This book was provided to me by Norilana Books via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
Cobweb Bride by Vera Nazarian
Cobweb Bride is a history-flavored fantasy novel with romantic elements of the Persephone myth, about Death’s ultimatum to the world.
In an alternate Renaissance world, somewhere in an imaginary “pocket” of Europe called the Kingdom of Lethe, Death comes, in the form of a grim Spaniard, to claim his Bride. Until she is found, in a single time-stopping moment all dying stops. There is no relief for the mortally wounded and the terminally ill….
While kings and emperors send expeditions to search for a suitable Bride for Death, armies of the undead wage an endless war… A black knight roams the forest at the command of his undead father … Spies and political treacheries abound at the imperial Silver Court…. Murdered lovers find themselves locked in the realm of the living…
And one small village girl, Percy—an unwanted, ungainly middle daughter—is faced with the responsibility of granting her dying grandmother the desperate release she needs.
As a result, Percy joins the crowds of other young women of the land in a desperate quest to Death’s own mysterious holding in the deepest forests of the North…
And everyone is trying to stop her. (via Goodreads)
I will recuse myself. I did not finish this book. I quit reading at the 40% mark.
I really wanted to like this book. The conceit is an interesting one: Death wishes to take a bride and until she is found, no one will die. The injured in battle do not die. The sick do not die. Butchered livestock do not die. It’s potentially a horrific set-up and excellent fodder for a fairy tale. Unfortunately, the story falls into a sort of no-man’s land between fable and historical fantasy.
Nazarian’s weakness to me seemed to be in trying to give the story real-world scope. The juxtaposition of real places and people with fictional kingdoms is jarring and, at least within the context of the first 40% of the book, not needed. I don’t need references to France and Spain and Louis XIV to feel the peril of the situation. The real world doesn’t need to be in danger for me to care about characters. Peter S. Beagle never mentions what world The Last Unicorn takes place in; the sea that Hagsgate is next to is never named (that I remember).
The thing that stopped me reading, though, was that the non-supernatural working of the world struck me as wildly unbelievable. The political machinations varied between high school gossip and soap-opera melodrama. If you’re writing fantasy and you’re including politics, you have to get the politics right. Or at least close to right. It’s an aspect that isn’t based on magic or the supernatural, but on behavior and practicality. There are, for example, many good reasons why a nobleman, even a minor one, would not be chosen as a deep-cover spy. They are not the reasons illustrated in the story.
I was disappointed that this book was bogged down in poor world-building instead of allowed to be a potentially excellent story.
Why did I choose to read this book? The set-up seemed interesting.
Did I finish this book? (If not, why?) No. You have to get non-supernatural world-building semi close to correct.
Format: Kindle ebook