When I first looked at Bathory: Memoir of a Countess, my foremost thought was “Please don’t let her turn out to be a vampire.” After living through Anne Rice-Buffy-Angel-Twilight mania, I have had more than my fill of vampire novels. Now, after reading Bathory, I realize that I should have said “Please make her a real person.”
Page after page, chapter after chapter, we are given scenes of Countess Elizabeth Bathory torturing servants, seducing one character after another, murdering young girls, and killing people right and left. She is less of a three-dimensional character and more like a caricature, a villainous character with barely any redeeming qualities about her.
Some analysis at the beginning explores an unhappy affair in her childhood. There is also a feminist stance toward the end as an imprisoned Bathory appears to be a victim of a misogynist emperor. These scenes actually make Countess Bathory into a real person.
Even some of the torture scenes are interesting, in a dark sort of way. In one scene, she has some sadistic fun with a troupe of musicians. In another, she takes vengeance on a servant girl who dares to criticize her looks. But after awhile, these scenes of torture get old and turn Bathory less into a flesh-and-blood character and more into a parody.
It is interesting to explore the dark side of characters and, as any actor or fan of any movie or TV show can testify, villains are the most interesting characters to read about and explore. Unfortunately, there has to be something to relate to, something to draw the reader in other than just one gory scene after another. Mordeaux tries to make one of history’s noted villains into a believable character but falls short.