Tag Archives: a bride’s story

Manga Review: A Bride’s Story Vol. 11

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…

The Review

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.

In Summary

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.

Manga Review: A Bride’s Story Vol. 10

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 10 has been released, and you can read on for the review. (For reviews of other volumes, click here.)

Back Cover Blurb

Karluk has left home to become a man! For four months, he’s off to learn falconry from Amir’s brothers, living with them at their winter camp. As his training commences, what will Karluk learn about himself, and Amir, in the process?

The Review

Now that Pariya is safely married, the focus returns to our original couple, Amir and Karluk. As one would expect from a series called “A Bride’s Story,” their marriage has primarily been told from Amir’s perspective. However, Mori-sensei makes an interesting shift by having Karluk live with his Halgal in-laws for several months.

This is an interesting turn of events considering the trouble Amir’s father brought upon Karluk’s hometown. Or perhaps Karluk used that past offense to pressure his in-laws into accepting his request. At any rate, Mori-sensei doesn’t spend time rehashing hard feelings. Rather, Karluk’s focused on growing stronger as a man so he won’t suffer the same indignity of helplessness that he did during the attack on the town. And Azel and his two sidekicks are quite willing to teach the boy their skills.

Thus, the narrative, which has explored several exclusively female realms, now gives a taste of a male-dominated realm. Karluk’s not a new bride, but he’s leaving the familiarity of home to join a markedly different community. Readers learn about the Halgal’s nomadic lifestyle as Karluk does, and his lessons in archery and falconry are informative as well as a feast for the eyes.

And of course, Karluk is hanging out with these fine male specimens because–even after all these volumes–he still looks like a kid. Which means his well-meaning wife treats him like a kid. The age gap is awkward for Amir, but it’s worse for Karluk. Although the two manage to talk through Karluk’s insecurities, I, like Karluk, hope he catches up to Amir soon.

Then the story shifts back to the luckless Mr. Smith, who has somehow reached Ankara in one piece. As he meets with his English colleague Hawkins, we get a picture of the military tensions flaring up in the region. Considering Mr. Smith’s lack of fighting skills and his recent run-in with bandits, I expected him to take his friend’s advice to return to England. However, he chooses to stay. While the scholarly basis of his resolve is somewhat unbelievable, it doesn’t compare with the astronomical improbability of his unexpected reunion with Talas.

Considering all that has gone wrong for Talas and Smith, both are overdue for some good luck. And obviously readers would also like for the pair to has a happily ever after. However, the previously insurmountable barriers of disapproving relatives and distance vanish in a flash, and suddenly, Talas and Smith are free to be together. While the circumstances that reunite the pair seem just a bit too convenient, uncertainty still shadows their future, especially with war brewing in the region.

Extras include Mori-sensei’s manga style afterword.

In Summary

After multiple scenes of girls embroidering their dowry, how about one of a guy hunting pelts for a bride price? Karluk goes to spend a few months with his in-laws, and Azel and Company teach the boy the skills required of a man in the high plains. Even though the series is called “A Bride’s Story,” it makes a fun shift to the groom’s perspective in Mori-sensei’s tale of Central Asia.

First published at the Fandom Post.

Manga Review: A Bride’s Story Vol. 9

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 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 9 has been released, and you can read on for the review. (For reviews of other volumes, click here.)

Back Cover Blurb

Pariya’s budding romance with Umar is off to a rough start due to her brash personality and lack of confidence. But if she can’t figure out how to say what she wants with words, then perhaps the old adage is true–the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach!

The Review

Between Mr. Smith’s travels and the movements of the Halgal, Bride’s Story has covered a wide range of territory, and Volume 9 begins with a kind of recap. “Living Things’ Stories” is a set of 4-panel comics that revisit the people we’ve encountered in the series. In addition to being cute and funny, they update readers on characters’ circumstances.

Then the plot moves on with Pariya and her potential fiancé. It’s unclear what Umar’s father currently does for a living, but apparently, he can spare Umar for an extended period of time. As such, Umar helps with the town’s reconstruction until its completion, and the townsfolk get to know the boy fairly well. However, the one who’s most curious (Pariya) can’t interact freely with him because of social constraints.

