Everyone knows the fairy tale structure. The story tends to be, at least on the surface, a rather simple tale of good against evil, where of course evil will get what it deserves.
T. Kingfisher’s The Seventh Bride is a fine example of a fairy tale intended for adults. May be some SPOILERS after the cut.
Just to clarify, this fairy tale could possibly be read to children. It is a bit intense, and has some gory images, making the underlying themes more for adults than kids, but some kids might be fine with it. The protagonist is a 15 year old girl named Rhea. She’s the peasant daughter of a miller, and one day she’s told she has to marry a nobleman named Lord Crevan.
At first, she mostly wonders why he wants to marry her.
Then she sets off for his house, told to go by moonlight along a white road she didn’t know existed.
See, Lord Crevan is a sorcerer. And not a good one. She’s not even his first wife. She’s the seventh (not a spoiler…it’s in the title). Six of them are even still alive. Crevan uses the marriage contract to take something from each wife and give it to…well, either himself or someone else.
What’s Rhea to do? Well, she does have an ally. Yeah, it’s a hedgehog she meets on the road. No, it can’t seem to do anything but shake its head and do some crude miming, but it’s something.
Never go to a creepy house without a hedgehog.
Kingfisher’s work is a light bit of quick fantasy. It sticks to fairy tale tropes where tasks are set and the young heroine will somehow prevail in them until she finds one she can’t, and then must go on a quest to find the one wife Crevan is terrified of. She has some help from the first wife, a former witch named Maria, and her hedgehog, but mostly she has to rely on her own wits and courage. The characterization may not be particularly deep, but the story moves and has a decent sense of humor.
I’m giving this one eight bird-golems out of ten. And those birds aren’t even the creepiest golems in the book…