Set near the end of Vlad Dracula's final reign of Walachia, this novel follows Nicolae and Maria, two fictitious characters who want to kill him.
Vlad had more than 100,000 people killed while he was in power, and Nicolae's and Maria's families died as a result of his evil and violent whims.
Nicolae and Maria's paths first cross in the tavern where she works, and they soon learn they share a common goal. Nicolae loves Maria at first sight, but she is not immediately enthralled with him. Time spent together in pursuit of their goal brings them closer, but danger and death are always breathtakingly near.
Blending fact and fiction, this novel is a history lesson and a story of love, terror and revenge. But terror and revenge are the primary storylines, and the romance almost seems like an afterthought. Readers should be forewarned that there are many graphic and disturbing scenes of impalement, butchery and other acts of violence. Sweet (Nov., 268 pp., $14.50)