Mori-sensei does an excellent job brewing humor and conveying Pariya’s frustration as the girl gleans what information she can about her potential groom. Mori-sensei is equally skillful at conveying Pariya’s resulting insecurities. The townsfolk speak of Umar in glowing terms, and while that makes him more desirable as a husband, it makes Pariya feel less adequate as a bride, especially since her efforts to recreate her dowry are progressing at a snail’s pace. Even her parents marvel that Pariya’s found such a match, and you’ve got to feel bad for her when her own father directly asks Umar’s father why he’d choose a girl with Pariya’s reputation for his son. The reply Umar’s father gives is an interesting and insightful one. While Pariya may not fit conventional standards of femininity, she is uniquely suited for Umar.

She proves it, too, on a mundane errand that turns into a misadventure. While it is surprising that no one objects to them going off unsupervised, the scenario allows them to interact with a minimum of interference. Their trip for cosmetic ingredients is far from romantic, but it allows Pariya to unwittingly show off her good points to Umar. By the time the volume closes, there’s a definite sense that although Pariya can’t get married for some time, she has a happily even after in store for her.

Extras include Mori-sensei’s manga style afterword.

In Summary

Pariya’s adolescent turmoil continues! It’s hard for teenagers to communicate with the opposite sex, especially if it’s someone they’re attracted to. It’s even harder in a gender separated society, and Pariya’s bumbling efforts to make her feelings known to her intended are both touching and hilarious. It’s not the most romantic bride’s story in the set, but it goes a long way to show that the girl who saw herself as unmarriageable is well suited for someone after all.

First published at the Fandom Post.

Manga Review: A Bride’s Story Vol. 8

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 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 8 has been released, and you can read on for the review. (For reviews of other volumes, click here.)

Back Cover Blurb

As Anis and Sherine settle into a new life built on love and friendship, tragedy and destruction have thrown the Eihons’ village into turmoil. Conflict with neighboring tribes has taken its toll, leaving Pariya’s family home in ruins. Though no one was hurt, little survived the assault, including the fabrics meant for Pariya’s dowry. Her passionate, frank personality has made things difficult for Pariya in the past, and being forced to delay marriage talks–now that she’s finally found an interested suitor–drives her to despair.

The Review

I’d thought we’d seen the last of avowed sisters Sherine and Anis after Mr. Smith moved on from their town, but Chapter 44 gives one last glimpse of their new life together. As Anis’ husband remarks, “You never know about these things until you’re in the same house,” but Mori-sensei makes clear that Sherine joining as a second wife results in a happily ever after for the whole family. Sherine brings a comic element to the idyllic household, and a frank conversation between the husband and his two wives reveals only mutual respect and devotion among the three. It’s a scenario too good to be true, but Anis has a fairytale life so this ending suits her story.

Then we move from the woman who has everything to the girl whose dowry has been destroyed. When we last saw Amir’s village, they’d just managed to repel a joint attack. Now the battle is over and the recovery effort underway. The town suffered casualties and structural damage, and Mori-sensei makes it personal by focusing on the losses of Pariya’s family. While they are physically unscathed, their house was destroyed and, with it, the embroidered fabrics for Pariya’s dowry.

The difficulty in finding a match for Pariya has been a running joke in the series. Now that she finally has an interested suitor, the wedding’s delayed until she can rebuild her dowry–from scratch. So it’s both sad and hilarious when she rants about how she’ll die unmarried. Fortunately, Pariya’s got friends to help her through the crisis. Amir’s family, which has taken Pariya’s family in, provides the despondent girl with sewing material to restart and guidance to help her over her dislike of embroidery. So against a backdrop of salvaging enemy weapons and hauling bricks for reconstruction, we have a couple chapters focused predominantly on embroidery.

Pariya’s energetic, frank personality is well established, but we know almost nothing about her groom, Umar. However, once he hears news of the attack, he gets a chance to shine. He and his father come to help rebuild, and Pariya–and all the townsfolk–see what he’s capable of. Pariya, who’d been favorably disposed toward him before, grows even more attracted, which results in an increase in awkwardness for the poor girl.

