Marion Shaw has been raised in the slums, where want and deprivation are all she knows. Despite longing to leave the city and its miseries, she has no real hope of escape until the day she spots a strange advertisement in the newspaper, seeking a ‘bloodmaid’.
Though she knows little about the far north – where wealthy nobles live in luxury and drink the blood of those in their service – Marion applies to the position. In a matter of days, she finds herself at the notorious House of Hunger. There, Marion is swept into a world of dark debauchery – and there, at the centre of it all is her.
Her name is Countess Lisavet. Loved and feared in equal measure, she presides over this hedonistic court. And she takes a special interest in Marion. Lisavet is magnetic, charismatic, seductive – and Marion is eager to please her new mistress. But when her fellow bloodmaids begin to go missing in the night, Marion is thrust into a vicious game of cat and mouse. She’ll need to learn the rules of her new home – and fast – or its halls will soon become her grave.
The Year of the Witching by Alexis Henderson was one of my favourite reads of 2021 so I was incredibly excited for her newest release, House of Hunger. This dark horror story follows a young woman named Marion, who lives in the slums of Prane. She hates her job as a maid and struggles to make ends meet with her sick brother living at home. When she happens upon an advert for a bloodmaid she decides to apply for the position – a life of luxury in exchange for the noble lords of the north drinking her blood. Marion finds herself indentured to Lisavet, the Countess of the House of Hunger. Lisavet is quickly taken with Marion, and Marion finds herself quickly falling for her new mistress. As Marion attempts to find her way in this new elite world, she soon discovers that the secrets of the house of hunger might be even more disturbing than she could possibly have imagined.
I must admit that prior to picking up House of Hunger I was in a bit of a reading slump and struggling to find something that would keep my attention, but this book hooked me in almost instantly. I really enjoyed Henderson’s writing style, it was full of vivid descriptions and there was so much atmosphere. The story is pretty quick paced and that had me turning pages quicker and quicker because I was so captivated I just had to know what was coming next. The chapters in the book were often quite short so I found myself saying ‘oh just one more’ and ended up reading for much longer than expected.
The story is a dark one, with a few twists I didn’t see coming. The characters in the story are particularly intriguing and I really liked our main protagonist Marion. It was fascinating to see her adapt to this new world of opulence and luxury as well as watching the relationship unfold between her and Lisavet. The one thing I wish was that the story was a little longer – I would have liked to see the friendships between Marion and the other bloodmaids explored a bit more, especially towards the second half of the book as tensions begin to arise.
House of Hunger is my first read of 2023 and it was the absolutely perfect book to kick off the year. It’s gothic, dark, and utterly unforgettable. If you’re looking for a tense, claustrophobic horror to keep you captivated, look no further than House of Hunger.