Young Rhea is a
miller’s daughter of low birth, so she is understandably surprised when a
mysterious nobleman, Lord Crevan, shows up on her doorstep and proposes
marriage. Since commoners don’t turn down lords - no matter how sinister
they may seem - Rhea is forced to agree to the engagement.
Crevan demands that Rhea visit his remote manor before their wedding.
Upon arrival, she discovers that not only was her betrothed married six
times before, but his previous wives are all imprisoned in his enchanted
castle. Determined not to share their same fate, Rhea asserts her
desire for freedom. In answer, Lord Crevan gives Rhea a series of
magical tasks to complete, with the threat “Come back before dawn, or
else I’ll marry you.”
With time running out and each task more
dangerous and bizarre than the last, Rhea must use her resourcefulness,
compassion, and bravery to rally the other wives and defeat the sorcerer
before he binds her to him forever.
There are many variations of the Bluebeard story, the most well known are obviously The Bloody Chamber by Angela Carter, The Robber Bridegroom by The Brothers Grimm and Bluebeard by Charles Perrault. Ever since reading The Bloody Chamber I've tried to keep up to date with retellings of the Bluebeard story so was pleased to find this version by T Kingfisher (also known as Ursula Vernon).
Rhea is a miller's daughter with a hint of something special about her. After being spotted by Lord Crevan she becomes engaged to him, very much so against her will. With the wedding approaching Crevan demands that she visit him at his estate and so she sets off on a white road towards something that may well be the end of her. Staying true to the original story she discovers that she is to be the latest in a line of wives for Lord Crevan and having no desire to end up like the Clock Wife or the Golem Wife Rhea fulfills tasks set for her that seem impossible.
As retellings go this is one of the better ones I've read. I don't think any will ever measure up to Carter's Bloody Chamber but I really did like Kingfisher's interpretation. Rhea was headstrong and feisty but also scared out of her wits. I loved her hedgehog companion who got her out of a tight spot more than once and the bear that lurked about in the forest was another favorite. The other wives were fascinating, I especially loved Maria and the way that Kingfisher continually muddles your thinking about which wife may actually be on Rhea's side and who may may not want her to succeed at all. Great writing and a nice spin on Bluebeard has ensured The Seventh Wife a spot on my favorites list. Kingfisher has written a Beauty & the Beast retelling, Bryony and Roses, which has gone on the wishlist.