Pros: Engaging characters
Cons: A couple of unexplained oddities
Rating: 4 out of 5
T. Kingfisher’s The Seventh Bride is a fairy-tale story; this does mean that there are some things I’d consider plot holes normally that instead seem to be the author’s following of fairy-tale structure. I imagine this will work fine for most readers.
Rhea is the miller’s daughter, and she cannot understand why it is that Lord Crevan has arranged to marry her. Before they’re even married she’s sent to his house, which requires a potentially treacherous journey down a path at night. Very inappropriate since they aren’t married yet, but peasants don’t dare to disobey a noble. An unusually smart hedgehog joins Rhea on her journey (it doesn’t talk, but nods and shrugs work), and when Rhea reaches the manor, she’s shocked to learn that Crevan already has six other wives (if you include the dead one). Several of those wives still occupy the house–particularly Maria, who’s wife number one and used to be a witch. Apparently Crevan stole her magic, and he steals (and then sells to others) various characteristics from his wives. Each night Crevan sets a task for Rhea, with the threat that if she fails he’ll marry her. Of course each task is designed to fail, but with the hedgehog’s help and Maria’s advice she makes it through a couple–until he finally gives her a task she’s unwilling to complete.
She was still going somewhere terrible, but she had a hedgehog, dammit.
The use of animals as familiars and, well, sort-of gargoyles, fits the milieu very well. (As the dead crows along the path warn Rhea: “Be bold”, “…but not too bold.”)
I love the characters, both human and not. The wives have very distinct personalities, and they don’t all get along. There are two wives Rhea has to find out about in terrible ways: the Golem Wife and the Clock Wife. (It’s better if you find out what those are through the story.) The Clock Wife seems to have a great deal of power, but I had trouble understanding why it worked the way it did. Rhea ends up needing the help of most of the wives in order to challenge Crevan.
There isn’t much more to say. It’s a fairy tale, with that distinctive feel to it. It’s a wonderful story for anyone who enjoys fairy tales, and, well, not if you don’t.