In the midst of Pariya’s efforts to remake her dowry and herself so she can marry Umar before he changes his mind, Mori-sensei also gives a glimpse of what happened to the Halgal. Characters keep hinting at the tensions encompassing the larger region, and although the Russians have yet to show up, it’s probably just a matter of time before they do.

Extras include Mori-sensei’s manga style afterword.

In Summary

From the wife who has everything, the story shifts to the girl who despairs of becoming a bride. Between the shock of losing her house and the surprise of an unexpected visit from her intended, Pariya goes through quite an emotional roller coaster. While the concept of embroidering a heap of fabric in order to get married is foreign to Westerners, readers will be able to relate to Pariya’s adolescent turmoil as she strives to become a bride her intended can be proud of.

First published at the Fandom Post.

Manga Review: A Bride’s Story Vol. 7

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 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 7 has been released, and you can read on for the review. (For reviews of other volumes, click here.)

Back Cover Blurb

Acclaimed creator Kaoru Mori’s tale of life on the nineteenth-century Silk Road continues as Mr. Smith extends his journey. This time, he is welcomed into the home of a wealthy tradesman and his wife, Anis. Custom dictates that, as a woman, Anis is not permitted to meet their visitor face-to-face, but even so, she counts herself blessed to live in such a beautiful estate and be married to a man who devotes himself solely to her. Still, one cannot help but long for the companionship of another person when one’s closest friend is a reluctant Persian cat. In her loneliness, Anis visits the public bath house and discovers a place where she feels immediately free among her fellow sisters.

The Review

After the fighting, backstabbing, and chaos of Volume 6, Mori-sensei switches gears. We rejoin Mr. Smith as he enters a new town, where he becomes the guest of a wealthy tradesman. Unlike the previous village where he was constantly interacting with the twins and the other females in the community, the women in this area wear burkas and don’t show their faces to men outside their family. As such, Mr. Smith never actually gets to meet Anis, his host’s wife, who is the focus of this volume.

Anis is a stark contrast to those we’ve met so far. Her movements are limited, but hers is a carefree, privileged existence. She lives in an idyllic estate, loves her adoring husband, and has a healthy baby son. In her world, she’s the woman who has it all. Yet she’s extremely isolated (her main companion is a cat that looks an awful lot like the grumpy cat). Thus, we have a story about a woman seeking female friendship.

Mori-sensei uses Anis’ search to explore two lesser known aspects of Persian culture. The first is the public baths. Although the women in Anis’ community have to cover themselves completely outside their homes, they are not depicted as repressed or abused. Rather, their customs are inconvenient, but they have ways of dealing with it, one of which is the women’s bath. It’s not just a place to get clean. It’s where they relax, socialize, and enjoy themselves. When Smith first passes by the building, he thinks there’s a festival because of the merry racket within. While children and elderly are also patrons, most illustrations of the naked clientele have a sensual quality.

The second aspect is the khwahar khwandagi, the avowed sisters. As described in the manga, it’s a special covenant that binds two married women in a relationship similar to husband and wife. Anis’ encounter with Sherine in the public bath and the course she takes after the two become avowed sisters is somewhat simplistic. However, Anis is a rather simple character, thus the story’s “happily ever after” outcome suits her.

Extras include Mori-sensei’s manga style afterword and a foldout color illustration of the women’s bath. Also, Mori-sensei’s depictions of Anis’ estate are especially gorgeous.

In Summary

From Amir’s active, noisy world, we enter the life of a woman who knows only peace and seclusion. The tradesman’s wife Anis doesn’t have to worry about finances or tribal warfare; she just wants to find a friend. While the customs in Anis’ region are completely foreign to westerners, she is a sweet, likable character, and readers will easily relate to her desire for a peer who understands her.

First published at the Fandom Post.

Manga Review: A Bride’s Story Vol. 6

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 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 6 has recently been released, and you can read on for the review. (For reviews of other volumes, click here.)

Back Cover Blurb

Acclaimed creator Kaoru Mori’s tale of life on the nineteenth-century Silk Road heads back to Amir and Karluk. In the year since his marriage, Karluk has grown a good deal, but Amir can’t help but feel overprotective of her much younger husband. Karluk wants nothing more than to prove that he can be a strong and competent man–and he may soon have the opportunity to prove just that. Desperate for land to feed their flocks, Amir’s former tribe prepares to attack her village with a fearsome arsenal of cannons and guns provided by their new allies. This time the Halgals are not interested in capturing Amir–no one is safe from their terrible assault!

