New York Times bestselling author Tosca Lee brings a modern twist to an ancient mystery surrounding Elizabeth Bathory, 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 Progeny is the present-day saga of a 400-year-old war between the uncanny descendants of “Blood Countess” Elizabeth Bathory, 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.
About the Author
Reading Group Guide
This reading group guide for The Progeny includes an introduction, discussion questions, ideas for enhancing your book club, and a Q&A with author Tosca Lee. The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book.
Emily Jacobs has no memory of how or why she ended up in a remote cabin in the backwoods of Maine. In fact, she has no memory of the last two years at all—including her real name. All she has is a letter from her former self, warning her not to go digging for answers.
But the past has a way of catching up with you, whether you like it or not. Emily learns her real name and identity: Audra Ellison, a member of the Progeny, the exceptional descendants of “Blood Countess” Elizabeth Bathory, purportedly the most prolific serial killer of all time. If that’s not bad enough, she’s also being hunted by the Scions, a secret society sworn to eliminate the Progeny. In order to survive, Audra must embark on a quest to unravel cryptic clues hidden throughout Europe. But time is running out and the stakes couldn’t be higher: If she fails, it could mean the end of the Progeny, and all that she holds dear.
Topics & Questions for Discussion
1. Even before it’s revealed that Audra is Progeny, were you aware that she was special or different in some way? If so, what hints and clues in the text led you to that belief?
2. The word “progeny” means “descendant or offspring,” while the word “scion” means “a descendant of a wealthy, aristocratic, or influential family.” Considering that the Progeny and Scions are mortal enemies, how might the similarity of these two words be significant, and why are they surprising, given the groups they’re associated with?
3. Discuss the themes of memory and history in the story. Do you think Nikola is right when he says, “History teaches us who are” (p. 284)? How important is the past in defining our identity?
4. Before he dies, Ivan tells Audra, “There is an old saying among the Utod . . . ‘Better to die blindly than having seen too much.’ But I say: Better to live” (p. 121). With which saying do you agree? Why?
5. Discuss the role of the “sibling system” among the Progeny. If you were Progeny, whom might you choose as your sibling and protector?
6. After having heard both sides of the argument, do you think Elizabeth Bathory was innocent or guilty of the crimes of which she was accused?
7. Claudia reveals that the Bathory line is “affiliated with Vlad Dracul the third,” otherwise known as Dracula (p. 176). Discuss the similarities between the story of Elizabeth Bathory and the legend of Dracula.
8. Discuss the symbolism of Piotrek’s painting of “the foot of God” (p. 177). Do you find the image disturbing (as Audra does) or comforting (as Claudia does)?
9. Were you as surprised as Audra was upon learning that the Historian was a woman? Discuss the “irony—and twisted misogyny” (p. 282) of her role.
10. What was your interpretation of the inscription on Audra’s key: “Some rise by sin, some by virtue fall” (p. 165)? How might this phrase be a metaphor for the Scions and the Progeny, and even Elizabeth Bathory herself?
11. Discuss Audra’s decision to erase her memory, knowing that she might never remember or meet her daughter. Do you think she made the right choice?
12. How do you think the discovery of her child will change Audra’s plan going forward?
Enhance Your Book Club
1. Divide your book club into two “teams” to research and debate the following issue: Was Elizabeth Bathory actually guilty of her crimes, or was she framed because of her wealth and power?
2. Hold your own “Progeny court.” Ask members of your book club to arrive in wigs, masks, or both. Play music and dim the lights to achieve the full effect!
3. Have your book club read Bram Stoker’s Dracula. After having done so, further discuss any similarities between the character of Dracula and the legendary figure of Elizabeth Bathory.
A Conversation with Tosca Lee
How/why did you choose to write about the legendary figure of Elizabeth Bathory?
A few years ago, a reader wrote to me and asked me to write something about Elizabeth Bathory. At the time, I was knee-deep in my latest ancient historical. As soon as I finished, however, I was ready for a break from the genre. I knew I wanted to do a contemporary thriller with a new mythology, and when I went back into my idea file, there it was: Elizabeth Bathory.
Your previous novels focus mainly on biblical characters. How did the writing process differ this time around?
Since the main characters are contemporary, it was so nice to not have to research what they ate, what they wore, or what the hygiene situation was!
