Sunday, June 19, 2011

Review: Otoyomegatari, vol. 2

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Otoyomegatari (AKA: The Bride's Stories, or "A Bride's Story" for the U.S. release), vol. 2, by Kaoru Mori. A shojo historical romance running in Fellows! magazine. Grade: A.

There's not much more to add regarding Otoyomegatari. The artwork is just as good as in vol. 1, and the story is just as sedate. In fact, the primary reason for reading it is for the detailed clothing patterns, background sets and landscapes. I can't comment on the historical accuracy of the setting, but if you have any interest at all in the settings and livelihoods of the nomads in the Caspian Sea region in the 1800's, then you have got to get this series.

As for the story - Amira's family decides to head out en mass to bring her back by force to marry her off to the wealthy Numaji. Turns out that all of the other marriageable daughters within the Hergal clan have died and Amira is the only one remaining that hasn't borne children yet. The previous wife she would be replacing supposedly died of disease, but the rumor is that Numaji got violent with her, possibly killing her. The Ayhan clan refuses to let Amira go, and the neighboring townsfolk all band together to protect her. When the Hergal clan arrives and tries to storm the town, they are eventually subdued and captured. However, one of the older, stronger Hergal men does manage to reach Amira's apartments, and Karluk risks his neck, stabbing the man and falling from a balcony into a tree. Still only 12, Amira is starting to realize that the boy is eventually going to grow into a strong adult, and she's not sure of how to react right away.

Additional stories include Smith's adventures, the meeting with Pariya, and Tileke's discovery. Henry Smith is a researcher from England living with the Ayhan's. He's constantly following the family members around and taking notes. One day, a traveler from Macedonia arrives carrying a pack of letters all addressed to Smith from relatives. Initially, the idea was for the Macedonian to stay at the village long enough for Smith to write response letters back. But, soon after a British woman in a caravan arrives at the village with one more letter, leaving Smith bemused. She immediately turns around and leaves. Smith finishes a few letters that he gives to the Macedonian, feeling somewhat homesick. Then another letter arrives stating that a package has arrived at the writer's house and will be handed over if Smith drops by. So, Smith decides to pack up and follow the postmark of the letter,

Pariya is a village woman that excels at making fancy patterns in loaves of bread. When Amira goes into the village to bake bread for the Ayhan's, Pariya is the only one that is willing to talk with her at the outset, although she is fairly standoffish. Pariya has a reputation for speaking her mind, and has refused a number of marriage offers. She's about Amira's age, making her self-aware of the possibility of never finding a mate. She and Amira become friends, and Amira teaches her how to use a bow and arrows (see above back cover).

Tileke is one of the younger Ayhan girls, helping the family women sew ceremonial clothing. Her mother notices that she's only creating patterns of falcons, and decides to ask the family's matriarch to show off the various brocades that they've all made in the past and have been put into storage. Tileke learns the importance of the specific patterns developed by various family members over the generations. One particular garment catches her eye, and the matriarch gives it to her to practice from (also see above back cover).

As Smith is arranging his luggage, the family asks where he's going next and if he's planning on coming back here. He wants to return to England, but he'd also like to see this village again. As for his next destination, the postmark was for "Karaza" (possibly Chalaza). The Ayhans comment that they know someone there, and Karluk and Amira volunteer to act as his guides for part of the way. Karluk asks why he'd come to the village in the first place, and Smith replies that when he was a child his maid would read stories of adventurers like Marco Polo, which had inspired him later on. The threesome head out and after a night or so, Karluk puts Smith on the road leading into the next town and heads back home with Amira. Smith finds himself alone, with the buildings of the town eventually becoming visible in the distance.

Summary: A historical period piece near the Caspian Sea. Great artwork, great landscapes, wonderful attention to the details of the clothing. Highly recommended.

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