It's 1858, and Theodora Lestrange is an independent woman who is ready for an adventure. What better expedition could she set upon but one to Transylvania, a land filled with legends, lore and mysteries galore? When she leaves behind Edinburgh, Scotland, to visit her boarding school friend, Cosmina, and attend Cosmina's wedding, she is filled with excitement and anticipation. She has no idea what horrors or delights await her in this strange land.
Theodora would rather do just about anything other than live with her happily domestic sister, Anna, and her domineering brother-in-law, William, after the death of their beloved grandfather. When the invitation from Cosmina arrives, it is the answer to her prayers. Not even the trepidation of her family and close friend, Charles, is enough to sway her from making this trip to see her old friend. Even though Charles has asked her to be his wife, there is little that repulses Theodora more than a quiet life of respectable domesticity. A writer needs experiences and exposure to new things, and Theodora will let nothing stand in her way.
When she arrives in Transylvania, Theodora is in awe of the majestic castle that has been left to run to rack and ruin. In spite of its downtrodden state, Theodora can see remnants of the magnificence and opulence that once made this fortress shine. The 1,400 steps that lead up to the castle set high atop the Carpathian Mountains alone, the Devil's Staircase, is enough to deter any but the most determined visitors.
Despite the macabre setting, Theodora receives a warm welcome from Cosmina, the aging and fragile countess, and most particularly, Count Andrei Dragulescu. Try as she might to fight it, Theodora discovers an instantaneous spark between herself and her close friend's intended. How can she follow her heart without betraying her dearest friend?
While the spooky, wooded land and tales of vampires and wolves lend themselves wonderfully to Theodora's writing, things begin to happen that reveal to her that these are more than just centuries-old legends. When a castle maid is found murdered, with two bloody punctures upon her breast and the blood sucked from her body, Theodora is bewildered and terrified. Could it be that the dead Count Bogdan really has risen from the dead to claim all who inhabit the castle as his victims so that he lives forever? As the mysteries deepen and Theodora's attraction to Count Andrei blossoms, she has to wonder if she will be able to leave the beauty and mystery of Transylvania with not only her heart but her very life intact.
THE DEAD TRAVEL FAST is an enchanting and engrossing story woven by a master storyteller. Deanna Raybourn, the RITA Award-winning author of the highly successful Lady Julia Grey series, has surpassed even her previous riveting novels with this stand-alone work. Before I was halfway through the book, I was looking online to plan a trip to Transylvania and see the land she brought to life so vividly on these pages.
Theodora Lestrange is a strong yet endearingly human character with an overwhelming desire for a man she should run away from rather than run to, and Count Andrei is a man who even the most strong-willed woman would have trouble banishing from her heart and mind. THE DEAD TRAVEL FAST will easily find its way onto the keeper shelf of many a reader.
Reviewed by Amie Taylor on December 29, 2010