Cobweb Bride by Vera Nazarian

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BLURB:

What if you killed someone and then fell in love with them?

In an alternate Renaissance world, somewhere in an imaginary “pocket” of Europe called the Kingdom of Lethe, Death comes, in the form of a grim Spaniard, to claim his Bride. Until she is found, in a single time-stopping moment all dying stops. There is no relief for the mortally wounded and the terminally ill….

Covered in white cobwebs of a thousand snow spiders she lies in the darkness… Her skin is cold as snow… Her eyes frozen… Her gaze, fiercely alive…

While kings and emperors send expeditions to search for a suitable Bride for Death, armies of the undead wage an endless war… A black knight roams the forest at the command of his undead father… Spies and political treacheries abound at the imperial Silver Court….Murdered lovers find themselves locked in the realm of the living…

Look closer — through the cobweb filaments of her hair and along each strand shine stars…

And one small village girl, Percy—an unwanted, ungainly middle daughter—is faced with the responsibility of granting her dying grandmother the desperate release she needs. As a result, Percy joins the crowds of other young women of the land in a desperate quest to Death’s own mysterious holding in the deepest forests of the North…And everyone is trying to stop her.

Publisher and Release Date: Leda (Imprint of Norilana Books), 22 June 2013)

RHL Classifications:
Time and Setting: Alternative History (Renaissance Europe)
Genre: Dark Fantasy Romance
Heat Level:1
Reviewer Rating: 5 stars

Warning: Graphic and Descriptive Violence

Review by Patrice

INTRO

Western literary historians observe that the creation of fantasy literature started with Spenser’s Faerie Queen, written during the English Renaissance, The Golden Age of Elizabeth I, the Virgin Queen.  Still, others would disagree, traveling to Eastern shores for tales of exotic princesses and cunning heroes that stumble upon magic lamps.  How fitting it is that this tale is a pseudo-Renaissance Europe comprised of a historically and geographically shape-shifted Spain, France, Germany, Italy and the Mediterranean, sprinkled with Eastern flavor.

Cobweb Bride is astonishing and captivating; a lush fantasy of imagery and magical realism.  The visuals are illustrated by the author’s lyrical and metaphoric writing.  Every chapter and scene revels in this mortal coil, surrounded by an expansive collage of characters immersed in a plot as rich and decadent as a Verdi opera.

Plot Overview

Death visits the dying Queen Mother Andrelise in the glittering city Lethe one cold night; as vicious battle rages between Dukedoms Chidair and Goraque ; and the Silver court pays homage to its princess who has come of age; while in a serene village of Oarclaven, the peasant Ayren family says good-bye to their failing matriarch.  When Death demands his Cobweb Bride, no one can answer this mystery.  Encased for eons in rage and pain, the Reaper states that until his Cobweb Bride is found, no one shall know his embrace.  From that moment on, nothing enters Death’s realm, and though men fall in battle from horrific blows and matrons lay suffering on their deathbeds, there is no final rest for them.

Persephone,  called Percy, least admired and loved, the middle, ill-favored daughter, lost between two exquisite sisters, Parabelle and Patriciana, volunteers to travel to Death’s castle with countless other unfortunates, all converging to save the world from the blight of Death’s merciless curse.  Which one is destined to be Death’s Cobweb Bride? For there are those who do not wish Death to bring release to the lands of men again…

PROS

If this novel were edible, the rich sweetness of the writing and the exquisite detail would ruin thousands of dollars of dental work while making me a candidate for diabetes.  If it were a drug, it would be laudanum, pure poppy syrup fit for a Victorian to while away countless hours in magnificent dreams.  The vibrancy of Ms. Nazarian’s writing is sheer kaleidoscopic visualization.  The folkloric-fable twists and turns recount shavings from the mythos of Hades and Persephone without boring you with a full-blown serving of predictability.  The romance is as subtle as it is grim, with glimmers of hope taking us further to our doom—perhaps.  The author wields irony in a variety of forms.  One example is a pair of would-be lovers, with more dysfunction than true passion; all in the name of sacrifice that I would be the first to say stems from madness.

CONS

For those unfamiliar with European folklore and history, you might take a tumble into frustration. Do not be deterred, just go for the ride, and then satiate your curiosity later.  Whether you’re an amateur or scholar, this is not too far off the beaten paths so don’t be discouraged.  This is not for the faint of heart or those with a weak constitution.  There are violent and graphic battles scenes.  Also, there are enough characters in Cobweb Bride to pack onto an 18 wheeler tour bus, which can be overwhelming at times.  This is not the first story I have read with an endless roster of characters, and to be honest,  it is quite interesting.  The issue is when large chunks of time are taken away from the main character, in this case, Percy/Persephone.  If the author’s goal is to use the first book as a springboard for the plot layers in order to progress to the second book without all the extra supplies, then I can better appreciate the effort.

CHARACTERS

Again.  Be warned.  Although Persephone/Percy Ayren and Death are the focal points, the list of various nobles, warriors and peasants are endless.  I won’t spin your head with names, places, and descriptions, reading is believing.

There are Goth-as-heck-doomed, would-be-loners with names like, Marquis Vlau Fiomarre, and equally fortifying descriptions.  Don’t be afraid to jump in, there’s a wonderful author’s note and a list of character names/places – complete with pronunciations—to bedazzle your brain and plug you back in to the dark parade.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

The Cobweb Bride resonates in its literary role of Death and the Maiden. The danse macabre of this somber tale, bound and twisted by an endless thread of sly, murky humor is so exquisitely choreographed by Ms. Nazarian’s decadent language, you’re immediately swept away into her sinisterly fantastic world. The overall tone is introspective, hauntingly quiet with elements of horror-fantasy that are as provocative as the works of Tanith Lee and Storm Constantine.

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