When Death shows up to demand tribute in the form of a Cobweb Bride, the Kingdom of Lethe is confounded. When people stop dying (and not in a good way), the entire Realm grows afraid, and the Emperor requires all families to send at least one woman to Death’s Keep. Among these are group of teenage girls – some living, some ‘dead’.
I used to live in Armenia, and I have a small soft spot for Armenian names in English language fantasy – a rare occurrence. The title and concept of Cobweb Bride sounded promising. Plus, “Nebula Award nominee”. In short, all boded well.
I’m sorry to say that Cobweb Bride didn’t live up to my expectations. For a start, it was poorly edited, with plenty of evidence of a change in tenses (present to past) that didn’t propagate all the way through the book. Occasional grammatical errors also suggest poor editing. Some of the language was nice, but quite a lot of it was over-adorned and leaning heavily toward purple. In many places, there’s quite a lot of setting, but not much action. For some authors the poetry and imagery of that works; it didn’t work for me here.
This is clearly a book written for YA girls, and generally the targeting works well. The protagonists are a varied crew of teens, some strong, some weak. Despite the pseudo-historical chivalric setting, Nazarian provides a nice complement of strong females. But when the Emperor orders girls to go to Death, only women grieve? This despite a core family where only the father seems to care about our protagonist? It’s a small thing, but irritating.
So that’s the writing. The plot is more promising. The characters are YA credible and engaging. The action is a bit simplistic, but reasonably fun to read. Unfortunately, I foresee some trouble in the future; there are are a number of loose ends that either don’t make much sense, or call out too strongly for a Hollywood ending. This book in fact doesn’t really end. Nazarian picks a nicely resonant stopping point, but it feels much more like the end of Part I than the end of a fully developed book.
All in all, worth considering if you’re looking for light reading for YA kids. Beyond that, it’s harder to recommend.