*A Bride’s Story Book 1 — Best of 2011

Review by Ed Sizemore

The book’s bride is the 20-year-old Amir Halgal. She is from a semi-nomadic tribe in central Asia near the Caspian Sea. The groom, Karluk Eihon, is from a small town in the same region. He is 12. The newlyweds live with Karluk’s extended family, as does a Western man, doing research.

Let’s discuss what will make readers most uncomfortable first, the age disparity. Kaoru Mori admits in the afterword that the normal marrying age for the time and the culture is 15 or 16 years old, so this age difference is significant even within the world of the story. Furthermore, Mori has chosen not to alleviate the reader’s unease by giving an explanation for why the families paired up these two people.

Obviously, the age difference is meant to create dramatic and emotional possibilities. But even knowing these are just fictional characters doesn’t help when we see Amir eager to prove she can be a good wife by consummating their marriage. Children are important in this culture, and Amir wants to demonstrate she can give birth to many healthy children despite her age. Karluk feels intimated by her advances. The awkwardness of those moments is unsettling on a couple of levels.

This first volume doesn’t offer enough information to suggest what direction Mori will take this series. Personally, I can’t say I’m comfortable with the idea of a 12-year-old boy fathering a child, even with the support and guidance of an extended family. However, for now, I’ll withhold judgment and wait for the story to develop further.

Now, let’s talk about the wonderful characters Mori has crafted for A Bride’s Story. Amir is a strong, capable, and very humble woman. I’m as impressed as the Eihon family at Amir’s abilities. She is skilled with a bow and can hunt from horseback. She is also an excellent cook and seamstress. She’s an amazing woman, and I sympathize with Karluk for being intimated by her.

However, even with all her abilities, Amir is very insecure. She knows that many people consider her past her prime as a wife. She wants to show her in-laws that she can be a productive member of the family. She wants Karluk to know she can be a good wife. Her desire for acceptance is heartbreaking. It’s impossible not to wish all the best for her.

Karluk is the youngest child of his family. Mori tells us that in this culture, Karluk will be the one to inherit his parent’s property instead of the oldest male. He’s quiet and seems a bit overwhelmed to not just find himself married, but married to a woman similar in age to his oldest sister. Like Amir, he feels insecure. Amir is a fully developed woman, while he is still developing. He doesn’t know if he can be the man Amir needs in many ways.

I give credit to Karluk for being smart/wise enough to want to take his time and get to know Amir. It would be easy for someone his age to cover up his insecurities with bravado. I’m hoping in future volumes we will see how Karluk’s father is preparing him to take over the family wealth. For now, Karluk is a bit of an enigma, and I’d like to get to know him better.

Mori has done a spectacular job with her research. Her love of 19th century central Asian culture is obvious. It’s not just getting the clothes right, which she does beautifully. She has studied all aspects of the culture. For example, there is a great discussion on how houses are built. Beyond city life, she also gives us a glimpse into the life of nomads when Karluk and Amir go to visit his uncle. Mori brings this time, place, and people alive marvelously.

A Bride’s Story is absolutely gorgeous. The art is lavish with details: the clothes, the rugs, the jewelry, etc. It’s all lovingly drawn. I find myself lingering on the page just soaking in art. (I have to wonder how many assistants it takes to produce this series.) Mori’s realistic artwork will make this book very accessible to a Western audience. I will warn people there is some brief nudity, but it’s very tasteful and appropriate to the story.

A quick word about the book itself. Yen Press did a marvelous job. It’s a hardcover with a beautiful dust jacket, worth every penny of its price. I hope this series sells well. I would love to see more hardcover manga.

Despite my reservations, I thoroughly enjoyed A Bride’s Story and look forward to seeing volume two. Mori has crafted another wonderful historical romance. Fans of her previous series, Emma, will be pleased to know that Mori has maintained her high quality of art and storytelling. All comics fans, regardless of medium or genre preference, should check out A Bride’s Story.

