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DarkEcho Horror
deccoclock by Rick Berry
Book Review

FITCHER'S BRIDES
By Gregory Frost
Tor/ $25.95/ 400 pages/ Hardcover
ISBN: 0765301946
(Dec 10 2002)

cover Once again, as in Alex Irvine's terrific A SCATTERING OF JADES, the "end-of-the-world" year of 1843 figures in a new horror novel. This time religious fanaticism is mixed with the traditional story of Bluebeard for dark and bloody supernatural fable. The Rev. Elias Fitcher is the vastly evil "Bluebeard" figure of this tale. Fitcher, a charismatic preacher, has established a utopian community in which his followers can live as they await the Final Judgment. The three Charter sisters -- Vernelia, Amelia, and Katherine -- have a Fitcherite stepmother who convinces their father to move to the enclave where he becomes its gatekeeper. The job comes with a house the girls quickly discover is haunted. Vern, the eldest, is particularly involved with the "spirits" who assure her a suitor will soon appear for her. Instead of a suitor, Vern gets a husband, the cruel, controlling Rev. Fitcher, and is quickly installed in his fabulous glass-pyramid-topped mansion, Harbinger House. Fitcher, true to legend, proves to be worse than merely megalomaniacal; he is misogynistic, sadistic, and murderous. Vern is far from the first of his victims or the last of his doomed wives. Her sisters soon follow, but the youngest, Catherine -- always the most skeptical, the sister most able to discern the truth -- has the natural wit and gained wisdom needed to survive.

Frost sticks amazingly close to the original story (stories) of Bluebeard while still providing enough plausibility to make the novel work. If you know the original material (or read Terri Windling's well-done introduction before reading the book) much of the suspense comes from observing how Frost achieves this. He relies on the supernatural, but the core of his fable is humanity's duality of faith. Humans, we know, are all too ready to follow false prophets into the dark, but we also know the truth can set us free and the light is as strong as the dark. FITCHER'S BRIDES is a strong addition to Terri Windling's outstanding Fairy Tale Series as well as a stand-alone success. -- Paula Guran (DarkEcho 03.20.03)

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Copyright © 2003 Paula Guran. All Rights Reserved.