‘The Last Tale of the Flower Bride’ by Roshani Chokshi: An ode to the darker side of fairy tales

This The Last Tale of the Flower Bride book review takes a spoiler-free look at Roshani Chokshi’s stunningly dark and beautiful adult debut.

It’s true that Roshani Chokshi has conquered the fantasy genre in so many ways, from her young adult series The Star-Touched Queen and The Gilded Wolves, to her middle grade books centering on Aru Shah and written for the Rick Riordan Presents imprint.

I’m a huge fan of the Aru Shah books, and they continue to be my favorite series out of the imprint. Filled with action and adventure, heart and hijinks, and plenty of love and laughs, it’s not difficult to love her characters and the world she’s built in this series.

But as much as I love middle grade books and how they can still resonate with adults like me, I was beyond excited to hear that Chokshi would soon present us with her adult debut. As a fan of dark fantasy and gothic horror novels, The Last Tale of the Flower Bride was exactly the kind of book I wanted to sink my teeth into.

Related: Roshani Chokshi talks ‘Aru Shah and the Nectar of Immortality’ and the end of the Pandava series

And let’s just get this out of the way, right at the start of my Flower Bride book review—it did not disappoint. Every sentence felt like it was chosen with such care. There’s a lyrical quality to this novel, like the words have been lifted from a song and laid bare on the page just for us to hear. The imagery of every scene is so specific that I had no trouble seeing exactly the picture Chokshi was painting for us—and not only that, but I enjoyed every moment of it, even when the story turned dark.

This book contains a story within a story. On the first page, we meet the Bridegroom on the night he encounters Indigo Maxwell-Casteñada, an ethereal woman who’s as mysterious and she is alluring. They play a game of cat and mouse, living out mythological stories and folktales, pretending to be gods and monsters, drawing nearer and yet maintaining a purposeful distance from the secrets that could destroy them both. Indigo and the Bridegroom fall in love and get married with a promise set between them—he must never ask seek to uncover her past, lest their love turn to ash.

What I enjoyed most about The Last Tale of the Flower Bride is that it is a love letter to the stories that have withstood the tests of time. Pulling from mythology and folklore from around the world, Chokshi weaves a common thread of love and loss among them. Just as we are taught that Melusine’s husband broke his oath to never look at his wife while she bathed, lest he learn a truth he cannot forget, we understand that the Bridegroom will not keep his promise. And so, with the anvil hanging over our heads as the rope stretches thinner, we gather pieces of the puzzle, knowing the world will come crashing down around us as soon as the last piece is fitted into place.

The puzzle that the Bridegroom attempts to solve is that of Indigo’s past and her relationship with her childhood friend, Azure. As you move through the book, Azure gets her own chapters, and we see Indigo from her point of view. Some of the mystery of the adult version of Indigo is washed away, but there are still countless questions to be answered on our journey to the end of this book.

the last tale of the flower bride roshani chokshi

Azure lived in a small house with a mother who loved her boyfriend more than she loved her own daughter. That boyfriend, in turn, seemed to love Azure more than her mother. These passages, while not explicit, were difficult to read, and I applaud Chokshi not only for her beautiful prose, but for the way she can twist those words into an ice-cold shard that pierces your heart every time Azure must endure this man’s presence.

Indigo, on the other hand, lived a fairy tale life, though she never seemed quite content with it. She was an heiress, set to inherit her family’s business upon turning eighteen, living in a large house with her aunt and plenty of servants. She wanted for nothing except for a life outside this one, in the Otherworld, where she could be anything other than what she was.

Throughout Azure’s chapters, we see their friendship grow, and the mysteries of Indigo’s life peel back layer by layer. There is an element of magic here—the synopsis warns of the dangers of believing in fairy tales, after all—though the focus remains on the two girls coming together and eventually how they fall apart. While each step closer to the truth encourages the Bridegroom, it also cuts deeper into the rope holding the anvil over his head.

The cast of characters in this book is small, and as such, each of them has a level of depth and complexity that is refreshing and adds to the story as a whole. The Bridegroom is intelligent and curious, though he willingly enters into an agreement he must know he could never keep. Despite the fact that most of his story is focused on his relationship with Indigo, we also learn that he is searching for a missing brother that seems to never have existed. It provides yet another mystery to be solved and rounds out his character in the most intriguing ways.

For her part, Indigo is as alluring as she is insufferable. But I’ll use this Flower Bride book review to admit that I was as caught up in her gravitational pull as Azure and the Bridegroom. She cares more about herself than anyone, though Azure is often—but not always—an exception to this rule. Bored by her life of wealth and privilege, it can be difficult to sympathize with her. Still, her relationship with Azure is her saving grace, and I’d be curious to know where Indigo would’ve ended up on her own if it wasn’t for their unlikely friendship.

Azure is, undoubtedly, the most sympathetic character in this book. The tragedy of her own life makes it easier for her to be swept into Indigo’s world, and her journey from start to finish is the most interesting in my eyes. I promised to keep this The Last Tale of the Flower Bride book review spoiler-free, but I can’t leave without mentioning how fulfilling it was to see Azure find her individuality even as she had to hide it from her best friend.

If you love dark fantasy and/or romance, fairy tales and storytelling, or literary fiction in any capacity, then I highly recommend The Last Tale of the Flower Bride by Roshani Chokshi. I think V.E. Schwab said it best when describing this book: “Chokshi’s tale is as sweet as a piece of fairy fruit, and just as wicked.”

‘The Last Tale of the Flower Bride’ published on February 14, 2023

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