I decided to read this story because it is widely considered the first gothic novel ever written. I wasn't disappointed. The story is quite interesting and surprisingly easy to read considering its age. I found myself rarely having to look up a definition which is common with other classical novels of the 18th and 19th centuries. The story focuses on a royal family and a curse that has been put upon their name. Manfred is the prince of Otranto and is very impetuous and stern. I wouldn't consider him evil by any means, but he isn't someone that you would dare to cross. His wife, Hippolita, is a very virtuous and pious woman. She is unmatched in her obedience to her husband even in trying times and can be called the personification of purity. Together Manfred and Hippolita have two children, Conrad and Matilda. Conrad is an ugly and disfigured child and Matilda is a very beautiful and virtuous woman who receives little affection from her father.
The story opens with a horrific event. An unignorable portent had clouded the kingdom and cast fear into the hearts of the royal family, particularly Manfred. Out of nowhere, a giant casque falls from the sky and kills young Conrad on the day of his marriage to the beautiful maiden Isabella. Manfred is reminded of an ancient prophecy regarding his lineage "that the castle and lordship of Otranto should pass from the present family, whenever the real owner should be grown too large to inhabit it". While extremely ambiguous, Manfred feels that this omen marked the genesis of the curse in action. Having the desire to see his lineage rebuilt with a new son, Isabella quickly becomes the object of his affection, provoking her to flee to a nearby church.
The story remains intriguing all the way through the end where it is revealed that curse is real and punishing. The lineage is broken and wrongs are put right. Unfortunately, it isn't a happy ending for some of the innocent characters of the story and there are a lot of lessons learned too late.
I rate this story a 4 out of 5. It was rather short at barely over 100 pages in length but was a great tale consisting of drama, horror, comedy, romance, and action. I would recommend this book not only due to its interesting story but as a look into history. It gives you a good look as to how the structures appeared, the armor and clothing that were worn, the obeisances and habits of inferior servants to the royalty, the mannerism in which everyone seemed to excel at even in times of horror and fear.