Kaoru Mori is best known for 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 Story 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 11 has been released, and you can read on for the review. (For reviews of other volumes, click here.)
Back Cover Blurb
Having reached his destination in Ankara, Smith is not only reunited with his old friend, but also Talas, the woman he briefly stayed with on his journey. An agreement was made, and now Smith must travel back to Amir and Karluk with his new companions and newly acquired camera. However, the roads back are perilous as war approaches…
Volume 11 opens with Chapter 70, “Song of Midwinter.” Rather than a narrative, this chapter is a gorgeous montage of single and double-page illustrations depicting different winter scenes in town and on the plains. There’s no dialogue, but captions following Amir’s perspective provide almost poetic descriptions.
Then the story returns to the reunited lovers, Mr. Smith and Talas. As it turns out, their meeting in Ankara was not entirely the result of serendipity. The clock winds back to show the highlights of their relationship from Talas’ perspective. For such a quiet character, she’s remarkably determined and passionate. Equally remarkable is the husband her uncle forced her to marry. Not only does he sympathize with her heartache, he helps her journey to Ankara to look for Smith. When they don’t immediately find him there, Talas sells off her jewelry to prolong their stay. It’s a mind-boggling step of faith, especially considering there was zero coordination between Talas and Smith.
But fate has rejoined them, which causes new problems. Smith’s no-nonsense British compatriot Hawkins is quite vocal about the disapproval their marriage would stir in England. Talas, for her part, is oddly diffident in this discussion. The woman has literally given up her whole world to go after Smith, and after all that sacrifice, she says she’s content to be used as a servant? Perhaps that is an accurate characterization of a nineteenth century Central Eurasian woman, but from my Western perspective, her attitude is perplexing.
At any rate, despite the tensions brewing in the region, Smith resolves to travel back through Persia to take photographs. And despite the danger and uncertainty, Talas chooses to accompany him. There is no wedding, but once again, the two exchange promises and a token of their love.
That resolved, Smith and company make preparations, which include a chapter-long lesson in 19th-century photography. The wet collodion process is a lengthy, material-intensive endeavor involving various implements and chemicals. It’s largely the mixing of various compounds, so it’s less visually stimulating than the chapters on sewing or falconry, but if you are curious about early photography, it lays out the steps very clearly. When Smith finally leaves Ankara, he’s gained a couple camels, one fiancée, and the guard Nikolovsky on loan from Hawkins. The additional people bring a new dynamic to Smith’s travels, and considering Talas and Nikolovsky are tough, reliable individuals, spacey Mr. Smith appears to be in better hands than ever.
One more thing. For fun, Mori-sensei throws in a chapter about the watch that was Smith’s original engagement pledge to Talas. The journey carries the tone of a tall tale as the watch acquires a reputation so grand that Smith is gobsmacked when he chances upon it again.
Extras include Mori-sensei’s manga style afterword.
A renewal of vows, a lesson in 19th-century photography, and then it’s back on the road for Smith. This time, however, Talas accompanies him on his expedition to take pictures of the Persian interior. Not the most romantic start to their life together, but with Smith intending to visit all the towns he’d passed through, it looks like we’ll see the happily-ever-afters of all the brides in this series.
First published at the Fandom Post.