RogerBW's Blog

Bryony and Roses, T Kingfisher 14 June 2023

2015 fantasy. Bryony is caught in a snowstorm and takes refuge in an abandoned manor house that casually gives her food and drink. But when she tries to take home the cut rose…

Another fairy tale, this time clearly Beauty and the Beast at least in the beginning, and explicitly influenced by Robin McKinley's Rose Daughter (as the author acknowledges in a foreword). But this Beauty is, for a start, not particularly a beauty; more importantly, she's eminently practical, realising at once that she's in a game that has rules, and trying to break as few of them as possible.

There could not be a manor house. There had never been a manor house anywhere near Lostfarthing. Nobles did not come to Lostfarthing. It was not possible for a noble to disgrace themselves badly enough to be exiled this far east. The Duke of Entwood had been convicted of black magic, cannibalism, and high treason, and while he'd been burned at the stake, his heirs had only been sent as far east as Blue Lady, which was still two days' travel west of Skypepper. 

Thirdly, she's a gardener, by necessity since their wealthy family lost all its money and had to come and live in a place so worthless that even the creditors didn't want it. So when she's required to live with the Beast, she spends her time getting the gardens in order. But strange things are happening: the Beast seems very friendly apart from the whole imprisonment thing, but the house starts to get very upset if certain subjects are raised. And someone else is asking for her help.

Kingfisher doesn't feel bound to replicate the exact resolution and ending of the original, and indeed the events that provoked the situation in the first place aren't the same. So things go quite far away from the template by the end. But it's a progression that makes sense, particularly given the moments of genuine horror we've seen on the way there.

All I can reasonably complain about is the use of the word "rutabaga" for what in UK English we'd call a swede, and that only because it reminds me that this is an American author. OK, not such a reasonable complaint. This is great stuff.

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  1. Posted by Owen Smith at 09:25pm on 14 June 2023

    I'd have had to look "rutabaga" up if you hadn't said what it is, so this would have completely thrown me if I'd been reading the novel.

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