Review Details

Review type: Book

Title: The Last Tale of the Flower Bride

Author: Roshani Chokshi

Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton

Release date: 16th February 2023

The Last Tale of the Flower Bride

Reviewed by: Rima Devereaux

Other details: Hardback, £11.54

The Last Tale of the Flower Bride by Roshani Chokshi

Rima Devereaux

The striking and seductive Indigo Maxwell-Casteñada is the secretive heroine of this beautifully written novel. The ‘Bridegroom’ of the tale is a scholar of folklore who, bewitched by Indigo, marries her but promises never to look into her past. His story is interspersed with flashbacks to that past and the story of Indigo’s best friend, Azure, who disappeared. Azure, a foil for Indigo – her pale shadow in some ways – and similar in both looks and name, tells in the flashbacks of how she got to know Indigo and the nearby House of Dreams where she lived. The novel slowly reveals, through increasingly dark hints, what happened to Azure.

Behind this exhilarating read stands a whole host of folktales, from Blodeuwedd, the flower maiden from the Welsh Mabinogion, to Melusine, a mermaid-like creature from the fourteenth-century French story by Jean d’Arras. And the words ‘once upon a time’ flow through the pages as Chokshi creates her own fairytale, weaving a dark web. The novel’s fantasy elements are deeply suggestive yet come fully into play in the cataclysmic ending.

The themes of love, sexuality, friendship, and coming of age are made richer by the presence of flashbacks to young Indigo, which poses a number of questions to the reader: Can we ever really know someone? What is the relationship between dream, tale and reality, or between lies and truth? Through an effective mise en abyme, the house at the bottom of the garden, known as the Otherworld, becomes a symbol of the novel itself – its multilayered nature, the way it conjures up a fairytale world without ever wholly entering or explaining that world.

I appreciated the constant hints of the richly allusive writing to a darker reality that lies beneath the surface. This was a novel that cast a spell on me, compelling me to read on. It is not always an easy read, however: it challenges the reader to tease out truth from fiction and work out where the true magic lies.

In summary, it is ideal for fans of Naomi Novik, M. A. Kuzniar and other writers who convey the darker side of folklore and fairytale and the way such stories intersect with reality. Its impact is deep and will remain in the mind.

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