Monday, April 23, 2018

Book Review: 'The Progeny' by Tosca Lee

From Internet sources we discover impressive biographical information about brilliant novelist Tosca Lee, a bestselling American author of historical novels and supernatural thrillers. She is best known for her exploration of maligned characters, prodigious research and vivid imagery. Lee was born in Roanoke, Virginia, United States to a Korean father and Caucasian American mother. Her father, Professor Emeritus Sang Moon Lee, who had early aspirations of an opera career, named Tosca for his favorite Puccini opera. As a young classically trained ballerina and pianist Lee pursued an early career in dance until injuries derailed hopes of a successful career. Lee received her BA in English from Smith College and studied international economics at Oxford University. As a young classically trained ballerina and pianist Lee pursued an early career in dance until injuries derailed hopes of a successful career. Lee continues her study of historically significant, maligned, and tortured characters in her new thriller, The Progeny, a supernatural suspense thriller centered around the fictional descendants of the "Blood Countess" Elizabeth Báthroy.

Lee’s magical way with ideas and words is evident in the bizarre opening to this terrific novel: ‘No one speaks when you enter the Center for the final time. There’s no need. You’ve gone through the counseling, tests, and a checklist of preparations to get the plastic bracelet you wear the day of treatment. The one that saves a life. They don’t need to know why you’re doing it anymore. Or that you lied about it all. Just the scratch of the stylus as you sign your name on the screen one last time. A nurse takes me into a room and I lie down on the table. I give her the sealed packet—the only thing I brought with me. There’s cash, meds, and an address inside, the one for “after.” It’s a thousand miles away. She’ll pass it to the companion assigned to me. No point meeting her now. I’m twenty-one years old and my name doesn’t matter because it’s about to be erased forever. I’m choosing to forget the ones I love, and myself, in the process. They say your life flashes before your eyes when you die. But they don’t tell you that every detail comes screaming back to life. That you taste each bite of every meal you savored, feel the shower of every rain you walked in . . . smell the hair against your cheek before that last, parting kiss. That you will fight to hold on to memory like a drowning person gasping for poisoned air. Then everything you knew is gone. And you are still alive. For now.’

In one of the most well-executed novels of recent years Tosca Lee delivers the opening segment of her series THE HOUSE OF BATHORY with polished prose and a very keen sense of timing an drama that brings the legend of Countess Elizabeth Báthory de Ecsed, the Hungarian noblewoman and alleged murderer of 650 victims from the Báthory family of nobility in the Kingdom of Hungary, who owned land in the Kingdom of Hungary and Transylvania, which were areas of Habsburg monarchy. But Lee makes the story even more fascinating by blending the concept of Elizabeth’s descendents and their gradual demise through near sci-fi means. With Lee the story seems all actual and terrifyingly true – guaranteeing her readers will stay with the subsequent installments in this mesmerizing taste of history blended with mythology. Step aside Bram Stoker et al – Lee Tosca reigns!

Lee’s synopsis prepares the reader well: ‘THE PROGENY brings a modern twist to an ancient mystery surrounding Elizabeth Báthory, the most notorious female serial killer of all time. Emily Jacobs is the descendant of a serial killer. Now, she’s become the hunted. . She’s on a quest that will take her to the secret underground of Europe and the inner circles of three ancient orders—one determined to kill her, one devoted to keeping her alive, and one she must ultimately save. Filled with adrenaline, romance, and reversals, the story is the present-day saga of a 400-year-old war between the uncanny descendants of “Blood Countess” Elizabeth Báthory, the most prolific female serial killer of all time, and a secret society dedicated to erasing every one of her descendants. It is a story about the search for self filled with centuries-old intrigues against the backdrop of atrocity and hope.’

Keep the lights on as this novel is so magnetic it is likely to keep you awake and reading all night. Grady Harp, April 18
I voluntarily reviewed a complimentary copy of this book.

Editor's note: This review has been published with the permission of Grady Harp. Like what you read? Subscribe to the SFRB's free daily email notice so you can be up-to-date on our latest articles. Scroll up this page to the sign-up field on your right.