This is another insightful fairytale by one of my current favorite authors. It begins with a poetic but rather dark tale—because it would be terribly uncomfortable to make a dog out of bones or a cloak of nettles — but the story quickly develops Kingfisher’s usual sideways, unexpected humor.
Our heroine Marra is a Princess, but the third-born one, scheduled for marriage only after her two older sisters wed. She is neither plucky nor beautiful. She is a short, shy girl who is good at embroidery and solitude. When she is assigned to a convent to keep her out of the way, she does not mind at all. She has never dreamed of Princes.
Which is just as well, because the Prince in this story is really not very nice. He has, one after the other, married her two older sisters, killing the first and using the second only to produce heirs. The middle sister is fighting a terrible battle against abuse, using pregnancy and the promise of a son as her only weapons.
There is certainly darkness around the edges of the story, but it is told through the eyes of Marra, who does not dwell on it. Her magic is ultimately of the practical sort enjoyed by women who, like Terry Pratchett’s witches, operate with a bit of knowledge, unshakeable good humor, and a lot of common sense.
Now available in trade paperback!