Author: Vera Nazarian
Publisher & Release Date: Norilana Books, July 2013
The Hook: The premise of Death seeking his bride.
The Lowdown: Death waits for his bride and until she presents herself, no one and nothing shall die. And so people are trapped on the edge of death or beyond it and young women begin struggling through winter to reach Death’s keep as possible brides.
Overall Impressions: The premise – Death essentially holding death hostage – intrigued me so much that I just jumped in and missed that this is the first of a trilogy. So the internal and external political intrigue in this book really just lays the groundwork for the rest of the story.
Nazarian very effectively explores what it could mean for death to go absent, and it does not mean living happily ever after forever. People in pain, people who should be dead, the food supply…
The story itself is tragedy piled on tragedy with characters resolving to overcome or press through the tragedy. Betrayals. Which would generally not appeal to me, but it’s so beautifully told through such fascinating characters that I needed to know what would happen next. And in the end (of this part of the story), there is hope.
The Highs: Gorgeous, gorgeous, gorgeous, lush language. Perfect for a fairy tale.
Meeting the young women trudging to the forest looking for the Keep and seeing their journeys. The undistinguished, fat, plain middle daughter (Percy) becoming a hero. The sickly emperor’s daughter and heir growing into a strong, capable person. The complexity of relationships and loyalties.
Buzzkills: It’s the nature of the story, but as Matilda said about The Chronicles of Narnia: There are no funny bits. Or at least very few. I think I cracked a smile once.
More of a consideration than a buzzkill, but Nazarian made me feel the snow coming down until I felt blanketed, and this was in spring. I don’t know that I would want to read this book in the cold of winter.
Another consideration: When Death says there will be no death, he’s serious. And that impacts the food supply in a way that may make a person consider vegetarianism.
The Source: eGalley from the publisher via NetGalley.
*Personal bias: Fairy-tale like stories set in wintertime in a pre-industrial time often feel Russian to me. Especially when they’re sad.
Disclaimer: No chocolate or promise of chocolate (hot, cold or room temperature) was provided by the publisher for this review.