Originally, Fairyloot’s focus was on Young-Adult Fantasy books, but that changed in 2022 with the launch of their Adult Fantasy Book-Only subscription. As a subscriber to their normal YA subscription, I was given priority to sign up for this new service and as a book and fantasy enthusiast, I couldn’t resist.
The first theme for 2023 was Sinister Secrets and promised a dark gothic fairy tale full of lies and secrets. The accompanying box was delivered to me at the end of January.
The featured book is The Last Tale of the Flower Bride by Roshani Chokshi.
Once again, Fairyloot did not deviate from the original illustrated cover for their edition, but instead played with the saturation of the colours. The result may look a little less vintage, but I like the new look.
The saturated artwork is continued on the side, with digitally sprayed edges on all three sides.
Under the dust jacket, the hardcover has a beautiful gold foil illustration by @saramirza_art. The two flyleaves also have beautiful unique illustrations by the same artist, which fit the story very well.
The book itself was not signed by the author, but did come with a signed bookplate sticker.
Again, a really nice edition, although I hope that Fairyloot will one day dare to redesign the entire cover and not just stick to colour changes, because these start to come across as forced.
But what about the story itself? I really do my best to try to read these new acquisitions in good time, in order to get an idea of whether this bookbox subscription is also worth the money for the content of the books (I have absolutely no doubt that their beautiful editions on the outside warrant the money). I finished this book in April, just over three months after receiving it.
Genre: Fantasy (gothic fairy tale)
But when Indigo learns that her estranged aunt is dying and the couple is forced to return to her childhood home, the House of Dreams, the bridegroom will soon find himself unable to resist. For within the crumbling manor’s extravagant rooms and musty halls, there lurks the shadow of another girl: Azure, Indigo’s dearest childhood friend who suddenly disappeared. As the house slowly reveals his wife’s secrets, the bridegroom will be forced to choose between reality and fantasy, even if doing so threatens to destroy their marriage . . . or their lives.
So far my only experience with author Roshani Chokshi was a book I eventually DNF’ed (The Gilded Wolves). Suffice to say, I was a little hesitant going into this book. However, I’m a firm believer of second chances, so I tried to read as unbiased as possible.
Especially with such a premise, which sounded right up my alley: a gothic fairytale-esque story with a looming mystery at its core. So I was definitely super intrigued from the get go.
“She looked like the nostalgia that settles in your ribs at the end of a story you have never read, yet nevertheless know.”
The writing in this is doubtless very beautiful.
Poetic, lush and winding, elusive and mysterious, weaving an ethereal veil over an equally enigmatic and, frankly, kind of a weird story. Sometimes, the bombastic sentences, which always wanted to be a bit more than what you thought at first glance, became a bit much, but overall I really liked their almost hypnotic quality.
“I thought of Melusine bathing in the dark, anchored to her wild body in the hopes that her husband might let her have this one privacy, might even break the spell.”
Throughout the story, many references were made to fairytales and mythology, which was also a major draw for me. Especially the reference to Melusine was a rare nostalgic trip for me. I got almost transported to the first time I read this tale in an old fairytale book and how it got me mesmerized.
“If you combed through enough fairy tales, untangled their roots, and shook out their branches, you would find that they are infested with oaths”
However, I also quickly caught on that despite the book’s blurb, the mystery shouldn’t be the main draw to pick up this book, since it was very obvious from almost the start what the mystery would be. This should have disappointed me, but here I kind of liked the intricate, thorn-laden journey to the confirmation of my suspicions.
The thing is, that while I’m writing this, already a month has passed since I finished the book, and I can still conjure up the hauntingly beautiful atmosphere. Even though my brain is saying that I eventually only found the story lackluster, I still feel it coursing through my veins.
“At first, it sat in our marriage like a blue- lipped ghost, hardly noticeable until a trick of the light drew it into focus.”
So, even though the mystery wasn’t all that mysterious, the way it was told was stunningly beautiful that it lured me ever onwards to unravel its deeper, less obvious secrets. What was eventually revealed was a story of family trauma, obsessive and abusive love and a frantic belief in the escapism of fairytales.
In some ways it reminded me of “You let me in”, with its magical guessing game. I also had clear flashbacks of the old Kate Winslet movie “Beautiful Creatures”.
“Every fairy tale has blood flecked on its muzzle.”
In the end, even though I can rationally admit that I did find the story slow and at times bordering on boring, the writing and the promise of magic kept me mesmerized and hooked until the very end. Thinking it over, I’m also quite impressed and moved by the way some very challenging themes were woven into this fantastical narrative.
Definitely not a book for everyone and unfortunately a bit deceptive in its marketing, but one that despite my hesitations, I do think I quite enjoyed.