The Seventh Bride by T. Kingfisher

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.

The Seventh Bride is a breath of fresh air.

Ever craved a fairy tale story where the focus is on the heroine’s journey and the unlikely friendships she makes along the way (including one with a too-smart hedgehog)? Well, that’s a very specific craving. Nevertheless, this is the book for you.

Kingfisher almost gleefully stomps on the genre’s tropes, with her signature dry wit and a cast of smart, resourceful female characters. This is a story about resilience and compassion, about sisterhood and the power it can give.

Rhea is pragmatic. She knows that a nobleman isn’t falling head over heels for her. But she can’t refuse him, and this is making her mad. Incandescent rage fuels her. More than fear, more than despondency — she’s hell-bent on destroying the motherfucker who took away her choices, separated her from a loving family, and is planning on using her for his own nefarious purposes. Because he could, because he’s powerful, because nobody could possibly refuse him.

Rhea is not alone in the castle of horrors. She finds comfort in the other “wives”‘ presence. And she tries to gives them comfort, protect them from a monster who decided they were all expendable, a mean to an end. There is a pure, beautiful strength in this compassion, in this mismatched sisterhood.

I loved how there is no moral ambiguity, no half-baked Stockholm Syndrome, no “but if I kill the monster would that make me a monster” bullshit. Everything is clear from the get-go: the villain was a villain and the heroine plotted and schemed to slay him, as he deserves.

Set in a dark Ghibli-esque atmosphere, unabashedly feminist, witty and endearing with a  large scoop of righteous fury, The Seventh Bride is a delight that you absolutely should read. Kingfisher is quickly becoming one of my favourite authors in the genre.

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