Kaoru Mori is best known for her work, Emma, an exquisite romance/slice-of-life set in Victorian England. Her latest work to be released in the United States, A Bride’s Story, is also a historical/slice-of-life but is vastly different than Emma. Set in Central Asia in a rural town near the Caspian Sea during the early 19th century, A Bride’s Tale revolves around a young woman, Amir, who arrives from a distant village across the mountains to marry Karluk, a boy 8 years her junior. Volume 4 has recently been released, and you can read on for the review.
Back Cover Blurb
As he journeys to India, Mr. Smith is snapped out of his melancholic reverie by a tumble from his camel into a river and by the pair of identical twin girls who dive in to pull him out. Leili and Laila have reached marrying age, but their minds are more on mischief than romance.
Meanwhile, back in the Eihons’ village, Pariya has finally caught the interest of a suitor. But now that the moment has finally arrived, will Pariya’s outspoken personality draw him in or drive him away?
Volume 3 hinted that trouble might be stirring for Amir’s native clan, and in Volume 4, we discover just how bad things get when a clan can’t provide a necessary bride. The opener is tense with the Halgal facing potential starvation, and Amir’s brother and his companions get the dangerous task of negotiating an alliance with another clan. Even beyond the Halgal, emotions are running high in the region, with everyone from Russians to Persians to tribesmen on edge. Mori-sensei’s illustrations are excellent as usual, and she inserts stunning scenes of wolves that parallel the ongoing human drama.
The story then steps back from the broader geopolitical situation to focus on more personal matters–namely marriage. The tone quickly goes from suspenseful to comical with marriage talks for Pariya. This episode is relatively brief, but those who like the outspoken, slightly surly baker girl will enjoy the two new characters who take up the rest of the volume: the twins Laila and Leily.
Much about these fishing village girls will appeal to modern readers. They’re spunky. They’re loud. They talk back to their elders. They’re also like Amir in that they’re very athletic, but the place where they shine isn’t on horseback with bow and arrows, but in the water with nets and baskets. Their chapters are full of illustrations of them swimming, and they make their grand splash of an entrance by rescuing Mr. Smith from drowning.
Despite these traits, the young teens know very well that they must marry, and indeed are already concerned about becoming old maids. The way they go about their dilemma, however, is very modern. Having grown impatient waiting for their father to find them prospects, they decide to get their own grooms. Their selection criteria, though, is best described as shallow, and ditzy as they are, the story turns into a sitcom as the girls fail over and over to catch a “big fish.”
The comedy continues when dad finally finds their less than ideal matches. The story does take a sentimental tone as the girls warm up to their fiancés but drops right back into comedy with mom giving her slacker daughters a crash course in bridehood. As the reluctant students suffer through their mother’s teachings, readers get a glimpse of what marriage negotiation, wedding preparations, and the role of women in an Aral Sea fishing village are like. The story wraps up just before the double wedding, and like Mr. Smith, I’m looking forward to the celebration.
Bride’s Story switches from melodrama to sitcom with two new brides, the twins Laila and Leily. These Aral Sea girls are very different from the women encountered so far, but marriage is just as important to them! With their father slow to bring them prospects, they take matters into their own hands with ridiculous results. Volume 4 definitely has a modern ditzy-girl-desperate-to-find-Mr.-Right flavor, but despite the silliness, Mori-sensei continues to beautifully showcase different aspects of life from this time period.
First published at the Fandom Post.