book reviews by Althea

Fitcher’s Brides – Gregory Frost ****

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This book is quite radically different from the other entries in Terri Windling’s ‘Fairy Tale Series.’ Most of the other books Windling selected stayed much closer to the classic feel of fairy tales in their retellings. I knew that, from what I’d read in other reviews, and for that reason waited quite a while to get around to reading this – the description just didn’t appeal to me that much.

However, now I’m sorry I didn’t give it a chance earlier! No, this book doesn’t have that ‘fairy-tale’ feel to it – but it’s a damn good book.

It retells the tale of Bluebeard – so the reader knows from the start this isn’t going to be a pleasant story.
Set in 19th-century America, Frost gives us an apocalyptic cult which has set up a compound in upstate New York. A widower has been converted by his new wife, and he relocates, bringing his three unmarried daughters, to join the utopian community. The family falls under the spell of the charismatic preacher that leads the cult – and of, course, it’s an honor one can’t refuse when the leader chooses the oldest daughter to be his bride.
You know bad things are coming when one of the cult members mutters, “she’s not the first, and she won’t be the last…”
And, of course, things degenerate to the exact opposite of a utopia…

Frost is an excellent writer. I found the setting and the characters to be completely convincing, even when they were acting against all reason. He portrayed the cult mentality in a way that felt utterly believable.
Almost 5 stars, but I felt that the demonic denouement didn’t flow smoothly from the events leading up to it. It was a bit much, in an effort to give it a Big, Dramatic ending. (Kind of like how I feel about the ending of Foucault’s Pendulum – which is also an excellent book.) I’d still recommend this.


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