Disclosure: I received a copy of this book free of charge for review purposes only. Receipt of a book does not guarantee a review or endorsement.
Once upon a time a beautiful heiress met a scholar of myths and fell in love. She agrees to be married on one condition, her husband must never pry into her past. While the secret gnaws at the him, they live happily until she must return to the House of Dreams to tend to her dying aunt. The house won’t let the secret lie.
In fairy tales, a kiss marks a threshold – between the state of being cursed or cured lies a kiss.
The Last Tale of the Flower Bride has all the hallmarks of a gothic horror. An unnamed spouse narrator, a house as a character, an absent person from the past that no one will talk about, and a hint of supernatural.
The narration is split between two characters, and one is simply known as the Bridegroom. He is the one with the task of initiating the mystery. Indigo forbids him from prying into her past, but he just can’t help himself, and you can’t really blame him considering how mysterious it all is.
The second narrator is Azure, so we get to learn about her without anyone in the present day unearthing secrets. The book is almost timeless, there’s a mention of a Nokia phone, its description dating the period to the late 90s. Perhaps a decision to leave social media out of it but highlighting it’s not set too far in the past.
I wanted to be tender for eating, for the Otherworld to slurp my measly half soul out of my bones so that it might join with Indigo’s forever.
Indigo and Azure believe in faeries, or at least like to pretend to believe. The house is alive to them, having the ability to grant wishes, but throughout the story there is doubt whether any of this is real or is it just make-believe. The Bridegroom’s reliability has already been called into question; when he was a boy, his brother disappeared into a wardrobe never to be spoken of again. He now doubts whether or not he even had a brother. So when he experiences strange things, it would be easy to put them down to being spooked by a creepy old house.
Indigo is a rich orphan, her fantasies indulged in and behaviours uncurbed by her aunt, her supposed guardian until she becomes of age. She never has anyone to tell her to live in the real world, although Azure tries in her own way. Azure barely lives at home, where her mother married a man who looks at Azure with lust, touches her inappropriately. Her mother is jealous of the attention, it’s not a healthy environment for any of them.
It wasn’t until I went home that night that I realized Indigo had never given me back my name. It was just a formality though. From the moment I met her, I had always belonged to Indigo.
It’s also an ode to fairytales in all their dark and beautiful forms. A part of the husband believes his brother found a different world in the wardrobe, that he might too. The dark parts of their lives reflect some plots of tales where girls are mistreated, promised happily forever afters, but at what cost? The flower bride is a tale woven around Indigo’s desire to keep part of herself hidden, that the secret will unravel her if known. I did guess Indigo’s secret but the joy is in the journey there.
If you combed through enough fairy tales, untangled their roots, and shook out their branches, you would find that they are invested with oaths.
Beautifully written and tense atmosphere, it’s a slow burn which is fitting for the genre, and a departure in style from Roshani’s YA fantasy.
The Last Tale of the Flower Bride is published by Hodder & Stoughton and will be available in hardback, ebook and audiobook editions from 16th February 2023. Thanks go to the publisher for providing a copy for review via NetGalley.
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