THE SEVENTH BRIDE, by T. Kingfisher

It is now my firm conviction that I can’t go wrong with any T. Kingfisher book I pick up: this is my third foray into her stories and once again I’m amazed at the way she can weave drama and humor into compelling tales that keep me riveted from start to finish.

The Seventh Bride is a reimagining of the Bluebeard myth, but it adds many intriguing elements to the classic fairy tale, turning it into something delightfully new. Rhea is the daughter of the village’s miller, her only troubles in life coming from the slight drudgery of repetitive work and the fierce battles she wages with a bellicose swan fixed on depriving her of her lunch.  When the local ruler, Lord Crevan, asks for her hand in marriage, Rhea is both surprised and worried, because royalty never marries into the common folk, so something must certainly be wrong with both the proposal and the man.  Equally startling is Crevan’s invitation to visit his castle before the wedding; once there (and not before gathering an unlikely companion in the form of a very special hedgehog) she makes an awful discovery: there have been six other wives before her, and some of them have been either killed or horribly mutilated.  For his part, Crevan sets Rhea a series of tasks: failure to complete them before each dawn will lead to the inevitability of marriage – something that Rhea now completely dreads.

Rhea’s horrific journey toward Crevan’s castle and her sojourn there, not to mention the increasingly difficult tasks that also reveal the depths of cruelty of her future husband, make for a very immersive read, one that reveals the girl’s strength of character: instead of succumbing to the fear of what future might have in store for her, she grows in her determination to avoid the fate of her predecessors while safeguarding the life and livelihood of her family, not-so-subtly threatened by the intended groom.  I enjoyed Rhea’s show of courage, her practical nature managing to tame the primal fear engendered by the horrific discoveries she makes in Crevan’s house, her willingness to face head-on the man’s cruel, manipulative attitude.

Where the book truly excels, however, is in the strong bonds Rhea forms with some of the surviving wives, and her feelings of compassion for the one who seems to have fully embraced a sort of Stockholm Syndrome with their captor.  Once she realizes that she’s not alone in the plight of becoming a victim to Crevan’s nasty plans, she finds the courage to defy him, and even challenge him on his own playing field.  Unlike other fairy tales’ protagonists, the miller’s daughter does not wait to be saved but rather goes on the offensive, armed with even more tenacity than we witnessed at the start of the story when battling that dastardly swan in defense of her lunch.

The subtle humor pervading this novel effectively counters the sense of horror the readers feel through Rhea’s reactions when she witnesses the brutal, callous injuries perpetrated on some of Crevan’s wives – the ones still alive, that is –  and yet that humor is not enough to erase our anger at the man’s inhuman treatment of them. Lord Crevan becomes the embodiment of every abusive husband we learn about in the real world, and more than once I wondered if the author chose that name as the scrambled version of “craven”, because that’s what he ultimately is, an empowered coward who steals women’s choices (together with their magic, or their sight, or their voice) simply because he enjoys doing so.  Which makes Rhea’s rebellious and proactive choices all the more worthy of cheering on.

A special mention goes for the oh-so-cute hedgehog that acts as Rhea’s unlikely but effective companion: once again T. Kingfisher chooses to pair her protagonist with a representative from the animal kingdom, in what seems to me like a recurring theme – and one that I hope will be present in her other stories as well, since I enjoy them immensely.  The hedgehog is not only a delightful creature or a sort of talisman for the young girl, who seems to draw courage from its presence in the pocket of her dress, it’s also something of a conduit for help when Rhea most needs it, and a charming, sunny element in the overall darkness of the tale.

Despite that darkness, however, The Seventh Bride is a refreshing story of courage and determination and of the strength that can come from bonds of friendship and – in this specific case – of sisterhood forged in adversity.  It will leave you with a satisfactorily pleasant taste, and the urge to explore more of this author’s works – at least it did for me…

My Rating:


20 thoughts on “THE SEVENTH BRIDE, by T. Kingfisher

  1. I was completely unaware of this book, so thank you for putting it on my radar! It seems like it has all of the usual Kingfisher elements I love, and I’ll definitely be seeking out a copy at some point😁

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Smashing review, Maddalena! I’ve loved all the books I’ve read of hers. But a lot of her output are horror, which I’ve stayed away from, however this one sounds like I could manage it:). Thank you for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I need to read more books by this author!! I have read only one but I am planning to read more, even if I keep procrastinating (but it id, as always, the same problem: so many books and so little time, sigh! 😭), and now I have to add this one to my TBR too, because it sounds so good!!! 😍

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s a short-ish novella, so I’m certain you will have no problem in finding some space on your TBR. I know that sometimes it’s a difficult juggling exercise with so many interesting books out there, but Kingfisher is worth the effort 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Since I read your review I finished one of the books I was reading and promptly started one by this author. It’s not this one, but since there was Paladin’s Grace waiting its turn on my eReader I decided to go with it!

        Liked by 1 person

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