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September 29, 2022

House of Hunger by Alexis Henderson ~ a Review

by MK French

Marion Shaw grew up in the slums of Prane, a city caught between the decadent North and the industrial South. She has no way out until she sees an ad for a bloodmaid, someone from whom the Northern lords drink blood from. When she applies and is accepted into the House of Hunger, Marion is swept up into that decadent life and the court of Countess Lisavet. The countess takes a special interest in her, and Marion is eager to please. Marion soon learns there are dangerous secrets in the House, and if she can’t learn how to navigate her way through the cat and mouse games, she’ll die there.

Amazon affiliate links are used on this site. A free book was provided for an honest review.
book cover of fantasy novel House of Hunger by Alexis Henderson
September 2022; Ace; 978-0593438466
audio, ebook, print (304 pages); fantasy

From the start, we have the mystery of the northern lords and the superstitions about blood healing all ailments when Marion sees the ad. She has nothing in Prane but her brother, who is slowly dying and violent. We know there’s not much keeping her in Prane, but she’s all but forced out after applying for the position. Descriptions are rich and layered, from scents and flavors, fabrics, and lots of sensory details. The richness of it all really helps anchor the reader, and also to see why Marion would want to go north. If Prane is all smog, grit, ammonia, and aches while the north is chocolate, wine, fine cooking, velvets, and gold, why wouldn’t she want to go? But of course, there’s a price for that, and not just molding herself to suit the whims of the countess when she’s taken on as a bloodmaid. The primping and feeding remind me of the preparations in the Hunger Games novels. Instead of fighting in an arena, however, Marion must be on display in front of nobles and subject to their games.

The daily life of the bloodmaids was fascinating and an exercise in jealousy and one-upmanship; pitting the women against each other for status is an age-old way to keep them in line and even in the midst of finery it works. The discovery of secret passages in the walls heralds the escalation of the story until we get to the tension-filled ending. I devoured this book in a day, fitting for the content.

Buy House of Hunger at Amazon

Born and raised in New York City, M.K. French started writing stories when very young, dreaming of different worlds and places to visit. She always had an interest in folklore, fairy tales, and the macabre, which has definitely influenced her work. She currently lives in the Midwest with her husband, three young children, and a golden retriever.

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