Rhea is an ordinary miller’s daughter, engaged to be married under suspicious circumstances to a man not of her choosing. He has unknown powers and a manor house full of mysterious women.
Rhea has a hedgehog. It claims to be ordinary, but normal hedgehogs don’t act like that.
It’s probably not going to be enough.
Picture of Bluebeard.
Ounce upon a time in a fair land place, there lived a very wealthy noble man, who owned lands, and was friends with the viscount and his name was Lord Crevant. He was very handsome and charming but there was something about him that people found odd... Not much was known about him but there were rumors that he was a widowed of course they were only rumors, Right?
T. Kingfisher is the pen-name for Hugo-Award winning author and illustrator Ursula Vernon. Under her real name, she writes books for kids. T Kingfisher plunges readers into a world where magic, witches, sorcerers, and smart hedgehogs exist. This story is a retelling of the fairy tale classics Bluebeard and Mr. Fox. The tale tells the story of a violent nobleman in the habit of murdering his wives and the attempts of one wife to avoid the fate of her predecessors. The difference between the previous books and kingfisher version is that in the previous stories most of the wives are dead while in this book most of the wives are still alive with the exception of Lady Elegans. Also the main character gets help from her brothers in the last scene while Rhea gets help from magical creatures and the other wives. In both versions the evil nobleman is described as being powerful, violent, and emotionless. All the wives are scared of him but because they live in a isolated secluded house that is guarded by demons they are not able to escape and seek help.
“ Her father said that she had been named after a great and powerful goddess of the old days, the queen of all the gods, but in that country at that time, there weren’t many books about gods. There were too many problems with wizards and fairies and odd things popping up in the corners of the potato field for anyone to want to invite more supernatural intervention. People prayed, when they prayed at all, to the old saints and heroes of the country —Saint Olio and Cullan the Archer and the Lady of Stones, saints who might be expected to understand the special trials of living in that land— and left the gods alone”.
The story begins with 15-year-old Rhea whose name means goddess finding out that a man wants to marry her. That's of course the last thing on her mind. Daughter of millers she spends most of her time helping out at the mill with her parents and her grumpy aunt and fighting a evil swan.
"With their high, proud necks and dark eyes, swans were beautiful, but if you saw one while you were sitting on the stream bank, enjoying a bit of lunch, you had better run. They hissed like serpents, and those beautiful white wings could hit like a sledgehammer”.
So when a noble man asks her father for her hand in marriage. Rhea becomes outraged she doesn't want to get married. She doesn't understand why a noble man would want to marry a mere peasant girl , a miller’s daughter of no particular beauty.
"Sure, some girls did get married that young. Even younger, sometimes, but not often. Long ago, girls had married at twelve and thirteen, but that had been in the bad old days when there was plague about, and if you didn’t marry young, you might not live to marry at all. Nobody did that now— or rather, girls who”.
But she couldn't help feeling like it was wrong, especially after she meets him and finds out that he is old, really old. He was at least as old as her father. She felt like her world had turned upside down and she still couldn't believe she was unwillingly engaged to such a strange man. She goes from pulling rats out of machinery to finding out she's engaged. And there was nothing her or her parents could do, unless they wanted to lose the mill and their lives. She does everything she can think of to stop the engagement and tries to convince her father that their is something not right about a noble man marrying a miller's daughter. But of course everyone in her family tells her that they are struggling financially so she has no choice but to submit to her family's wishes.
"It was wrong. Lords did not ride up on giant roan horses and kiss the hands of millers’ daughters. Well, sometimes they did, but only ravishingly beautiful millers’ daughters, like the ones in the stories, who were brave and true and fair. Rhea figured she was one for three on that list, since she mostly didn’t lie unless it was really important. Probably no one truly brave would be terrified of swans”.
After his second visit he tells her that he is a sorcerer and that she has to go to his house at night.
"Well, and what if he was? There was nothing inherently wrong with being magicky. Every village had its conjure wife to make the little charms and handle any stray bits of magic that made mischief. Barrelridge, forty miles away, even had a clockmaker who was a rat speaker”.
On her way to lord Crevant's house she meets a cute little hedgehog.
"There was a hedgehog sitting next to her, with one small paw pressed against her thigh. The hedgehog saw that it had her attention and held up something in its paw. It was a leaf. She stared at the leaf. It was rather large and silvery, with a slight fuzziness to it. The hedgehog bobbed its head and pushed the leaf toward her in an unmistakable gesture. The smaller part of her brain had stopped crying and was saying No. No, no, no. This is crazy. This is not normal hedgehog behavior”.
"On the black iron arch, there sat three birds. Two were clustered tightly together, their wings around each other. The third bird sat alone, on the other side of the arch, pointedly not looking at the other two. Rhea felt her heart quail at the sight of the dark house, but she shoved it back. She stomped up to the arch and glared at the golems. “Well?” The two on the left looked down at her. The third bird did not.
"Be bold . . . be bold . . .
"But not. . . too bold...,"
". . . this . . . is a murderer’s . . . house . . . ,”
whispered the third dead bird”.
After she arrives at the manor house she realizes that all her suspicions about Crevant were real. Not only is he not widowed but he's also married to six other women.
"Wives. Wives, wives, wives. As in married . As in more than one. As in me and Sylvie and Ingeth and the clock wife and the golem wife and Lady Elegans, who is lying out in the graveyard.”
“I’m suggesting that if you’re going to bring hell down upon someone’s head, you should dress for the occasion.”
― T. Kingfisher, The Seventh Bride
But he's mad, completely mad, and he turns his wives into golems. He needs killing, not negotiation.”
― T. Kingfisher, The Seventh Bride
"It would have been a lot easier if her parents had been wicked, she thought later. It wasn’t that she particularly wanted to be fattened up and eaten, or turned into a donkey, or forced to wear hair shirts and ashes like the children of wicked parents in fairy tales. But if your parents were wicked, you needn’t worry about pleasing them. When they were doing the best they could, you had no traction at all”.
― T. Kingfisher, The Seventh Bride
This book deals with peer- pressure, social status and so many other themes. I couldn't help wonder if had she been rich would things had turned out differently. This story is unlike any fairy tale where you get the happily ever after . It had all the dark elements of every grim fairy tale I've ever read. Rhea wasn't your blond fragile princess she was outspoken, brave and adventures . Through Rhea I felt like I had been transported into her world. After Rhea finds out about all the horrible things Crevan has been doing to all the women he marries, she knows that she has to get out of the house before the wedding or she will end up dead or a dead golem. Kingfisher is really great at words ,I ended up reading this book in one day. I would recommend this book to anyone that enjoys reading grim fairy tales.
My rating: 5*****
★P.S this book is free to read on Netgally!