Source: Review copy
Publication: 16 February 2023 from Hodder & Stoughton
Once upon a time, a man who believed in fairy tales married a beautiful, mysterious woman named Indigo Maxwell-Casteñada. He was a scholar of myths. She was heiress to a fortune. They exchanged gifts and stories and believed they would live happily ever after – and in exchange for her love, Indigo extracted a promise: that her bridegroom would never pry into her past.
But when Indigo learns that her estranged aunt is dying and the couple is forced to return to her childhood home, the House of Dreams, the bridegroom soon finds himself unable to resist. For within the crumbling manor’s extravagant rooms and musty halls, there lurks the shadow of another girl: Azure, Indigo’s dearest childhood friend, who disappeared without a trace.
As the house slowly reveals his wife’s secrets, the bridegroom will be forced to choose between reality and fantasy, even if doing so threatens to destroy their marriage . . . or their lives.
I was excited to read this book and from the opening pages it is so easy to lose yourself in the fabulous lush descriptions. It is like sinking into a world of opulence, surrounded by soft silk and fur, being caressed by everything that seeks to give the reader a sensuous experience. This is the land of fairy tales, glittering, gilded and sparkling with a gothic darkness that hovers just outside the door.
It is an opulent story so very well told; it fascinates and compels. An adult fairy tale that draws you inside its glittering web and shields from the harm and hurt that lies just outside the gate.
Indigo and Azureare joined from the beginning. Twin souls who are inseparable, they need each other to thrive and as long as they stay within the confines of the mysterious House of Dreams, they will be safe. But as with all fairy tales, someone always wants more and there lies the beginnings of the worm that lies in the heart of the dark apple that is ordinary life outside the gilded cage that is the House of Dreams and The Otherworld.
The Last Tale of the Flower Bride has exquisite writing and is full of lyricism. The world building is excellent. With echoes of Bluebeard’s Castle and the darkest of Grimm’s tales this story istold in two voices. From the Bridegroom, we learn the tale of Indigo Maxwell-Casteñada. She is a compelling woman, rich and mysterious, who draws the Bridegroom close to her and enchants him. Theirs is a marriage of real closeness and she loves the tales he tells her. Her only stipulation is that he not pry into her past which she keeps closely guarded, preferring not to speak of it at all.
But when Indigo learns that her aunt is dying, the pair return to her childhood home referred to as The House of Dreams and that’s where the Bridegroom learns more about his wife’s childhood and of the girl who was her closest friend, Azure – and yet for such an intense, inseparable friendship, this name has never crossed his wife’s lips.
The reader then hears from Azure and her story is interleaved with that of the Bridegroom.
Now the story becomes more invested in the real world as we learn some very ugly truths around Azure’s childhood and the way in which Indigo treats some of her classmates. There are some distressing themes here and more than a hint of toxicity and coercive control in their friendships.
But, and this is where I struggled somewhat, none of these characters has any dimension or depth to them. They are forever doomed to be flat cut outs and this for me is where the book does not succeed.
Verdict: I still loved reading The Last Tale of the Flower Bride and enjoyed the wonderful language, the atmosphere and the fabulous luxe descriptive passages, but I needed to care about these characters and I just couldn’t. That’s the way with fairy tales and it’s no different here.
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Roshani Chokshi is the award-winning author of the New York Times bestselling series The Star-Touched Queen, The Gilded Wolves and Aru Shah and The End of Time, which Time Magazine named one of the Top 100 Fantasy Books of All Time. Her novels have been translated into more than two dozen languages and often draw upon world mythology and folklore. Chokshi is a member of the National Leadership Board for the Michael C. Carlos Museum and lives in Georgia with her husband and their nefarious cat.
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Now, of course, I want to read it too to see if I agree!