As far as Bathory herself, it wasn’t that different—research is research. But it was nice to be able to visit places she lived and still be able to see her homes. Cachtice Castle is in ruins, but it’s still there, and you can walk from room to room. That’s the advantage to researching something four hundred years in the past as opposed to two thousand or three thousand years.
What was the research process like for The Progeny?
I packed up my bags and invited my mom (who is always up for a new adventure) to come with me to Croatia, Hungary, and Slovakia. We purposefully made it a trip of planes, trains, and automobiles (and buses!). Beyond that, it was a lot of reading and reliance on my superb local guides, who generously stayed in contact with me during the writing of the book to answer my questions.
Given all of your research, do you believe that Elizabeth Bathory was guilty of her crimes or that she was framed?
I’ve long believed that no one is just one thing. In Bathory’s case, it wouldn’t have been unheard of for her to abuse her servants. Did she systematically maim, torture, and murder six hundred girls? No. Were her purported crimes multiplied because she was an educated, newly widowed woman calling in debts even from the crown? I think absolutely.
You are the author of the acclaimed novel Iscariot, a humanizing account of the life of Judas. Do you feel you’re drawn to characters that history has deemed “wicked”? If so, why?
In many cases, yes. Granted, there are characters I wouldn’t want to write about. But there is always more to a person’s story than the brief epithet assigned by history. Even in our own lives today, there’s far more going on than the assumptions people make about each other based on what they see on the surface.
How did you come up with the clues that Audra must untangle throughout the story? Have you always been interested in cryptography?
The story about the windows in the Nyirbator church is true—it was a really weird moment when I realized that the direction of the sun told the story backward. I actually asked my guide to call the pastor we had just met there to confirm it. And if you’ve tromped around enough old churches, you can’t help but be filled with a sense of mystery—both ancient and morbid.
I’ve always found history’s secrets and secret societies compelling, including the circumstances that led to the need for such secrecy. History is, in the end, far more convoluted and strange than even fiction writers can conjure.
What was the most challenging part of writing this story?
Figuring out how Audra goes after the Scions in book two!
Do you consider The Progeny to be a feminist story? Why or why not?
I consider it to be a human story about contending with the fallout of a history—including our own.
What would you like readers to take away from the story of The Progeny? What do you consider to be the most important message?
I shy away from trying to prescribe takeaways; every reader takes something slightly different away from the experience of a story, depending on what he or she brought to the book to begin with. At its heart, though, The Progeny is a story about identity, and what makes us who we are.
What advice do you have for aspiring writers?
Keep writing. For long-form fiction especially, the best way to learn to write a novel is by writing a few.
Will there be a sequel to The Progeny? If so, what can we expect?
Absolutely! Book two releases in February 2017. You can expect more action and higher stakes as Audra, much more in touch with her past and her abilities, attempts to take down the Scion cabal and reunite her family.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Halfway through this book, I was thinking that this was not Tosca's best work. I would have given it a 3 maybe 4. Then the end came and I'm suddenly enthralled in the story and wanting the sequel. (Hope there is) Her dialogue is great with the humor was appreciated. Her characters were complex and 3 dimensional. The story line was a wild roller coaster. Tosca, you got a good one here.
Fans of Orphan Black and dark mystery/thrillers with a slight supernatural element will really enjoy this book. Have to agree with other comments, it took a few chapters to become fully invested in the story, but by the middle of the book I was hooked. It does end on a cliffhanger, which is my only gripe, but unlike some books that go that route, I didn't feel like I only got half a story. Definitely left me fulfilled but wanting more, I heartily recommend.
Imagine forgetting everything you know and starting a whole new life with a different identity, and then not knowing who to trust because you have no recollection of the past. This is what happens to Audra Elliot when she “dies” after a procedure that wipes her memory. She becomes Emily Porter and relocates to a small Maine town where she plans to lay low. However, things get complicated when she meets two men who both claim to be protecting her from the other. These men are important for Audra to understand her past, and they go on a journey of uncovering century-old secrets and fighting to survive. Audra finds out that she is a descendent of Elizabeth Bathory (a serial killer known as the “Blood Countess”) who lived from 1560 to 1614. The families of the young women she killed formed a society called the Scion of the Dispossessed and this group sends Hunters to wipe out Bathory’s descendants. What I liked: Tosca’s writing style is engaging as always. I love historical novels, and Eastern Europe (especially Romania and Hungary) fascinates me. The concept of having to erase your memory and start over is a great idea to work with. I find ancient secret societies intriguing. There is certainly a lot of action, and a lot of questions are raised that end in quite a cliffhanger which only begins to hint at what Audra is running from or protecting. What I wondered about: There are a lot of characters to keep up with, and I found the scenes when the characters went to what appeared to be the equivalent of Mardi Gras (or maybe a Rave party) a little puzzling, but it didn’t make the story less interesting. Overall an enjoyable story and I am looking forward to the next installment.