The Review

After spending the last couple volumes with twin brides Laila and Leily, the story returns to its original bride Amir and her native clan’s as of yet unresolved dilemma. It’s been a while since the story’s touched on this particular arc, and Mori-sensei provides a handy recap of the circumstances that drove the Halgal to try to take Amir from her new family. While the Halgal’s failure to retrieve Amir resulted in a happy ending for her and Karluk, it left the Halgal with no solution for their predicament. Now, with winter approaching, the tribe is desperate, and the one who really shines in the tumult is Amir’s brother Azel.

Recent chapters have spent a lot of time on kids starting to take on the role of adults. Even Volume 6 opens with Karluk arguing with Amir because he wants to wear the clothes of a man, not a boy. However, once Azel returns to the story, everything changes. He is without question a man. Most of this volume is told from his perspective, and these chapters paint him as both a sympathetic and sexy character. Mori-sensei seems to revel in showing off Azel’s masculinity, whether on horseback, hunting game, or on the battlefield. She even finds an excuse to have him go shirtless for several pages, and yes, it is dazzling eye-candy.

The Halgal’s crisis causes a split among generational lines. Unfortunately, seniority trumps all, and Azel and the other young men must obey their elders despite their misgivings. The clan chief’s eagerness to ally himself with the Badan is the weakest part of the plot. The deal’s so obviously fishy that a disgusted Joruk says, “Even I can see that, and I’m an idiot!”

However, if you can ignore the fact that the Halgal elders are wholesale fools, the rest of the book is an excellent read. The subsequent joint attack on the village is thrilling with battle scenes that jump off the pages. Karluk and Amir once more display their bravery and devotion to one another, but Azel is the one who really shines. I have a feeling that his fangirl following will rise sharply after this installment.

Extras include Mori-sensei’s manga style afterword.

In Summary

The Halgal plot another attack on Karluk’s village. This time it’s not about seizing a bride but taking everything. Amir’s older brother is the star of this volume, a stunning contrast to his seemingly deranged father. If you’ve wanted to see the strength of a nomadic herdsman exemplified, this volume showcases Azel’s skills both in the solitary wilderness of the mountains and in the heat of battle.

First published at the Fandom Post.

Manga Review: A Bride’s Story Vol. 5

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 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 5 has recently been released, and you can read on for the review. (For reviews of other volumes, click here.)

Back Cover Blurb

Acclaimed creator Kaoru Mori’s tale of life on the nineteenth-century Silk Road takes on an air of celebration as, at long last, Laila and Leily’s wedding day arrives! But the marriage ceremony may be even more taxing for the girls than their search for a pair of grooms. Sitting still and silent as their guests celebrate and eat is a trial that will push the girls’ patience to its limit, not to mention that of Sami and Sarm! As the twins finally make their vows and commit themselves to their husbands, the gravity of the moment finally sets in. Though they have dreamed of marriage for years, only now do they realize that everything in their lives is about to change…

The Review

Although this manga is entitled A Bride’s Story, the only actual wedding scenes thus far are brief glimpses of Amir’s and Talas’ weddings. Now Mori-sensei makes up for it with the community extravaganza that is the twins’ wedding.

And it is a massive family effort. While we have scenes of the girls getting decked out in their bridal finery, Mori-sensei devotes even more panels to the preparations for the nuptial celebration. Clothes, food, decorations, ornaments, musical instruments – all are showcased in Mori-sensei’s usual meticulous detail. Probably the most unexpected segment is the butchering of the sheep. Mori-sensei takes great pains to show how the animals are slaughtered and quartered for cooking. Western readers will likely sympathize with poor Mr. Smith when he sees the blood and guts preceding the feast.

The village’s wedding customs are, of course, steeped in tradition, and many of these are entirely foreign to Western readers. However, as mentioned in my review of Volume 4, Laila and Leily, have very modern sensibilities. Despite their desire to be admired as perfect brides, they have little patience for the restraint required of them, and readers will be able to relate when they complain.

