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A Bride’s Story, Vol.2

Before we begin the review for A Bride’s Story vol.2, if you would like a better grasp of the book’s characters and it’s setting, please read my review of volume one. For returning readers, thrills and adventure abound!

Amir’s journey continues with Karluk and it’s time for the problems with her family to come to a head. While outside the village, Amir and Karluk come face to face with her brother, cousins and uncle. Of course, her family think Amir will just come home. Fair play to Karluk, because he stands up to them despite being completely outnumbered. This is a different Karluk than the previous volume. He, once he realises what their intentions are, just stands in front of Amir, protecting her. Too bad he gets overwhelmed, though it turns out alright in the end.

Amir is the focus totally in this volume. I know that the series is supposed to be about Amir but Mori focuses on Amir and her feelings in this volume. I feel sorry for her when she realises her sister is dead. After she hears that from her brother, she just stops dead in her tracks. After it’s all over, Grandmother Eihon simply comforts her and in one line puts a protective cloak around Amir. For Amir, I try not to think how it felt to hear such news. I have all brothers so I’d be destroyed if anything ever happened to them. Plus if thinking about her sister wasn’t enough, her brother and cousins return to the village to take her back. The entire village goes to repulse their scheme but I focused on was Amir. Poor girl goes through a gamut of emotions. One one hand, its her family and she doesn’t want to upset them because she loves them. But if they loved her in return they wouldn’t be doing this to her. So as the town rallies against the Halgals, she sits in her home with Karluk, fidgeting. Should I go help the villagers? Should I help my family AGAINST the villagers? I can tell she’s thinking those things thanks to Mori’s direction in those scenes.

Pariya is a girl that I’m curious about. Younger than Amir, a bit brasher, yes, but still I see traces of Amir’s character DNA in Pariya. She sits, in many ways, in a tighter noose than Amir. Amir is older than a new bride should be but she lives her life as she sees it and is happy being with Karluk. Pariya isn’t able to find a husband because people perceive her as being cheeky and not marriage material. I know in our day and age that sounds strange but in her world, that is a virtual social death sentence. So I hope that Amir takes Pariya under her wing and helps her to blossom. I don’t mean I hope Amir helps Pariya become acceptable to her culture, I mean I hope that Amir shows Pariya the parts of her character that she hasn’t had a chance to discover for herself.

I’ve noticed that Amir’s character could be perceived as a very subservient person. The way she tends to Karluk’s every need and the way she and the other women do, and I hate this term, “women’s work”. But this behaviour is part of their culture so I can’t say that this is anomalous behaviour. The men in this story who are part of Amir’s new clan treat their counterparts with dignity and respect. They do speak of other clans as being totally disrespectful of the women in the clan. Indeed, Amir’s sister was sent to such a clan. I guess what I’m trying to say is that in every society there are complete wastes of space and then there are good examples of the male gender. So, Amir is lucky to be in such a loving group. She shouldn’t have to feel “lucky” but that’s the world she’s in. Her family loves her for being her and that’s all that matters in the final analysis.

Kaoru Mori’s art continues to draw me in and I like where she takes me in terms of narrative structure and art design. Read the part where the women of the clan explain their family patterns in the embroidery they sew. As you see the fine work on Mori’s art, you also get a sociology lesson. We in Ireland have ways of passing memory from generation to generation so I feel a resonance with Amir’s people in their ways of doing so.

A Bride’s Story continues to plumb new depths for development and emotion. Try it yourself, you might be surprised.

A Bride’s Story, Vol.1

I’ve decided to tackle A Bride’s Story because the fourth volume’s release is only three months away and more people should be reading it. Now, I’ve spoken before about A Bride’s Story but hey, it’s not a bad thing to keep talking about it.

Set in the Caspian Sea region in the 19th century, it follows Karluk, aged 12, and his new bride Amir, aged 20, as Amir joins his clan, the Eihon’s, and their new married life together. Along the way, we realise that Amir’s family wants her back and decides to do anything to get her back. We also get slowly introduced to Karluk’s family through Amir’s eyes. I missed Kaoru Mori’s previous manga, Emma, so I wanted to pick this up from day one.  While the setting is different from anything I’ve read before, the story simply picks you up and carries you with it.

First and foremost, the story is such a layered affair. It’s about two people being newly married, that’s what you tell people. But it’s also about the family that lives with them, the clan they’re in and the society they’re all in. Initially the family, Karluk’s mother and father, struggle to find common ground with Amir as she’s a little unsure of herself and wants to make a good impression but she’s such a gentle spirit so after some early mishaps, they treat her as part of the family. This is demonstrated completely succinctly when the Halgal clan (Amir’s family) decide to get her back when another of their family who was married off dies. Their logic being that while that family member (Amir’s sister) is dead, Amir is still alive. Of course, they thought the Eihon’s would be a pushover and just hand Amir back. After they are rebuffed, they go away but their threats will not (note: Amir and Karluk are not present for any of this and the Eihon choose not to say it to them). They come across as seeing this as necessary for this clan’s survival. It’s literally nothing personal. The Eihon clan, however, see it as personal because they have recieved Amir into their lives, have become family to her and now her family just turns up and says “Er, sorry. We need our sister back. Deal’s off.” So this is an affront to them. Interesting dilemma, I think. Amir’s age is constantly brought up by her new family and strangers alike (always out of earshot, you understand?) as being a hindrance to the newlyweds having a big family. I keep having to remember that this is not my world, not my morality so statements like this must be viewed in the context of the time and place it’s set in.

Amir’s character is different to Karluk’s. While she clearly loves her husband, because he is so young, he sometimes gives the impressions that he feels she minds him like a mother. He, for his part, tries to treat her as his wife but that age gap makes his task difficult. People are always looking at him with something akin to pity which he must be able to pick up on. But then, we see him watch Amir as she does things like hunt with a bow and arrow or sing while she sews and his expression makes him look older than he is. Such little things make such a complex relationship as theirs make a smidgen bit more sense but not completely explain everything. That would ruin too much of the mystery for me.

I wanted to avoid for as long as from talking about the art in this book for fear of gushing too much about it. In a word, it is amazing. Mori’s art is elegant, and moreish, as in you want more of it! The detail is costumes and patterns is great with the two page spreads being of particular note. But the little details, they are worth it. Like the old carver in the village and young Rostem, talking about carvings and houses and architectural structures (I’m paraphrasing here), we see the detail in the man’s work. Or the fox that Amir tracks and kills. Just before Amir strikes, the animal snaps its head around and the detail in the creatures face is astounding. The images in the book are good enough to be photos, they are that detailed.

One warning before the end: this is a very slowly paced book. All the details I’ve mentioned take time to unfold, so if you’re going to it looking for an instant fix, forget it because it’s not here. Instead we have an excellently researched, beautifully drawn and written by a person clearly in love with her subject matter. The main characters are compelling and their world is intriguing and complex. I would put it onto any reading list.