Behold, the inaugral gothic novel. It is campily hilarious, like bad horror. This isn’t a review so much as a pile of spoilers.
Ok so there is a castle and an 18-year-old beautiful virgin named Matilda whose father Manfred doesn’t love her because he loves his sickly son Conrad. Sickly Conrad’s wedding day arrives and everyone is in attendance but then Conrad is crushed by a giant helm.
Par for the course, so far.
And then Manfred is all Ahh well, he was sickly anyways and besides, my wife sucks at heir-making ergo, I will take Isabella (Conrad’s betrothed) as my wife. But that is gross, so one the portraits on the wall descends from its frame, temporarily distracting Manfred so that Isabella can escape. This portrait-descending thing never happens again, nor does the portrait-phantom ever re-occur. It is a completely nonsensical one-off.
But escape Isabella does! Not to, you know, the rest of the castle where all the people are, but to the subterraneous passages, where she is assisted by a noble peasant lad. She flees to a church, the noble peasant lad is sentenced to death for assisting her, the friar shows up to be all Hey, there’s a girl seeking refuge in my church from you OH MY GOD THAT’S MY SON!
Noble peasant lad = son of friar who actually = some lord or other who retired to religious life after his wife and son were kidnapped by pirates. Geddit? Right. And while they’re hashing out whether Manfred will get to kill the noble peasant lad or Isabella (the friar has to pick, you see), Isabella’s father shows up with many much more knights (and an enormous, incredibly phallic sword) and suddenly everyone is scavenger-hunting Isabella (who, you may recall, the friar just informed them all is in the church).
The noble peasant lad is locked up, but Matilda (whose only job in this tale is to free the noble peasant lad, fall in love with him, and later be tragically killed) frees him and falls in love with him. They are in love now. He runs off to swoop Isabella from the church (where she’s totally safe) and hide her in a cave, where he has to defend her against a knight who (after the npl wounds him) turns out to be her father, whom she never knew. Alas, right?
So they all hie back to the palace to sort themselves out, at which point Isabella’s father also falls in love with Matilda. Beautiful young virginhood is a curse. The two fathers are working out how they can swap daughters when a messenger reports that the npl is meeting secretly with a girl. Manfred suspects Isabella (who, you may recall, fled his advances earlier) so he darts over in the dark and STABS that girl, but it’s Matilda, alas again.
No more heirs for Manfred, the npl turns out to be the rightful descendent of Otranto, Matilda is dead but Isabella is not, so the two young things marry. Fini.
This book R.I.P.s it up. Sort of.