Similar Posts: *A Bride’s Story Book 5 — Recommended § *A Bride’s Story Book 2 — Recommended § *A Bride’s Story Book 4 — Recommended § *A Bride’s Story Book 3 — Recommended § Ed and I Discuss Bride’s Story on Manga Out Loud

12 Comments

  1. Even though you described the art as gorgeous and lavish, I wasn’t prepared when I opened the book to see how ornate and glorious it was. That first panel, with the bride in her fanciest clothes and jewelry, holding up a lace veil, is so amazingly detailed. Then the cut to the landscapes of the setting, with the slopes and wildlife… I run out of words.

    I wasn’t as put off by you with the age difference, though. A 12-year-old boy in an older culture would be a young adult, I think. And remember Romeo & Juliet!

    I agree with you, the information on the cultural elements, life in that time and the crafts and homemaking, is really impressive. And I’m struck by the maternal power and imagery — it seems Amir’s husband sometimes sees her as that as much as a wife. I love this book and I hope other people do too.

  2. I think I will give this a try. When I first heard a description a while back, I was put off by it. At the time, I didn’t realize that it was by Kaoru Mori and was thus likely to better than my mental image.

    A bit off-topic, I do tend to enjoy stories between older/younger characters, but for different reasons. I like romance stories, but I usually go for the fluffy, childish romance found in younger-audience shoujo stories. The kind of inconsequential fluff that is “well they like each other now and could get married eventually”. So if one of the characters is way too young, then (I would hope) it would end up falling into that. I don’t care if its meant for girls through the perspective of “oh man the hot older dude likes me back” or an otaku-oriented series with a moe edge. I enjoy them on a similar level, even if they aren’t meant the same. As long is nothing untoward is implied, then I’m okay with it.

    Something like A Bride’s Tale is practically the opposite, since they are, well, married- And having children could happen. But it sounds like there is a lot of merit to it, and I really enjoyed Emma. I glanced through a few pages earlier this week and fell in love with the artwork. With your recommendation in mind, I’ll probably pick it up soon.

  3. [...] A Bride’s Story, from Yen Press ($16.99), an absolutely gorgeous historical romance with an unusual twist — an older, immensely capable wife and a boyish husband. [...]

  4. Johanna,

    It’s one of the few times I could call artwork breathtaking and mean it literally. When I opened up the book, I was awe struck.

    BakaTanuki,

    If you liked Emma, I’m sure you’ll like this too. Let me know what you think.

  5. I don’t even think about the age difference in this manga in modern western terms, so it doesn’t bother me. The setting and story is so exotic to me that I’m able to accept the rules for what they are, and as you said, it’s appropriate for the culture and time period anyway. And since Mori isn’t going to an exploitive “fan servicing” bent, I can read this on a more objective level and find interest in how she handles a relationship that is considered “taboo” to modern western eyes. I’d personally rather Mori go with what’s best for the story than to placate any personal preconceived discomfort I would bring to the reading myself.

  6. I’m scanlating the series, and let me tell you that it’s a joy to work on. Being a history buff, her depth of research just leaves me crying for more every single time.

  7. traeni,

    I’m glad that you’re enjoying the series. However, I can’t condone what you’re doing. A Bride’s Story is now available (see Amazon link above) in English and you’re taking money away from Kaoru Mori with your actions. If you love the manga and its author, then it’s best that you direct people to where they can purchase the book and provide financial support to the author so she can continue to make this wonderful series.

    I love the series and Yen Press’ presentation of it. So I definitely want people buying the book. I’m hoping the book sells well so we can see more hardcover editions of A Bride’s Story and other manga in the future.

  8. [...] difficult to find new ways to praise this gorgeous historical series. It’s got something for everyone. It’s beautifully drawn, exciting to read, diverse in [...]

  9. [...] exciting, to me, is a new book of short stories by Kaoru Mori, the talented artist responsible for A Bride’s Story and Emma. Anything and Something will be released in hardcover, the same size as A Bride’s [...]

  10. [...] Mori is the fan-favorite author of the popular manga Emma and A Bride’s Story. As she explains in her comic-format foreword, this volume is a “stewpot book… a bunch [...]

  11. [...] fear that Kaoru Mori was going to follow anthropologist Mr. Smith away from the original bride Amir is thankfully not justified. As the series continues, the story sprawls, with chapters introducing [...]

  12. […] the lead from the first volumes, returns in a late chapter told through gorgeously illustrated single-page images of daily life. […]

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