Dark and Delicious, The Deathless Girls is a Lesbian Retelling of Dracula

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The Deathless Girls is a dark, delicious read that defies all expectations of gender and sexuality set by traditional literature. In reworking Bram Stoker’s Dracula as a feminist fantasy, Kiran Millwood Hargrave updates vampire lore for a new generation of readers. In turns terrifying and romantic, this is a story to make you shiver.

Ever since Stoker’s masterpiece was first published, the Brides of Dracula have been an enticing mystery; three beautiful, bewitching women whose powers of seduction are so great that they can lead men willingly to their doom. But the Brides are nameless. They are presented as Dracula’s lackeys, having no will beyond his. And although lesbian desire has been represented through the brides more than once, it has typically been filmed through the male gaze.

The Deathless Girls breaks with tradition by foregrounding female characters. With her latest novel, Millwood Hargrave gives the Brides a life before and beyond Dracula.

Even recent depictions of the Brides, such as Van Helsing and Buffy the Vampire Slayer, have treated the Brides as little more than sex objects. The Deathless Girls breaks with tradition by foregrounding female characters. With her latest novel, Millwood Hargrave gives the Brides a life before and beyond Dracula.

Lillai has spent 17 years following in the footsteps of her bold and beautiful twin Kisaiya. On the cusp of adulthood, the sisters are preparing for the divining – a ritual that will reveal their destinies. But a raid from Boyar Valcar’s men breaks apart their Traveller community before the divining can take place. The girls are captured and enslaved. Reeling from the loss of their mother, their home, and everything they have ever loved, Lil and Kizzy must forge a place for themselves in a perilous new world.

Mistrusted by the Settled and at the mercy of Boyar Valcar’s whims, their position as serving girls is a precarious one. But even caught up in the castle intrigue, Lil cannot help but notice Mira – a kitchen girl with her smoky grey eyes and a shaven head. Mira’s charms quickly become the highlight of Lil’s days, which shift between drudgery and danger at an alarming rate.

Despite the twins’ best efforts to remain unnoticed, Kizzy’s beauty quickly catches the eye of the Boyar. She is sent as a gift to the Voivode, a feudal lord who demands blood sacrifice from each Boyar in exchange for the safety of his lands and people. In a race against time, Lil sets out on an epic journey to be reunited with her sister – at any cost.

The Deathless Girls is a gripping work of young adult fiction. As well as being an agonizingly good story, this book deals effectively with challenging issues. The politics of interracial lesbian relationships, white men fetishizing women of color, and who is seen to belong in a society are all deftly woven into Lil’s account of her life.

The Deathless Girls is a gripping work of young adult fiction. As well as being an agonizingly good story, this book deals effectively with challenging issues. The politics of interracial lesbian relationships, white men fetishizing women of color, and who is seen to belong in a society are all deftly woven into Lil’s account of her life.

Though he casts a long shadow over the characters, Dracula himself scarcely appears in the story. The adventure belongs to Lil and Kizzy. The choices, though devastating, are theirs too. Although living and undead men are a constant threat throughout the novel, female characters are never defined by how men treat or view them. The key relationships within The Deathless Girls are all between women. Lil’s sisterhood with Kizzy, her romance with Mira, the spiritual guidance from their mother, and even the kinship between female servants struggling to survive – these bonds are the book’s lifeblood.

In Bram Stoker’s story, women were passive. Whether villains or victims of dark forces, his female characters existed to inspire the grand quests and passions of men. In this new retelling, women are at the heart of the adventure. However vulnerable, Lil and Kizzy never lose their agency. From start to finish, women’s actions and decisions matter. By subverting sexist tropes, The Deathless Girls demonstrates feminist storytelling at its finest.