Young Rhea is the daughter of a poor family that survives by running a grain mill. Despite the family living and working in the same mill for generations, they are not the owners and are at the mercy of the aristocrats who rule the land. Therefore, the family has no choice but agree to Rhea to become engaged to be married under suspicious circumstances or face the possibility of angering the nobility and being evicted.
As you can tell from the title, Rhea is not the only woman to fall into this trap and when she arrives at the lord’s home she learns of the truly depraved and violent nature of her future spouse. Luckily she also encounters friends along the way including a useful hedgehog and other women in the household. This plot was definitely inspired by the legend of Bluebeard with a little bit of Miyzaki’s “Howl’s Moving Castle” thrown in to create the manor house where the bulk of the novel takes place.
The writer, T. Kingfisher is also an illustrator and writer of YA/children’s books as Ursula Verdon. This book is listed as an adult fantasy instead of a YA, but I think the writing style and the plot really push it more towards a younger audience. The writing is a bit clunky in parts, but it is a light and fast read with some interesting characters. I think that the author has talent and potential and the more she writes, the better she will get.
Rhea is the only fully fleshed out character. I don’t know if that was because the author is attempting to write another book involving the characters and their stories or if it is more a product of her inexperience as a writer. She does strike a nice balance with Rhea as a young woman whose ability to determine her fate is nonexistent due to her place in society but is nonetheless determined to fight for as long as possible.
Overall, it’s a fun story and while there isn’t a lot of originality in the plot, the main character and some of the descriptions of people or places are well written.