Masterfully written. Beautiful. Twisty. Gasp! Another plot twist. This changes everything. Created from legend, woven through history with beautiful detail. So vividly told that you can see every moment in your mind's eye. This is another must read from Tosca Lee. I cannot wait to have the 2nd book in my hands.
I loved this book! All the twists and turns keep you guessing until the very end
Throughout reading the novel, I couldn't get over the foundation this novel was built on. These people are being hunted for what their one ancestor did hundreds of years ago. I found that to be irking because I really didn't think that validated what the hunters were doing. The characters were nothing special to me and throughout the book you never really know who to trust. The main character was definitely strong and intelligent but I found myself annoyed with her actions of erasing her memory. Because now, she was playing the role of the naive newbie and having to relearn everything. The middle part of this book is really where this novel lost points for me. I found it boring and I had a hard time staying focused. Sure, there was stuff happening but I didn't find myself very invested in it. To me, it was just filed with a lot of information dumps that were given in the act of conversations. We were just told a constant flow of information and I found it fairly boring. We didn't see much of the relationship building so it was hard for me to want these two characters to be super cute together. I didn't see much chemistry between the two because of the nature of the novel and I just took their word for their feelings because their actions didn't realy give me a clue to anything. The ending was definitely interesting but I don't think it was good enough to really pick me back up from where the middle had left me. **I was given a copy of this book in exchange for an honesty review from Grace's (LovingDemBooks) Booktube tours*
I am a Tosca Lee fan. This book did not disappoint! I love her attention to detail. A thrilling ride! I can hardly wait for the next book to come out!!
I can best describe this book as dark and rich. Countess Elizabeth Bathory from the 17th century is an ancestor of Emily Porter. A powerful and secret sect hunts down and kills all descendants of the notorious serial killer. Emily has learned a dark secret and in order to protect her life and those she loves, she has had her memory completely erased. When she awakens, she knows nothing and no one from her past. But those from her past still know her. Luka and Rolan are two men who reveal they know of her past. But how does she know how to trust them? Are they truly her friends or do they work for the powerful sect determined to kill her? I cannot classify this novel as historical fiction as it is completely set in our contemporary era. Only the background information pertaining to Elizabeth Bathory is historical in nature. So reading this novel is a departure from a historical reader like me. I have to admit that this novel had me enthralled. I couldn't figure out who to trust or how to interpret the plot until the very end. Be prepared, because the book ends with a definite cliffhanger which had me clamoring for more. A definite thriller with a fascinating plot that kept me reading to the very end. Looking forward to the sequel. Thank you to the author and publisher. I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Thank you for visiting my blog, http://greathistoricals.blogspot.ca, where the greatest historical fiction is reviewed! For fascinating women of history bios and women's fiction please visit http://www.historyandwomen.com
The Progeny, a twisted tale of good and evil, starts with a bang and never slows down. Young Emily Porter is trying to adjust to life after having her memory erased, without so much as even a hint of recollection as to why she elected to have the procedure. Barely recovered, she discovers her life is in danger, as well as those she loves but doesn’t remember. Emily, or rather Audra as she was previously known, must piece together her memories to save her family, friends and herself. Many former acquaintances want to help her, but without her memory, she no longer knows who she can trust. Her quest takes her across the US and throughout Western Europe as she discovers her famous lineage and supernatural powers. The Progeny offers the suspense of a mystery, the heart of a romance and the history of one of the world's most infamous serial killers. Tosca Lee delivers a fast-paced thriller that will appeal to a broad age range of readers.
This book will keep you up at night simply because you can't stop reading it. Unpredictable twists and turns. You can't trust anyone, and you'll never see the end coming!
Saying I loved this book just doesn't do the book justice. As usual, Toscas characters are rich and plentiful but not so many that you lose track of who is who because each one is vitally important to the story as a whole. Just when I think I've got the bad guys pegged from the good guys she throws a twist that leaves me almost breathless. From chapter to chapter, there was never a dull moment and I had to force myself to put it down to sleep and go through the day, but my brain was back on the next chapter wondering what I was yet to read. My only complaint... The journey, at least for this book ended in the proverbial cliffhanger that left me wanting to read more.
