You all know the stories. The tales where a man marries a mysterious woman with secrets she begs to keep. But the man’s curiosity always wins out in the end, and he learns something that causes irrevocable damage. Even when I was told not to, I decided to pull back the layers of Indigo Maxwell-Casteñada in The Last Tale of the Flower Bride and there were dark, yet delicious consequences.
There is a man who loves fairytales, myths, and legends. He has devoted his life to the pursuit of the unknown, and this scholarly venture leads him to the clutches of Indigo Maxwell-Casteñada. The lavish hotel heiress introduces him to her private collection and envelops him in her dreamy life. The man becomes Indigo’s bridegroom, and they spend years in decadence while acting out their favorite stories featuring goddesses and men, predator and prey. The bridegroom revels in this blissful marriage, and it only exists because he has promised to never ask about Indigo’s past. He’s never cared to pry his mysterious wife for answers, yet temptation will spark when the couple is forced to return to the House of Dreams, Indigo’s childhood home. Here, the secrets of Indigo’s childhood friend, Azure, will bubble to the surface, and the bridegroom must decide if he will retreat to safety or dive in.
Flower Bride was an unrecognizable tale compared to Chokshi’s other stories. It’s considered the author’s adult debut, and it’s her strongest work yet. The story is captivating and poetic. Words are strung together like fairy lights in an intoxicating prose I didn’t know Chokshi was capable of. It only took one page for the book to sink its needle-like teeth into me, and it refused to let go until I suffered through the tale. I wanted to devour it whole, and if life had not kept getting in the way, I would have finished it in one sitting to satiate my hunger triggered by Indigo’s sugar-dusted cruelty.
Chokshi will be delighted to know that this book messed with my head. I found myself constantly re-reading passages because Flower Bride was a 300-page optical illusion. Look at it from one side and you would see a spoiled young heiress ruling over an eclectic mansion, beholden to nothing and no one. But tilt the book five degrees, and the young girl would turn into a mysterious fae creature living among mortals while delighting in extravagance and cruelty. This element bleeds over into the bridegroom’s past as well, serving as the reason he so desperately searches for answers from the unknown. The reader must peek into the ornate armoire at the end of the hall, between the stair banisters in the House of Dreams, and through the trees in the Otherworld to find the truth. Is this a tale of two lonely girls who wanted for nothing? Or is this a story dripping with magic that twists twin souls into a more fitting shape? You get to decide where reality begins and ends.
This story was mysterious, magical, and horrifying. But mostly it made me wistful and sad as a grown woman now shackled to the realities of adulthood. The majority of Flower Bride exists within that beautiful, blissful glow surrounding adolescence. It’s the time of life when responsibilities have not quite set in, where the most structure we are forced to endure centers around school. Indigo and Azure thrive in this state. They don expensive pearls, build flower crowns, and leave out blood and milk for the fae. They escape to the Otherworld to commune with selkies and sip on honeysuckles. As the girls grow older, we begin to see their world fracture as reality begins to set in. Magic and desire become tangled as the future begs to be defined. Azure’s narration of this time is haunting as she describes a growing darkness that forces her to confront a new world.
While I have enjoyed some of Roshani Chokshi’s young adult work, these tales fell short in a lot of ways—whether it was character development or strange plot decisions—and they didn’t leave an impression. My previous experiences made me hesitant to pick up The Last Tale of the Flower Bride, but Chokshi outdid herself this time. The way she shaped this story and complemented it with some next-level prose is the reason it’s haunting me like a ghost I can’t shake. The Last Tale of the Flower Bride is like a gift from the fae. It was unexpected, dazzling in its grandeur, and dripping in blood. It was an addicting story and one of the best I’ve read this year. I encourage you to unravel the layered mysteries that Roshani Chokshi has packaged up for you.
Rating: The Last Tale of the Flower Bride – 9.0/10