Cobweb Bride (Book #1) by Vera Nazarian ~ A Review
Illustrated by: N/A
Published: Norilana Books, 15th July 2013
Length: 318 pages
Genre: Fantasy, Mythological Fantasy, Romance, Alternate Historical Fiction, Historical Fantasy,
Where Did I Get It? ARC received for review from NetGalley
Summary (from Goodreads): Many are called…
She alone can save the world and become Death’s bride.
Cobweb Bride is a history-flavored fantasy novel with romantic elements of the Persephone myth, about Death’s ultimatum to the world.
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.
He came to them in the heart of winter, asking for his Cobweb Bride.
My Review: Cobweb Bride was truly a book of two halves. It took me almost two months to read the first seven chapters (about 42% of the book according to my Kindle) and about two days to read the rest.
Those first seven chapters could easily have been edited down to half their length. Although they were well written with rich language and beautiful description, after two chapters I was bored witless, I had got the idea of Death being on strike and how awful it was and that people wanted to fix it.
I was so bored that when vital plot points happened to main characters, I just didn’t really care. In hindsight, a lot of what happened in those chapters could have been backfilled later – it wouldn’t have seemed so dull if it came after the action started. I think it was because the storyline didn’t progress forward for so long, lingering on the start of Death’s cessation across all of the main character’s lives instead of moving forward, dropping you bits of back story as it went and keeping your attention.
The start is a real shame because the last half of the book is actually quite good. The storyline is exciting and intriguing and incredibly well thought through – the fact that Death does not only stop for people but for animals and plants too is very clever.
The various relationships in Cobweb Bride were well written and cleverly handled as love developed in unexpected places and friendships changed through circumstances. Vera Nazarian’s characterisation is fantastic – she depicts people from all ages and walks of life and brings out their differences and similarities wonderfully, creating a varied cast for the story.
There were a few things that bugged me aside from the slow start and the first of these was the entirely unsubtle and un-needed inclusion of the Persephone myth reference. I happened to already know the story of Persephone and her position in Greek mythology as Queen of the Underworld however, even if I hadn’t, Percy’s character in Cobweb Bride was enough to subtly reference the legend. It did not need another character to randomly blurt out ‘You are Persephone blah blah blah’ for no apparent reason and then never mention it again. It felt a bit like the author was saying ‘Look at me, I did a clever thing using Greek mythology’ and jarred horribly.
The other issue I had was with the sub-plot of the spies in the Silver Court. This wasn’t because I thought it was badly done or anything, but just because it was entirely superfluous to the story. I am guessing that it becomes important in the next book of the trilogy but in this story it felt a bit odd because it never went anywhere. It didn’t feel mysterious or interesting, it felt like it had been put there because they needed it to link in later on top of the main storyline. I like books with a bit of politics in them and I have no issues with subplots but only when they are interwoven with the main story – in Cobweb Bride almost all references to the spy plot could have been removed without the slightest impact on the story. They felt forced in and uncomfortable.
Also, it was very odd to be in a fantasy realm and then have France and Spain casually mentioned in passing. I would have preferred it to have been either in an alternate version of an existing European country or in an entirely fantastical version of the world because the combining of the two was a little confusing. Hearing mention of real countries makes you want to place the Realm in your head and you can’t because the author has rearranged the continent, something that is only explained at the end of the book. I think there is a map in the front of the published version (I have an ARC) which would help with this but I personally would still be a little uncomfortable with it.
I gave Cobweb Bride 3 stars instead of 4 because although I loved the premise and the ideas in the book and the writing was genuinely excellent, there was just too much set-up at the start and shoe-horned in bits and bobs for it to get that extra star or two.
My Rating: 3/5*