RogerBW's Blog

The Seventh Bride, T Kingfisher 04 March 2023

2014 fantasy. Rhea the miller's daughter was expecting that she'd get married some day… but why has Lord Crevan made an offer for her at all, never mind right now?

It's a fairy tale, mostly, a little bit Bluebeard though not very. Rhea is forced to live in Lord Crevan's manor, where she meets his six previous wives, and is set a task each night: complete it, or be married. Being a young woman with few illusions, but the good sense to be kind to people when she gets the chance, she rises to the challenges and then to the greater challenge of escaping.

But while the course of the big plot may be predictable, which perhaps makes the book lose some lustre by the end, it's the details of the small stuff that really shine for me. Like a diversion with the local conjure wife, who'll set up a bone and feather bag for whatever your problem may be:

It looked the same every time, a grisly little package topped with a quail skull, no matter what the problem was—fever or gremlins or fits, cows not giving milk or goats getting the staggers, or potatoes hauling themselves out of the ground and sulking in the corner of the field. (Potatoes were, for some reason, more prone to fits of random magic than most other vegetables. It would take a remarkable magic to affect turnips or kale. No one bothered planting eggplant—it'd be off and running into the woods or flying away on a leafy kite as soon as your back was turned.)

The language is at times oddly modern for someone like me who grew op on the slightly archaic texts of classic fairy tales; a stray "Okay" can throw me out of immersion, which seems a shame. (No sailboats or shirtwaists here, at least.)

Aside from the text, there's a lot of quiet social commentary here: it's not necessary that the wizard ensorcell people, he just uses his position as a friend of the local lord to get whatever he wants, and while in theory there are means of protests, if Rhea's parents get thrown out of the mill they've run all their lives they'll have nothing.

Perhaps a little unsure at times, but my word this is very good stuff.

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