REVIEW: The Last Tale of the Flower Bride by Roshani Chokski

Once upon a time, a man who believed in fairy tales married a beautiful, mysterious woman named Indigo Maxwell-Castenada. He was a scholar of myths. She was heiress to a fortune. In exchange for her love and hand in marriage, Indigo made her bridegroom promise that he 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 as in those old walls, the house is trying to reveal the truth. For in those halls there’s echoes of Azure, Indigo’s childhood best friend who disappeared without a trace.

The Last Tale of the Flower Bride is a gothic horror/fantasy that does a great job of leaving you feeling unsettled throughout. It has all the classic features of a gothic story with the unnamed narrator simply being called the Bridegroom, a grand house that’s very much its own living, breathing character, a character that haunts the pages as people refuse to talk about them, and a spouse that’s hiding potentially deadly secrets.

The Last Tale of the Flower Bride is told in dual perspectives; the Bridegroom and Azure. The Bridegroom is a researcher into myths, fairy tales and folklore, and often uses those stories to describe is wife and her actions. He also has an uncertain past as there’s events where he’s not sure what was real and what was fantasy. Azure’s past is revealed to the reader in flashbacks and shows how deep and almost all-consuming her and Indigo’s friendship was.

Fairy tales and magic play a big role in The Last Tale of the Flower Bride but in such a way you wonder if it’s real or if it’s make-believe. Indigo and Azure believe in fairies and magic as children and do things to catch favour with the old gods and fairies but you have to wonder if it’s just children’s imagination run wild or if there is something otherworldly connected to these two girls and the grand house they grow up in. While Azure has some connections to the “real world” and can believe in both the magical and the real, Indigo is fully immersed in the fantasy, so much so it’s almost a terrifying obsession.

Indigo is an unnerving character at times. She’s aloof and secretive in the present while in the past she is sometimes cruel and possessive of Azure – just like how she’s possessive of her Bridegroom in the present. She always needs to be at the centre of everyone’s attention but she doesn’t always give others the same care and love that they shower on her. There’s the odd moment where she really is unsettling and potentially dangerous in her actions and it doesn’t seem like she realises how far she is pushing things.

The writing and setting of The Last Tale of the Flower Bride makes it almost feel timeless. There’s one throwaway line about a character being forced to get a large, clunky mobile phone making it likely to be set in the nineties but besides from that it really feels like it could have been set in any point in history or even in some sort of alternate reality. The way reality and fantasy blurs and way myths are references throughout makes you question things as the Bridegroom does. Is it just the shadows of an old creepy house playing tricks on him, or is there really something sinister and possibly fantastical close by?

Thanks to the writing style and how the story is dated by technology, The Last Tale of the Flower Bride feels like it could a classic story. It reminded me of the likes of The Yellow Wallpaper with how characters doubt what they see, a secretive spouse, and house that’s seemingly alive. It’s the kind of story that has an old and almost familiar feel to it thanks to all the gothic influences. It’s a really interesting and compelling novel and how it combines horror and fantasy is to be admired. 4/5.

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