Cobweb Bride by Vera Nazarian
“Covered in white cobwebs of a thousand snow spiders she lies in the darkness… Her skin is cold as snow… Her eyes frozen… Her gaze, fiercely alive…
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…”
– excerpt from official book blurb
Well, hmm. I got good news for you, canaries. This blurb is complete nonsense. This isn’t a story about frozen ladies. There are no expeditions to search for a bride. No endless war with dead bodies. No murdered lovers. And, best of all, no ellipses. In fact, the only bit of blurb accuracy is the black knight with daddy issues.
Turns out, The Cobweb Bride is a high-style drama about what happens when Death goes on a strike, refusing to take up souls until his missing bride is found and brought to him. Until then, all dying stops. In a pitched battle, men are slain and rise again. In a sickbed in a small village, an old woman’s death rattle doesn’t end. In a palace, an assassin plunges a knife into his victim’s heart – and nothing happens.
We follow under-appreciated middle-child Percy (Persephone) as she joins all the young women from across the realm traveling north to present themselves to Death. In the meantime, some of the newly living dead would rather keep their immortality by making sure Death’s bride stays lost.
But nevermind all that. We all know I got The Cobweb Bride for one reason and one reason alone. The pretty cover.
Yeah, I know, I know. But unlike my last 25673 cover picks, this time, my trusty book-selection method paid off. The Cobweb Bribe might not be the Persephone myth retold as its blurb claims, but it is a graceful old-world style fable with an epic fantasy-style scope and a really sweet romantic element.
Set in a kind of renaissance world, the book follows the story of three characters – the sixteen-year-old Percy, the black knight, and the doomed assassin. It deals with themes of honor and love and duty, all in elegant, lyrical prose and high style narration.
The language is not-quite old timey, but you definitely get the sense that you are reading a tale, as opposed to a novel, especially in the beginning. It is different and ballsy, and I enjoyed it.
Not sure what I mean? Here is death, come to Lethe.
The silence preceded him.
Flakes of white glimmered through the frost-blurred glass of the myriad windows of the Winter Palace of Lethe. In moments, the snowflakes turned into armies. They piled and compounded, stretches and distended into geometric symmetry. Folding into garlands of impossible gauze veils, they appeared at last to be the faint and vaporous spinnings of a sky-sized ice spider casting its web upon the world.
[…] In silence he formed out of the cobwebs of the gilded crown molding near the ceiling, the dust motes of desolation, and the fallen shadows in the corner. All these tiny bits and piece of the mortal world rushed together to shape him.
He began as grey smoke. Then, darkness deeper than soot. His form solidified into a man, gaunt and tall, clad in black velvet like a grim Spaniard.
– page 3, The Cobweb Bride
Mileage may vary, but I ate up these metaphors. After a long and enjoyable streak of fast-paced space opera and modern fantasy, it was good to relax into something slower. And that’s this book – it takes its time, both in the way it tells the story, and in the barely-hinted-at romantic subplots. But that just made me all the more excited about the resolution for when it comes. If it comes.
I like stories that keep me guessing.
Book copy courtesy of Netgalley & Norilana Books.
Other books you might like:
- Book Review: Shoggoths in Bloom
- Book Review: Moscow but Dreaming
- Book Review: Margaret Atwood’s Penelopiad