Science fiction and fantasy                                            

Cobweb Bride

by Vera Nazarian

Death wants a bride. And until he gets her, nobody in the kingdoms will die.

Cobweb Bride is set in a kind of Renaissance world where recognisable European countries exist, but sandwiched in between is the fairytale geography of make-believe countries with names such as Lethe, Realm, and Domain. In one of these, a peasant family is waiting for their grandmother to die imminently of old age. Meanwhile, in the Silver Court of the Emperor, the Infanta, a sickly princess, is holding court when something awful happens.

Elsewhere in the kingdom, a bloody battle rages between Duke Hoarfrost of Chidair and the Duke of Goraque. Just as all of these very different people are doing their own thing, Death appears. He appears everywhere simultaneously, around the kingdoms, and makes his demand for a Cobweb Bride.

A lack of death may seem like a good thing, because it means people are immortal. However, it soon becomes apparent that this is a horror. There's no rest for bodies slaughtered and drained of blood or shorn of limbs. There's no release from suffering for they dying. And the decree affects animals and other living things, as well as humans. As the world is filled with the undead who continue living long after they should have been released, it becomes harder for the living to remain that way.

So the emperor makes a decree: women who could be Cobweb Brides must all travel north to Death's Keep in order to wed Death, whatever that means, and in doing so save the world. They have to make the difficult choice to sacrifice themselves and go on a hard, cold march that they may never return from.

One of these brides is Percy, a middle child who doesn't feel much loved and isn't very talented or smart. She goes in the place of her other sisters. Yet Percy leads a group of young women on their journey, with the help of a forthright wise woman called Grial.

Not everyone wants the world set to rights, and the brides risk capture and imprisonment as they try to make their way north. So it's a race to get Death his bride before starvation takes hold and everyone becomes undead.

The story is told in old-fashioned language, but it's still very readable and compelling. There are interesting subplots concerning the Infanta and her enemies, and about Duke Hoarfrost's son and heir, known as the Black Knight. Mystery and intrigue abounds.

There are forces who want the corrupt status quo to continue, no matter how much everyone else suffers. These contrast starkly with the self-sacrificing Brides, who are trying to put everything right. Percy and her friends cut varied and sympathetic figures as they pursue their quest, a group of peasant companions who seem powerless at first, but who grow during the journey in size and influence. Cobweb Bride is the first in a series that I look forward to continuing.

23rd November 2019

Book Details

Year: 2013

Categories: Books


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4 star rating

Review ©

Source: own copy