House of Hunger by Alexis Henderson – ARC Review

Marion Shaw has been raised in the slums, where want and deprivation is 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 peculiar listing 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 the newest bloodmaid at the notorious House of Hunger. There, Marion is swept into a world of dark debauchery–and at the center of it all is her.

Countess Lisavet, who presides over this hedonistic court, is loved and feared in equal measure. She takes a special interest in Marion. Lisavet is magnetic, 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.

WANTED – Bloodmaid of exceptional tasteMust have a keen proclivity for life’s finer pleasures. Girls of weak will need not apply.

When Marion see’s this ad in the newspaper, she knows this is her way out. Her way out of the slums, of service, her way to a better life. When she arrives at the House of Hunger she enters a world she never could have envisioned. A world filled with luxury, depravity, excess, and she quickly finds herself as the newest Bloodmaid to the Countess Lisavet, the ruler of the House of Hunger and Marion’s new mistress. Lisavet is enticing, magnetic and the more time Marion spends in the House of Hunger the more she wants to please Lisavet, to spend all their time together, and she quickly becomes jealous having to share her with the other Bloodmaid’s. But something dark is afoot, and when Marion’s fellow Bloodmaid’s start going missing, Marion finds herself enthralled in a dangerous game of cat and mouse. A game with only one survivor and where danger lurks behind every door. She will need to delve into the history of the House of Hunger, and take a true look at the extravagance that surrounds her if she is to make it out alive.

Marion was a fantastic POV to read this story from. She comes from the south, a place where Bloodmaids are frowned upon, seen as distasteful, but also where the lines between poor and wealthy couldn’t be further apart. Growing up in the slums, Marion has known what it means to survive, to hunger and her desperation leads her to answer an advertisement and travelling to a place she has only heard about. She is incredibly strong willed and resourceful, but as soon as she enters The House of Hunger, she feels as though she has entered another world completely, one which she is not at all prepared for. As much as Marion loves her new life of luxury, she also knows when something seems too good to be true, and is the perfect person to start looking into what is truly going on in the house.

Alongside Marion we get treated to a wealth of well developed side characters from her fellow Bloodmaid’s who she has a complicated relationship with, to Lisavet, the Countess who swiftly becomes all that Marion can thing about. Every single one of these characters allows the author to further Marion’s story, as well as adding some tense, as well as sweet moments into a dark and dangerous story.

I do think the world could have been developed a little more. We spend the majority of our time in the House of Hunger and learning about it’s past, all of which was thrilling and dark and depraved. We also get hints of how blood is used to power trains, the other Houses that rule in the North, but this is never really built on and I would have loved to get a deeper dive into the world that Henderson has built. That being said, the information we do get, and there is plenty of it, never gets dumpy at all thanks to us learning it along side Marion. Growing up in the slums didn’t really leave much time for her to learn the history of a place she thought she would never see, so her time in the House of Hunger see’s her spending time with historians, and through them we get just enough information to tide us over and know the power balance’s in the North, who we should pay attention to, and how Lisavet came to rule the House of Hunger.

The writing was delicious, the prose lush and Henderson’s talent for foreshadowing is off the charts. She gets the perfect balance of horror, creep, gore and delicious darkness that I love in a story without it being outright scary, but there were still some scenes that had me sat on the edge of my seat thanks to the authors skill for writing high tension scenes, scenes that terrify our characters and through them us. What I loved most was how Henderson showed the danger of all encompassing love. How that height and strength of feeling can be just as scary as it can be romantic. Lisavet and Marion’s relationship is not a healthy one, one not borne out of love but out of desire, passion, control and it was expertly woven into the story.

House of Hunger was a book I devoured, right up until the abrupt and somewhat unsatisfying ending. The story peaked, the tension rose and rose and then it just…. ended. Which, for a story this intense and encompassing left me a little off kilter. I genuinely went and checked that I hadn’t missed some pages, or that there wasn’t going to be a sequel and do feel like, with the story coming in at under 300 pages, we definitely could have got an ending that was a little neater. Overall, though I did adore this story and the characters that inhabit it. Henderson was a new to me author, but I will definitely be checking out her previous work and am eager to see what she had in store for us next.

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