Book review by Aarene Storms: The Seventh Bride; The Raven and the Reindeer

Sunday, October 11, 2020

The Seventh Bride
The Raven and the Reindeer
by T. Kingfisher


Retelling folktales is a time-honored tradition, but not everyone does a good job of it (looking at you, Walt Disney corporation). A proper retelling retains the base story line and a few key details, but takes the narrative into new and enlightening territory. I have strong opinions about stories, and I like my folktales and my re-told tales the way I like my coffee: strong, dark, with just a hint of sweetness. Here are two that suit me perfectly.

The Seventh Bride is a re-casting of the English folktale "Mr. Fox", in which a beautiful young woman is courted by a mysterious and wealthy stranger who invites her to visit his beautiful mansion. As she nears the grounds, she sees a sign posted, which reads "Be bold, be bold." O---kay? However, the next sign reads "Be bold, be bold--but not too bold." Can you hear the ominous music? When she reads the final sign, which says (sometimes in words as red as blood) "Be bold, be bold, but not too bold, lest your heart's blood run cold" she continues forward, always forward, until she discovers her suitor's grisly secret: the bodies of his former wives.

This story has several traditional endings, but the Disney corporation would not be able to find even one to suit their audience demographic.

T. Kingfisher's Seventh Bride re-imagines "Mr. Fox" with most of the wives still alive, but cursed in a variety of ways. Only the newest, youngest bride has a hope of finding a happy ending--and she must manage it in a very unusual manner.

Likewise, this author's Raven and the Reindeer changes just a few significant details from Hans Christian Andersen's literary fairy tale "The Snow Queen" transforming the story from one of stark good/evil contrasts to a more nuanced and relatable journey for young Gerta, who has always loved Kay more than he loved her. 

As in the Andersen story, Kay goes off with the Snow Queen to have his heart frozen forever and Gerta journeys to retrieve him... but in Kingfisher's version she discovers much more about herself along the way. The rescue of Kay becomes almost an afterthought for Kingfisher's Gerta, who learns a lot about love and life that shallow Kay may never know. The happy ending is very different from Andersen's version... and this interpretation suits me (and Gerta) much better than the original.

Both books contain dark elements, some blood and death, quite a lot of magic and a few references to sexual situations, with kissing on the page.

Recommended for readers ages 14 to adult.

--Aarene Storms



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