Rhea was starting to dislike that smile a lot. It was the smile of a man who found nothing funny and everything amusing.
I was in a bit of a reading funk. Real-world obligations made me tired. It was just easy to come home, turn on the tv, and fade into a nice vegetative state. I TRIED to read, here-and-there, but I just couldn’t get into anything. I couldn’t get past the first page or two of any book that I picked up. Then I tried The Seventh Bride by Ursula Vernon (she uses the pen name T. Kingfisher for her more adult-y books), and my reading block was cured. You should read it.
The Seventh Bride isn’t the first Ursula Vernon story that I’ve read. That would be Jackalope Wives. I discovered it last year during a self-imposed reading project to read a bunch of short stories that won past Hugo or Nebula awards. Jackalope Wives was super interesting, a kind of Western American folktale. I read its sort-of sequel The Tomato Thief and was impressed again. I made a note to read more by this Ursula Vernon/T. Kingfisher person. At the end of the year, I read Clockwork Boys, and it was one of my favorite fantasy books of the year. So naturally I bought a lot more of her books, including The Seventh Bride, and naturally they’ve sat TBR in my Kindle app for a couple of months.
Fortunately, my not-pouncing-immediately on those books turned out pretty well for me because The Seventh Bride was a great remedy for a reading slump. It is a fairy tale. The young teen daughter of a miller is engaged to be married to a nobleman. She’s not happy about it, and there may be something sinister about that guy.
The magic of Vernon’s writing is that it is easy-to-read while still feeling adult. The only other writer I know of that consistently writes sophisticated fairy-tale fantasy using simple words is Neil Gaiman. Whenever I read Neil Gaiman’s writing, I feel as if an old Englishman is telling me an ancient story out of a dusty tome (and that’s awesome). Seventh Bride feels like a story that a grandmother would tell her granddaughter while they’re gardening together. And that’s awesome.
There is a witch or two in Seventh Bride, and fans of Gaiman or Terry Pratchett’s witches will probably enjoy the one(s) in this book too.
A lot of the more socially-conscious fantasy writing I’ve read lately is…it’s ok. I applaud the messages that those writers are trying to convey. Too often, however, those stories read more as social-political essays with a thin layer of story rather than engaging stories themselves. They’re a little too in-your-face, a bit on-the-nose. Seventh Bride has important themes regarding consent, agency, feminine power, and power dynamics regarding gender and class. But these things are THEMES. The book is not an essay disguised as a fantasy story. It’s a real story, and it’s a good one.
So, after reading 2 short stories and 2 novellas and loving all 4, I have to say, I’m a Big Fan of Ursula Vernon. You should give her stuff a try.
My rating: 5 stars