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June 6, 2011

Bento Bako Weekly: A Bride’s Story vol. 1

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Written by: Kristin
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Title: A Bride’s Story
Author: Kaoru Mori (Emma)
Publisher: Yen Press
Volume: Volume 1 (ongoing), $16.99 (HC)
Vintage: 2009 by Enterbrain, Inc. in Japan, May 2011 by Yen Press
Genre: Drama, historical romance

It’s 19th century Asia. Twenty-year-old Amir Halgal has recently wed into the Eihon family by marrying 12-year-old Karluk. Though generally old for a bride (in a society where the bride is usually far younger than the groom), she is welcomed warmly by her husband’s family (Grandfather Mahatbek, Grandmother Balkirsh, mother Sanira, father Akunbek, Karluk and his sister Seleke, Seleke’s husband Yusuf, and their children Rostem, Chalg, Torkan, and Tileke). The children are enthralled by her strange clothes and customs  (particularly the young Tileke, Seleke’s daughter, who is completely enraptured by this cool, strong new woman), and the family is impressed by her skills at making clothes, hunting, cooking, and her strong sense of loyalty to her new family. At first, the couple is awkward and shy. For his age, Karluk is quite mature, but he is still just a boy, and Amir is certainly more mature in some very specific ways. They’re tossed together knowing very little about each other, as is often the way with arranged marriages. However, as Karluk watches Amir, who is a vision of beauty and grace while hunting on a horse, and who diligently cares for him (for example, she makes a beautiful coat for him using some rabbits she caught, and later cares for him while he is ill), his feelings for her grow. Amir, also, begins to warm quickly to her new husband, helped along by his loving and close-knit family. We don’t know much about Amir’s family, and we know nothing about how she came to be married to Karluk, but it’s clear she has a good upbringing, and her family’s partially nomadic lifestyle prepared her for a variety of problems and experiences. Including helping Karluk’s uncle’s family herd a group of sheep for a day. Unfortunately, Amir’s new happy life may not last. Her family is having some troubles. A girl they had married off to another clan, the Numaji, recently died, and the family elders are desperate to maintain control over the land they were to gain with the marriage. They decide they will use Amir, and send her brother, Azel, and his cousins/retainers Baimat and Joruk, to take Amir back from the Eihon family. The Eihon family, having already grown to love Amir as one of their own, resolutely refuses their demand, and even go so far as to tell them Amir is pregnant to drive them off. Azel retreats, but it’s clear the Halgal clan won’t let this slide.

Charming. Beautiful. Engrossing. I love A Bride’s Story, and we’re only just at the first volume! Everything about this volume is absolutely lovely. Of particular note is the incredibly detailed artwork from Mori. The clothing, the jewelry, the landscapes, the characters’ faces…everything is drawn with great care and a truly amazing amount of detail. Delicate strands of hair frame soft faces. Large, open eyes are shaded with soft lashes. Deep wrinkles carefully line the faces of older characters. Every piece of clothing and jewelry is covered in tiny details. Even walls and house posts are intricately detailed. The whole volume is a feast for the eyes. The story holds up, as well, and rather than be overshadowed by the beautiful artwork, is made all the better by it. Mori is a masterful story teller, and she excels at gentle romances of this sort. The only issue I have with the story, is that we’re dropped right into the middle of it. There’s no real character introduction, and there’s no explanation of how Amir came to be married into the Eihon family. When the story begins, Amir has already been living with the Eihons as Karluk’s wife for a few days. It’s not confusing in any way, really, but I would very much like to see why these two were joined together. Especially as it seems Amir’s family was not totally thrilled with the arrangement. I could probably go on for hours about how beautiful this book is, but rather than sit here with a thesaurus and pick out every word to describe how amazing it is, I’d rather you pick it up and see for yourself.

I’ve heard that there’s at least one book store out there who is refusing to sell this book. All I can say to those making a fuss over it, is that you should sit down and read it for yourself. The age difference (which, hello, was totally normal back then, though usually reversed) is handled with care; there’s nothing dirty here. It’s a very sweet and innocent little budding romance. Many thanks to Yen Press for brining this over. I wasn’t able to get in on the Mori craze when Emma came out, nor did I manage to pick up Shirley (both were CMX titles), so I knew I had to get in on her new series or I was going to regret it. I couldn’t be more pleased, especially given the beautiful treatment it has been given by Yen Press.

By the way, I saw this on Twitter over the weekend. If you’re interested in knowing just how much care Mori puts into the details of her artwork, take a look at these videos which show her drawing Amir in painstaking detail: http://natalie.mu/comic/pp/otoyomegatari




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