Tosca Lee in her new book, “The Progeny” published by Howard Books gives us the Descendants Of The Blood Countess. From the back cover: Emily Porter 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 Progeny is the present-day saga of a 400-year-old war between the uncanny descendants of “Blood Countess” Elizabeth Bathory, the most prolific female serial killer of all time, and a secret society dedicated to erasing every one of her descendants. A story about the search for self amidst centuries-old intrigues and Europe’s underground scene…and one woman’s mission to survive. I recommend that you start early, turn off the phone, hit the bathroom and make a big bowl of popcorn. From experience once you get started you are not going to want to be interrupted. Ms. Lee has set it up so that you are captured from the first page and she doesn’t let go until the last. This story reminded me of the old “Fugitive” television series only much more amped up. The characters are handled so well, the relationships are outstanding. Ms. Lee has given us a wonderfully engaging story. Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Howard Books. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”
The Progeny is the first installment from the Descendants of the Blood Countess series. I found this to be an intriguing read. It starts out grabbing the reader's attention and stays that way until the end. Full of action and full of adventure. Great read! Highly recommended! 5 plus stars. I received this book from Howard Books in exchange for my honest opinion, which was given.
Take an idea of a family of descendants of a brutal serial killer, add in a touch of both historical and futuristic science fiction, and you might just have an idea of what The Progeny, the latest novel by Tosca Lee is about. This is the first novel in the Descendants of the Blood Countess series. Some might say it perfect for fans of Dekker and Lee's series, the Book of Mortals, or fans of Dan Brown's The DaVinci Code and still others might compare it to the BBCs hit series, Orphan Black. Yet for me, a fan of anything Tosca Lee pens, I'm all in without having to read the synopsis of the book. Without giving any of it away, know that this will be a trilogy if not more, so whatever happens in this novel will not be resolved by the conclusion. It will however, give you a bit of the back story of the main character, Emily Jacobs, and what motivates her to make the decisions she does in The Progeny. Emily Porter is not her real name, it is the name assigned to her after she goes through a procedure to erase her memories. It is vital that she does this because before the procedure she was hunted by one person assigned to do nothing but kill her and steal her memories. He has had 5 years to do just that. Emily's real name is Audra Ellison. She is one of a handful of illegitimate children her mother had before she was murdered. It is a race against time for Audra to now discover, who she can trust, because she can't remember who she can or can't and has to rely on her quick wits and her ability to charm those through implementing thoughts into their heads to do what she asks of them. The one thing she can't influence is other progeny's and she must discover why she erased her memories before those she loves are killed one by one, while avoiding being killed by the one person who has been assigned to kill her and take whatever memories she has. Even more important is that her death carries with it the weight that the line of her families bloodline ends and she won't be able to produce anymore children. She isn't sure if she is the last one left, but now it is a race against time to uncover clues she apparently left for herself along the way in the hopes she might discover them one day. I received The Progeny by Tosca Lee compliments of Howard Books, a division of Simon and Schuster Publishers for my honest review. I did not receive any monetary compensation aside from a free ARC of this novel in exchange for my honest and personal opinions. I absolutely LOVE this novel and can't wait to inhale the rest of it. To place it in any one particular genre is downright hard. It's part historical, suspense, thriller, fantasy, contemporary, action, drama, and romance. The one thing that is clear is that Tosca Lee once again has written an amazing novel and series, and now the wait begins for the next novel. This one rates a 5 out of 5 stars in my opinion.
This is only the second book I have read by Tosca Lee. I loved the first and this book I love no less, if not more. She is an amazing writer who grabs the reader by the mind and won’t let go. Emily’s story is full of suspense, mystery and romance. You will be placed in one dangerous situation into another. Emily’s gifts are fascinating as she learns to use them and discovers who she is. The hardest part is Emily doesn’t know who she can trust and the reader will be left wondering as well. There is so much secrecy going on. I will caution reads of Christian fiction…there is some language in this book that surprised me. Also, I kept looking for Jesus in the book and had trouble finding much faith in these characters, but perhaps that will happen later on. If that stuff doesn’t bother you then truly this is an excellent book, a well-crafted story. A copy of this book was given to me through Netgalley.com in exchange for an honest review.