When The Bloodletter’s Daughter popped up on my “Kindle Recommendations Based on Your Books” list, I was instantly like “oh, yes”. Historical fiction? Check. Female protagonist? Check. Royalty involved? Check. Crazy psychotic killer in power? Check!
Sorry if I just gave away the entire plot, but that’s legitimately what my thought process was like.
The Bloodletter’s Daughter is set in 1606 in old Bohemia: part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. The Austro-Hungarian Empire was famously ruled by the Hapsburgs… aka a family of crazies in power. Ever heard of Juana la Loca? She was the matriarch who was most well known for the crazy (in case that’s not clear by her title of “la loca”). Apparently she slept with her husband’s corpse. Yes, that level of crazy. Well, her descendant, Emperor Rudolf II, had a bastard son who also got the crazy: Don Julius. Gotta love the crazies in power.
When Don Julius’s crazy reaches levels of depravity that put the Emperor’s power in jeopardy, Don Julius is sent to be treated – and lord over – a portion of Bohemia. In the seventeenth century, bleeding – often using leeches – was a common practice for treating insanity or, as they thought of it in the 1600s, “unbalanced humors”. Those who practiced this form of medicine were called “bloodletters” (or doctors)… and – in case it hasn’t become clear yet – the novel, The Bloodletter’s Daughter, focuses on Don Julius’s bloodletter’s daughter, Marketa.
When Don Julius’s bloodletter brings Marketa to assist him, Don Julius takes note of her beauty and immediately becomes obsessed with her. He believes her to be something of an angel incarnate, come to heal him of his unbalanced humors. However, the bloodletting does not cure Don Julius’s insanity (sorry if you didn’t see that one coming) and he rapidly descends into the darkness of his obsession… putting Marketa – and the empire – in danger.
Best part? This story is based on real events.
I would definitely recommend reading The Bloodletter’s Daughter by Linda Lafferty to any and all who love historical fiction and/or psycho-thrillers. However, as the novel handles some more adult and dark themes (rape, murder, insanity), I would highly suggest putting this novel in the must-be-over-the-age-of-16-to-read pile.