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THE LAST TALE OF THE FLOWER BRIDE by Roshani Chokshi (BOOK REVIEW)


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“All Marriages possess their own tongue. It is a lexicon discovered in that space between clipped sentences. Its poetry can be heard in the rustle of blankets as you shift to curl around the other in silent apology. In this way, I spoke to my wife. I let the slow drag of my thumb along her jaw say what I could not.”

 

The Last Tale of the Flower Bride is the debut adult novel by Roshani Chokshi and is my first foray into her work, to say that I was impressed would be an understatement, I was utterly blown away. This is a tale of horror and beauty, of broken promises and cracked dreams, of loss and loneliness, it is an addictive tale which vividly captures the dangers of fantasy and reality.

 

Our story begins with a fairytale romance as our first protagonist, known only as Bridegroom, meets and falls head over heels in love with a mysterious heiress—Indigo Maxwell-Casteñada. Their attraction is impulsive, heady, and in no time at all the Bridegroom and Indigo marry, and promise to live happily ever after…on one condition. Our Bridegroom must never look into Indigo’s past, he must never delve into her secrets. For a spell, the Bridegroom is content to spend his days devoted to wife and delighted to be in her presence. They expand and build upon the Casteñada hotel empire together, visiting countries all over the world, spending nights in castles sharing wine, food and telling fairy tales of old. Yet when Indigo receives a call informing her that her estranged aunt is dying, the pair must travel to Indigo’s childhood home, the House of Dreams. Within the walls of this house is where our Bridegroom wavers, where the temptation to pry into Indigo’s life becomes too great, for the House knows her secrets and the House wants to reveal. You see Indigo was not the only one who inhabited the House of Dreams, another presence was also felt, that of Azure, Indigo’s childhood friend who mysteriously vanished. As the narrative unfolds our Bridegroom becomes entangled in a web of fantasy and reality, where either one could destroy him.

 

the-last-tale-of-the-flower-bride-roshanIn essence The Last Tale of the Flower Bride centres on obsession and complex relationships where dependency, possessiveness and insecurities dwell within each character. When Indigo and our Bridegroom first meet their chemistry is instant, intoxicating, full of passion and lust. We spend many chapters watching their marriage flourish over the years, and it is as beautiful as it is deeply intense, but as the whirlwind dies-down we see a sourness creep in, a darkness. It begins to show that Indigo has a very controlling air about her, forever watchful of her bridegroom, an incessant need to know where he is and what he’s been doing. The Bridegroom is passive, treading carefully around his wife, fearful to upset their serenity, though in secret he searches to uncover Indigo’s past, but he also searches to uncover the truth of his own, for over the years the memory of his brother has haunted him, a brother who he was told never existed. I loved the way Chokshi built up the unsettling atmosphere throughout the beginning, the way she weaves romance with subtle dominance, and the foreboding sense that all was about to unravel. I also found it interesting that our Bridegroom’s name is hidden, almost as though his identity is insignificant, as though his name held no power, but then this is also not his story alone, it is more the story of Indigo and Azure. 

 

As the chapters then alternate between the present timeline with the bridegroom, and Azure’s POV which centres on her and Indigo’s childhood, we switch to a coming of age narrative, which I have to say is one of my absolute favourites. Azure’s life prior to meeting Indigo was one of poverty, broken parental relationships and a step-father with lingering eyes. Resentment, loneliness and fear builds, and it is easy to see why Azure becomes so enchanted by Indigo and the House of Dreams. The House becomes a place of luxury, safety and comfort to Azure, it speaks to her in a language of sounds and feelings. Indigo and Azure’s days together are filled with silk dresses and tea, spells and sacrifices, of believing in faeries and magic and the ethereal. They are whimsical, endearing and their story was filled with such a comforting sense of nostalgia as Chokshi perfectly captures the moment where children believe in magic and possibilities with their very soul. These two young girls became inseparable. Where did Azure begin and Indigo end?

 

“The magic was nothing so tangible as a crystal glass or an uttered incantation. It lay in how the House decanted the light, the aristocratic lines of the shadows cast on the floor. The magic was the spark in her brown eyes, rendering them an animal shade of amber. The magic was this: the supple sorcery of Indigo’s words, such that your own hand became a blade you eagerly welcomed.”

 

In the grounds of The House of Dreams, Azure and Indigo share a place they call the Otherworld, a place they believed would take them away from the mundane and transport them into the magical. Yet as both girls grow older, Indigo clings to this idea like a lifeline, whilst Azure begins to notice the world outside. Throughout the book Chokshi illustrates that Indigo has a manipulative side to her, on appearances everyone is drawn in by her beauty, her aurora, yet as more of herself is revealed the more we see a darkness within, a certain kind of cruelty, which progressively heightens. Chokshi superbly executes the transition from innocence of childhood to something more sinister. 

 

I also loved the way Chokshi freckled the narrative with fairytales throughout, some of which were familiar to me and some new, but they were effectively used to punctuate the narrative that was unfolding, often foretelling the upcoming dangers. Princesses, maidens, old crones, and monsters, the motif of starlings and apple blossoms, ‘once upon a time’ and ‘happily ever afters’ were all present in this novel, but they were wrapped up in disguises and deceit. Chokshi plays with the concept of fairytales in the most darkly delicious ways, representing their beauty, their whimsy, their ideals and even their gruesome horror. I could not help but see comparisons to Alix E Harrow’s works, and damn did I love that. 

 

The Last Tale of the Flower Bride reads like a spellbinding gothic fairytale, enveloped in dreamy poetic prose and enigmatic characters. This is a book you’ll want to devour and savour, a book you won’t be able to put down until the final act leaves you in awe.

 

“We are two blues, the neat seam of dusk and dawn. We share a sky, if not a soul, and yet we are cut of the same shades.”

 

ARC provided by Kate at Hodder and Stoughton Books. Thank you for the copy! All quotes used are taken from an ARC and are subject to change upon publication.

The Last Tale of the Flower Bride is due to be released 16th February 2023 but you can pre-order your copy HERE

 

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The post THE LAST TALE OF THE FLOWER BRIDE by Roshani Chokshi (BOOK REVIEW) appeared first on The Fantasy Hive.

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