Bluebeard's Castle is one of my favorite fairy tales because it's so dark, and has so many possibilities when it comes to retellings. When I saw THE SEVENTH BRIDE pop up for sale on Kindle, I snagged it the instant I recognized it for what it was without even reading the reviews for it. That's a big risk, I know, and sometimes it comes back to bite me in the rear, but in this particular instance, THE SEVENTH BRIDE was totally worth it.
THE SEVENTH BRIDE is about a girl named Rhea, named for a goddess and possessing the strength of one. She is a miller's daughter and helps her family harvest wheat to mill for bread. One day, Lord Crevan shows up to their house to propose marriage, which she is immediately suspicious of, but her family basically gaslights her into accepting his suit. And when he demands that she come to his home at nightfall, prior to their marriage, alone? Yeah, they force her to do that too, even though they know that his intentions can't possibly be good.
And they aren't, naturally.
Oh my God, this was so good, and I recommend it to fans of Diana Wynne Jones, Rosamund Hodge, or Charlie N. Holmberg. It's one of those young adult books that manages to be deliciously dark without crossing the line of what the matronly no-fun-a-lot puritans consider "proper." You see, when Rhea goes to his house (after following a mysterious white path, befriending a small hedgehog companion, and encountering a number of monstrous creatures), she finds out that her husband-to-be already has a wife. In fact, he has several wives, all of them grievously marred in some way. Lord Crevan is an evil sorcerer who takes something from each of his brides. And if Rhea doesn't manage to complete his tasks and solve the mystery of the house, he will take something from her, too.
I can't get over how good this was. Strong female protagonist, adorable hedgehog companion, female friendships in the face of adversity, NO ROMANCE, creative story, dark atmosphere, and oh yes, a retelling of my favorite fairy tale. Could I put this book down? No. I enjoyed every moment of this story and I especially recommend it to people who liked CRUEL BEAUTY but wished it didn't have the romance. It's an odd duck of a tale, with the quirky morbidity of Tim Burton, and I adored it.
4.5 out of 5 stars