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Book Review: The Veiled Mirror: The Story of Prince Vlad Dracula’s Lost Love by Christine Frost

October 19, 2015 2 comments

Book Review: The Veiled Mirror: The Story of Prince Vlad Dracula's Lost Love by Christine FrostSummary:
Vlad the Impaler, a Wallachian prince, inspired the story of Dracula with his bloodthirsty, iron-handed ruling.  This, though, is the story of his long-time consort, Ecaterina Floari, mother one of his sons and a daughter.  She loves him deeply but is haunted by his ruling style, as well as spirits in a helmet he brings into their home from one of his battles.

Review:
I picked this up during the Smashwords Summer/Winter sale years ago but it took a while for my mood to be just right to read it.  It is a historic piece set in 1400s with splashes of the fantastic, and I tended to be in the mood for one or the other but not both.  Finally in the heat of the summer, I was ready for a dark historic fantasy that would take me away to heavy gowns and ancient rulers.  I was surprised by the level of historic research and detail in the book, as well as the tie-in to the Dracula story, making it a marriage of two genres.

This is a long book with a lot of rich setting detail.  That doesn’t tend to be my style but it works with the feel the book is going for, and many readers will enjoy the pace at which the book moves.  The dark fantasy elements take time to set up, but when they get into motion they really add to the story.  The story strikes a nice balance of Ecaterina working with the culture of her time-period and being bothered by certain things Vlad does.  For instance, it bothers her that he has mistresses, but she comes to accept it as is expected of her in the time-period.  This trajectory acknowledges the feelings the modern reader may have about the situation but also lets the character be true to her time-period.

The author toes a finely-held line of showing Vlad’s cruelty but also keeping him human and not demonizing him.  He was a cruel ruler but he wasn’t a monster.  Similarly, although Ecaterina loves him she is still disturbed by his actions when ruling.  This lends both characters depth they would not have if Ecaterina’s love was blind or Vlad was monstrous.

In spite of appreciating the historic fiction plot covering many decades, I did sometimes feel that the plot meandered a bit too much.  I also felt that sometimes the book told too much instead of showing.  Similarly, there were a few too many typos and grammatical errors for a book that is in its final version.  It was not enough to make me stop reading but it was enough to detract from my overall enjoyment of the story.

I appreciated how much of the book is from women’s perspectives.  Not just Ecaterina’s but her mother’s, servants, and other consorts and even a spy are featured.  The female cast is strong, and that would be easy for a less thoughtful writer to pass over in favor of showcasing the men history chose to record more thoroughly.

Overall, readers seeking to learn something about the 1400s in Romania will be pleased by how much they will learn reading this book.  Those who come to it due to the Dracula connection will enjoy the fantastical elements toward the end in particular.  Recommended to readers of historic fiction and fantasy who do not mind a long book with a slow burn.

4 out of 5 stars

Source: Smashwords

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Smashwords Summer/Winter Sale Finds

Smashwords is a website that lets indie authors sell their ebooks in multiple formats, including: kindle, epub, pdf, rtf, sony, palm doc, html, and javascript.  It’s an interesting community with some pretty unique stories.

Since I’m an author with a presence on Smashwords, I became aware of their annual Summer/Winter Sale (so entitled to cover both northern and southern hemispheres).  After agreeing to have Ecstatic Evil participate in the sale, I thought I’d check out the listing of all participating books to see if there were any that caught my eye.  Here, then, is a listing of the ones that I found and downloaded for 100% off with the sitewide coupon code SSWIN.

Nail partway into wood.Clear Heart by Joe Cottonwood
A love story for men about nail guns, wet concrete, and strong women. When carpenters work for bigshots – and fall for beautiful women – who gets nailed? “It’s funny, very tender, and enormously, tremendously human. In fact, Clear Heart just might be one of the most human books I’ve read in a long time.” —Colleen Mondor, Bookslut

 

 

 

Woman in blue gazing at sky.The Veiled Mirror: The Story of Prince Vlad Dracula’s Lost Love by Christine Frost
Legend has it that the love of Prince Dracula’s life committed suicide during a siege in 1462. Author Christine Frost tells the story of Ecaterina, consort to Vlad the Impaler, the Romanian prince who served as the inspiration for Bram Stoker’s Dracula. The richly detailed story of Ecaterina is a romantic, supernatural, and adventurous view into one of history’s most notorious figures.

 

 

Red silhouette of woman walking.Callisto: Adrift by Erica Conroy
Stealing damning evidence from a certain covert ops section of Space Corps makes Jasmine a target. So what does she do? She runs. Hops the first civilian transport ship out of there, but of course the bad guys still find her. Luckily for her the dark and brooding half-human man on board, is a deft hand with a sword. Unluckily for him, helping her could be hazardous to his life!

 

 

 

Image of black woman in period clothing.Portrait of the Past by Kate Halleron
The year is 1880. Marguerite is an artist and former slave who is hired to paint a wedding portrait for a wealthy family. She soon finds that the family has close ties to her past from which she has constantly fled. Instead of fleeing again, she stays to paint a portrait of her former family, and in so doing she begins to understand the difficult choices her loved ones were driven to make.

 

 

Elderly man holding picture of himself when he was young.The Silence of a Soldier: The Memoirs of a Bataan Death March Survivor by William J. Duggan
It was 1942. The fight for the Philippines was over. Japan was the victor. American POW’s sat beneath the burning April sun in the fields of Mariveles. At the point of a bayonet, 75,000 U.S. and Filipino POW’s carried sacks of rice, dried fish and ammunition for the Japanese move across the Philippines. Thousands died. Bub survived. This is his story.

 

 

 

Yellow tent surrounded by darkness.Gone by Brian Alaspa
A group of employees trying to have a weekend of bonding in the woods. What they get, however, is a weekend of unrelenting terror. What is making them disappear one at a time? Why can’t they leave? Will any of them make it back or will all of them end up “Gone?”

 

 

 

Cartoon of woman dancing in purple dress.Polly’s Wild Dance by Sidnee Elliot
After twenty-five years of dealing blackjack in Las Vegas, Polly Brilliant throws the cards in the air, sells everything she owns and makes a beeline to the Greek island of Kythira to paint, write, and forget about men. Or so she thinks.

 

 

 

Red-eyed bug.The Preying Mantis by Andreas Louw
Since investigating the murders of young, female teachers by a serial killer, FBI Special Agent Elizabeth ‘Betty’ Roy has been having nightmares. When he contacts her, latent memories from her childhood starts resurfacing. Who is this man they call The Preying Mantis?

 

 

 

I’m excited by the finds for my personal TBR pile, although lord only knows when I’ll be able to get to them. *eyes size of TBR pile*.

In any case, if you love free books as much as I do, I encourage you to check out not only these titles but the page dedicated to the sale!  As you can see from the titles I chose, the genres are incredibly varied, and I bet you will be able to find something that strikes your fancy.