This lush, gothic fairytale follows the moment when a dreamy marriage risks transforming into a childhood nightmare.
Good to know
Once upon a time, a man who believed in fairy tales married a beautiful, mysterious woman named Indigo Maxwell-Casteñada. He was a scholar of myths. She was heiress to a fortune. They exchanged gifts and stories and believed they would live happily ever after—and in exchange for her love, Indigo extracted a promise: that her bridegroom would never pry into her past.
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.
The Last Tale of the Flower Bride
Once upon a time, Indigo Maxwell-Casteñada found me.
I had been lost a long time and had grown comfortable in the dark. I didn’t imagine anyone could lure me from it. But Indigo was one of those creatures that can hunt by scent alone, and the reek of my desperate wanting must have left a tantalizing, fluorescent trail.
Before Indigo, I avoided places where money served as pageantry rather than payment. I clung to the opinion that they were loud and crass, the shabby but sturdy armor of a poor man. In those days, I was poor. But I had become rich in expertise, and it was in this capacity that I served as a visiting curator to L’Éxposition Des Femmes Monstrueuses. The exhibit had brought me to Paris on someone else’s dime and, eventually, to the Hôtel de Casteñada.
Once one of the royal apartments of Louis XIV and Marie Antoinette, the Hôtel de Casteñada now ranked among the finest hotels in the world. The vaulted ceiling, a restoration of the original, I was told, still showed indifferent, muscular gods reclining amidst gold-bellied clouds. Ivy lined the walls, through which the snarling faces of stone satyrs peered and panted at the guests.
It was common knowledge that each of the Casteñada hotels centered on a fairy-tale motif. I gathered this one was an homage to Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve’s La Belle et la Bête—Beauty and the Beast—and while I hated to admit it, something about it seemed not of this world. It was so lovely I could almost ignore the crowd of models and DJs, red-faced businessmen and whatever other brilliantly arrayed and ostensibly vapid creatures such beautiful places attracted.
Why I love it
The Last Tale of the Flower Bride is a very special breed of story.
To call it a gender-swapped Bluebeard isn’t inaccurate, but it is reductive. After all, the best fairy tale reimaginings do not simply pay homage to their source material but rewrite them so thoroughly that they can cast off the inspiration, exist without demanding any knowledge of it. In this way, any allusions to the original fable serve as delightful garnishes, while the work becomes its own meal.
This is what Roshani Chokshi does. And while there are certainly nods to Bluebeard—from the many iterations of the color to the deal Indigo extracts in exchange for her love, that the bridegroom must never pry into her past—the novel Chokshi gives us is so much more. She has managed to maintain the aura of a fable while creating something urgent and modern and thoroughly adult.
This is a love letter to the particular love that blooms between teen girls, where friendship tangles with obsession, as well as the lust that takes hold when we fall for someone we do not—cannot—truly know. A fairy tale that’s fermented, grown stranger and richer. Chokshi commands the senses with her lush prose, creating an intoxicating cloud, an experience at once visceral and intellectual.
As a writer, this novel is a marvel.
As a reader, it is a decadent delight.
I didn’t want it to end. And yet, I couldn’t put it down.
Member ratings (2,795)
This book was predictable in the way that myths, fairy tales and tragedies should be. The gothic descriptions of the living home, the otherworld, the bridegroom’s obsession with stories had me hooked!
5/5 stars I really did love this story with the magic of the House of Dreams, the Otherword, and the story with Indigo and Azure, and the the story with Indigo and her husband who finds out their sto
A dose of magical realism that asks what’s real, what isn’t, and just how much does that distinction really matter in the end? The magic in the words is certainly real - I am thoroughly enchanted.
Leesville , LA
Absolutely gorgeous prose. This is Gothic in the truest sense: decadence covering decay at its core. It discusses the dangers of imagination if not tempered by reality, and how poisonous love can be.
This was so much weirder and more wonderful than I expected. The prose was lovely and hypnotic, the story a fairy tale in the truest sense- metaphor and magic concealing ugly truths. Perfect ending.