And boy, do they complain. Mori-sensei uses the girls’ restlessness and lack of self-control as the main thrust of the comedy for the wedding chapters. The twins not only drive their mother crazy, they try the patience of their grooms. In contrast to the girls’ gluttony and whining, the boys show remarkable maturity as they do their best to please their brides. Even so, they have their limits. The revenge they exact upon the girls is not only laugh out loud funny but a reminder of how young the two couples are.

With the twins happily married, the story eases back to Amir’s village, and when I say “eases back,” that’s exactly what I mean. Chapter 26 “The Daylong Song,” isn’t so much a narrative as it is a string of images depicting Amir’s daily routine. No panels or dialogue bubbles, just beautifully drawn illustrations of her in the house, about town, and on the plains. That is followed by a side-story about the family matriarch. (I didn’t know people could ride goats!) It isn’t until the final chapter that the narrative resumes in earnest with a standalone story about an injured hawk.

Extras include Mori-sensei’s manga style afterword and selections from her sketch collection Scribbles (also available from Yen Press).

In Summary

The first half of Volume 5 concludes the bridal sitcom of twins Laila and Leily with their wedding. Mori-sensei does her usual meticulous presentation of Aral Sea traditions, but the antics of our sassy brides give these chapters a lively feel. The story then shifts back to Amir’s village. The plot doesn’t progress much in these chapters, but the illustrations are still a feast for the eyes.

First published at the Fandom Post.

Manga Review: A Bride’s Story Vol. 4

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 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 4 has recently been released, and you can read on for the review. (For reviews of other volumes, click here).

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?

The RevieW

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.

In Summary

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.

Manga Review: A Bride’s Story Vol. 3

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 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.

Back Cover Blurb

A young widow, Talas opens her home to the researcher Mr. Smith, who has ventured to her town to continue his studies. However, when Talas’s uncle begins to see Smith as an impediment to his plans to wed his son to Talas, the old man’s schemes land the Englishman in prison! Far from friends and even farther from home, Smith’s outlook seems grim…

The RevieW

Fans of Emma will really enjoy Volume 3 of A Bride’s Story, the main focus of which is Mr. Smith. Mori-sensei seems to have a penchant for Englishmen falling for women that come from completely different backgrounds. In Emma, it was a young man of the gentry and a maid; here we have Mr. Smith and the widow Talas.

There are actually quite a few parallels between Talas and Emma. Talas’s household consists of her and her mother-in-law, and the affection the two have for one another is akin to that between Emma and her mistress Kelly. Talas’ mother-in-law worries about what will happen to Talas once she passes on, but Talas is reluctant to remarry and leave her mother-in-law behind. Talas even looks similar to Emma, though Mr. Smith is the one wearing the glasses.

The wonderful thing about the attraction that grows between Talas and Mr. Smith is that it comes about gradually and is rooted in mutual respect. The other nice thing about their relationship is that, unlike Amir and Karluk, there’s no awkward age gap. Both are adults and approximately the same age so modern Western readers can enjoy their interaction without any squick factor. But just as in Emma, a patriarch in power disapproves of the couple’s relationship so the volume closes with Mr. Smith and Talas forcibly separated. I really hope though that that’s not the last we see of her.

This being a slice-of-life, it includes several scenes of Talas doing chores as well as an entire chapter about Amir, Karluk, and Pariya scrounging up a meal at the market. “Eating at the Market” doesn’t advance the plot, but it’s a fun and fascinating glimpse into the foods of Amir’s world.

One final note: I absolutely adore this book’s packaging. The brown hardback binding and gold lettering are an elegant touch, and the colorful dust jacket is a treat for the eyes. It’s almost double the price of its paperback counterparts, but Yen Press presents A Bride’s Story as one would a classic piece of literature, a nice match for Mori-sensei’s beautiful artwork.

In Summary

The series title is A Bride’s Story, but Volume 3 could be called “A Nearly Engaged Englishman’s Story.” Mori-sensei introduces a romantic interest for Mr. Smith in the form of the young widow Talas, and those who enjoyed Emma will likely enjoy the interactions between these lovers from vastly different worlds.

First published at the Fandom Post.