seeing it on so many favorites list, so I thought I have to give it a try. And wow was I immensely wrong in my initial assessment.
I got a shock when the story started off in second person because it's been a while since I've read a full book written that way. But I was immediately enraptured by the gorgeous prose and then I couldn't put the book down. The author is also a poet and it just reflects in every word, which is enchanting and makes you feel every beat and emotion that the narrator is feeling herself. And underneath these enthralling words is a world of abuse couched as love, where love and violence go hand in hand, where sacrificing your everything in the name of love feels empowering until it doesn't. This is a story about power and agency and love, in all its bloody and gory detail and you will not be able to escape its clutches.
Constanta is used to her life, living as her sire/husband wants her to, believing that his wants and desires are hers as well, making herself small and letting him feel powerful. But her life changes when they are joined first by Magdalene and then Alexi. She has an innate protective nature and when starts feeling helpless in her own life, she makes it her duty to ensure the safety of the other two. She may be the quieter and reserved of all of them and the one who defends and bends to their sire the most, but she has a quiet strength about her which finally compels her to take action. While we encounter Maggie's effervescence and Alexi's innumerable charms, as well the unnamed sire's ever changing moods - what really remains with us at the end is how steady Constanta is throughout and how she is the thread keeping them all together.
In conclusion, I went into this one with hardly any expectations and probably more skepticism, but the author surprised me with beautiful prose, characters who shine through the pages, and themes of abusive and obsessive love which just hit you in the feels. The audiobook is also very well narrated, capturing Constanta's emotions perfectly and it definitely enhanced my love for the book.