Fairest Flesh: K.P. Kulski
Reviewed By Steve Stred
‘Fairest Flesh’ is a book that I’ve seen frequently on Twitter and Instagram of late, being raved about by many members of the Ladies of Horror Fiction crew.
I wasn’t completely sure what the book was about, so I added it to my future purchase list on my phone, but never really dove into it. It wasn’t until I saw author Hailey Piper share how much they enjoyed the book, that I took a closer look and realized it was about the Countess Bathory.
I remember the first time really hearing about the Bathory lore, through Cradle of Filth none-the-less, and when this was offered for review for Kendall Reviews, I snapped it up, excited to dove in.
What I liked: Many people have heard of Elizabeth Bathory or more accurately Erzsébet Báthory, a royal woman who was said to bathe in the blood of sacrificed virgins. In ‘Fairest Flesh,’ Kulski gives us a reimagined telling of Bathory’s life and events surrounding it.
I really loved how we saw different aspects highlighted and how, as Bathory gains in prominence, different characters rose and ebbed throughout her life. Kulski does a fine job of bringing the characters to life and the atmosphere that was created in this was fantastic. It was as though the book was written with a dirty sheen, or that you’re watching a play only by candlelight.
The character of Erzsébet herself is fascinating and I found it very unsettling that at times we can clearly see why certain things are done whereas other times there didn’t appear to be a rhyme or reason.
The notes section at the end was phenomenal. I love seeing the research and various aspects of getting books together and Kulski really delivers on this one.
Side note for Kulski – I’ll forgive you this time for abandoning your research on door latches!
What I didn’t like: To me, the book felt like it just faded to an ending. It was an odd thing and hard to describe, but it was as though there was unfinished business and we never got to see how some things happened. That may purely be my feeling because of how strong the notes were after, but it had an air of a song that just keeps going as it fades to black.
Why you should buy this: This was a really well done ‘historical fiction’ piece. Kulski has done her due diligence in researching this and when things go dark and brutal they go dark and brutal. I loved the setting for this one and any time we get a story set in a 16th-century castle that isn’t about Dracula, we’re in for a treat.
In 16th century Hungary, there is a story about rage and powerlessness, of beauty and death. A story that not only belongs to the Countess Erszébet Báthory but to every woman. Hoping to leave behind a lonely and abusive childhood, the witch Dorottya sets out to find a new life outside of her solitary woods.
Ugliest I’ve ever seen.
Habsburg Emperors play puppet of the Hungarian nobles while the Ottoman Sultans encroach ever closer. War and cruelty are ways of life. Women borrow power with their youth and desirability, like nobility and riches, a waning commodity that only some are lucky to have.
They’ll see and hate you.
Everyone will hate you.
Unable to escape the memory of her dead mother, Dorottya discovers a new voice that promises her everything she’s ever wanted.
Horrid to look upon.
With the falling-sickness worsening, Lady Báthory becomes desperate for power over her own life, crashing headlong into rages and violent outlets. Pretty castle maids go missing leaving behind collections of blood-soaked linens.
Make me perfect.
As years pass, all of Sárvár town knows that the castle overlooking their homes is a place that swallows the lives of young women.
Even the beautiful Anna knows that, but she has as secret and a deep need to find out the truth.
Steve Stred is the author of a number of novels, novellas and collections. He has appeared in anthologies with some of Horror’s heaviest hitters.
He lives in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada with his wife, son and their dog OJ.
You can follow Steve on Twitter @stevestred
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