Serena’s Review: “The Last Tale of the Flower Bride”

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Book: “The Last Tale of the Flower Bride” by Roshani Chokshi

Publishing Info: William Morrow & Company, February 2023

Where Did I Get this Book: Edelweiss+

Where Can You Get this Book: Amazon | IndieBound | WorldCat

Book Description: 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 will soon find 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 suddenly disappeared. 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.

Review: Roshani Chokshi is that bewildering kind of author whose work I can sometimes really enjoy, while at other times, I’ll pick up a book from her, DNF it quickly, and swear off her work entirely. Until, that is, the next time she sucks me in with a compelling-looking title (usually within a year of said “swearing off”). That being the case, when I saw that this was going to be the February Adult Fairyloot pick, I knew I wanted to get my hands on a copy early, to know which category it would fall under before deciding whether or not to pause my subscription that month. Well, let me just say now, I will decidedly NOT be pausing this month’s box.

A man and a woman meet. They both love fairytales and myths, so much so that each, to different extents and through different means, have made stories the central part of their lives. Through this bond they fall in love and marry. But, like so many tales, there are secrets hidden within this love story, for the husband has promised never to look into his beautiful bride’s past. So when they are called back to her ancestral home, and he finds himself wandering its mysterious corridors and seeing the leavings of not just the little girl his wife had been when she last lived here, but the tracings of another…he begins to understand the perils of the promise he gave his one true love.

Man, there was a lot to like about this book. At its heart, this is a story about family trauma and the ugly side of love and the belief in fairytales. It’s a story of sisters, though they were born to different families. It’s a story of stories within stories, and how people can use stories as an escape from the ugly reality in which they live. But also how those stories, if fed, can gobble you up if you’re not careful.

The book is broken up into two POVS, the unnamed “Bridgroom” who is telling the modern story and then flashback to Indigo’s childhood, told through the perspective of Azure, her childhood friend who disappeared after graduating highschool. While I did like the Bridegroom’s chapters, particularly the slow reveal about his past and his own missing sibling, his were definitely the weaker chapters of the entire book. We must also mention here that the book is highly marketed as a story about a troubled marriage, centering the tale around the Bridegroom’s discovery of the secrets in his wife’s past. But I don’t think that’s an accurate description of the book at all. As far as actual time goes, the Bridegroom’s arc of discovering his wife has secrets, to breaking his promise not to look into her past, to having to grapple with his new reality all takes place over a very short period of time. This is not a “troubled marriage” book, as the “trouble” is simply the resolution of the primary storyline of this book: the truth of two friends, Indigo and Azure.

And it’s here that the story truly lives and dies, with Indigo and Azure, two childhood friends that grow up in this mysterious and magical house. I was blown away by this tale, particularly the careful handling of many complicated, damaged relationships and how various traumas can weave in and out of one another, creating co-dependencies galore. It was all laid out so carefully, and told in such beautiful language, that it was not only easy to see how Azure was entangled, but it was difficult as a reader not to become equally enamored and ensnared. The darkness reveals itself in layers, like a spider at the center of a web, drawing you closer and closer.

I can’t go in too many details, as I think this is a book best experienced on its own. I will say that there were still moments where Chokshi’s flowery writing jarred me out of the story (mostly with the over-use of similes that I don’t think make any sense). But I’ll also concede that I found her writing to be incredibly elevated here, and I was pleased to see that she didn’t fall into the trap of over-using this sort of flowery language, as I’ve found in the past with her YA work.

Lastly, I’ll note that I did have some confusion trying to place this book within a genre. Was it set completely in this world, where magic is just a myth and the fantastical was an allegory all along? Or were there truly bits of magic at work here? On one hand, I think this question is part of the point of the story, and I appreciate that, and I think it succeeded in that way. But on the other hand, there were a few practicalities that I simply couldn’t wrap my head around. Was I supposed to attribute these disconnects with magic? Or were they legitimate plot holes? I’m not quite sure.

Overall, I was incredibly impressed by this novel. I think it tackled some very challenging themes in a fantastic way, and its main characters, Indigo and Azure, were dynamic, heart-breaking, and nuanced. Fans of gothic fantasy, in particular, are sure to enjoy this book!

Rating 8: With its lush prose and slow-burn sense of foreboding, the reader will be drawn in to a magical world where beauty and pain, love and darkness reside side by side.

Reader’s Advisory:

“The Last Tale of the Flower Bride” can be found on these Goodreads lists: Most Anticipated Adult Fantasy, 2023 and Here comes the………bride.

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