Title: The Seventh Bride
Author: T. Kingfisher
Series: – –
Genre: YA Fantasy
Length: Short novel
Available: Nov 24th
Young Rhea is a miller’s daughter of low birth, so she is understandably surprised when a mysterious nobleman, Lord Crevan, shows up on her doorstep and proposes marriage. Since commoners don’t turn down lords—no matter how sinister they may seem—Rhea is forced to agree to the engagement.
Lord Crevan demands that Rhea visit his remote manor before their wedding. Upon arrival, she discovers that not only was her betrothed married six times before, but his previous wives are all imprisoned in his enchanted castle. Determined not to share their same fate, Rhea asserts her desire for freedom. In answer, Lord Crevan gives Rhea a series of magical tasks to complete, with the threat “Come back before dawn, or else I’ll marry you.”
With time running out and each task more dangerous and bizarre than the last, Rhea must use her resourcefulness, compassion, and bravery to rally the other wives and defeat the sorcerer before he binds her to him forever.
Revised edition: This edition of The Seventh Bride includes editorial revisions.
Source: ARC from 47North (Amazon Publishing) via NetGalley
Those who know that T. Kingfisher is a pen name for Ursula Vernon will know exactly what to expect from this fairy tale retelling of Bluebeard. For those who have yet to discover the wondrous work of Ursula Vernon, though, this is a treat of a tale, with a quirky style, a touch of Gothic darkness, a girl who couldn’t be more ordinary if she tried, and a hedgehog. Mustn’t forget the hedgehog.
Rhea is an interesting heroine, because in herself she isn’t very interesting at all. She’s fifteen, a miller’s daughter, has a good relationship with her parents, has never encountered any bad fairies and regularly has her lunch stolen by a swan. She doesn’t really have any future plans or dreams – until Lord Crevan appears and asks to marry her. Which, since he’s a lord and she’s just a miller girl, means she can’t really say no.
I really liked Rhea. She’s not happy with what life has just thrown at her, but she loves her parents and she understands enough of the world to know that saying no isn’t an option. She wants to rage and roar at the world, but there isn’t any point to it, so she goes to Lord Crevan’s house and tries to find a way of escaping the marriage without causing trouble.
What she finds at the house is far from what she expects, of course. Magic and golems and falling floors, not to mention an all-knowing cook, a blind woman and another who cannot talk. Lord Crevan’s house is dark and creepy and Rhea has difficult tasks ahead of her as she tries to outwit the lord and get out of there.
Luckily for her she has a hedgehog to help. Well, as much as a hedgehog ever can help. I love that little hedgehog. It has so much character for something that can’t talk and it provides Rhea with much needed guidance, reassurance and humour on occasion. Rhea also has friends inside the house, and really this book is more about the friendships and bonds between the women than the battle between Rhea and Lord Crevan. Crevan is not much of a villain. He has done terrible things, but he’s not about much and is more of a dark shadow hanging over Rhea’s head than an opponent. And the ending felt a little… empty, I suppose. After all the trials and everything that Rhea has gone through before, it didn’t quite give me the satisfaction I was hoping for.
However, on the whole this is dark and quirky and humorous and thoroughly enjoyable. The landscape details are gorgeous, the characters are well-rounded and interesting, the hedgehog is wonderful and the whole thing is an absorbing delight. If you like your fairy tales to be light and fluffy, then this definitely isn’t for you, but if you like them to retain the darkness of the wild wood from whence many of them came, then definitely give this a try. The hedgehog alone is worth it.
The Seventh Bride is out November 24th!
Visit T. Kingfisher for more details.