A Bride’s Story Volume 2 by Kaoru Mori

Well, the first volume of this series had the meticulously researched slice of life stories that I expected from the author of Emma, but the second volume gives the reader a surprising amount of action. Amir is starting to get more settled into her new life as a married woman in the village. She even makes a new friend, the outspoken Pariya. Pariya has had trouble finding a husband due to her snarky personality, but she quickly forms a friendship with Amir. Amir continues to be a captivating heroine, partly due to her frequent unorthodox actions. When Pariya gives Amir an intricately decorated loaf of bread, Amir is momentarily distressed because she doesn’t have a present to give in return. She runs inside, grabs her bow, and shoots a bird for Pariya. Amir comments that the birds are “very tasty roasted.”

The gulf in age between Amir and her husband Karluk is preventing them from having a real marriage yet, but Karluk is doing the best he can to be a good husband to his new wife. The village idyll is interrupted when Amir’s tribe comes to take her back. They’ve run through all their marriageable women, and decide that they’re going to marry Amir off again to foster a new alliance. Amir’s brother seems slightly ambivalent about kidnapping his sister back, but he goes along with the orders of the older men in the raiding party. Mori’s sense of humor is part of what makes her manga so fun to read. All the historical detail might seem dry in the hands of another author, but even in a tense situation she manages to build in some funny bits of character interaction. When the researcher Mr. Smith sees Amir being menaced by her family, he decides to drive a herd of sheep towards the group to form a distraction, but not before he undertakes a lengthy apology to the Shepard by saying, “I know beyond the cold descriptions in books, that domestic livestock is a vital factor in inheritance. But…given our present circumstances..I want you to know that the actions I now take have been forced upon me.”

Amir’s tribe severely underestimates the fighting potential of the villagers, and there are some exciting and unconventional battle scenes as the villagers defend Amir in the middle of the night. While Karluk is forced to stay at home with Amir instead of fighting with the other men, he manages to pull off his own heroic moment. The rest of the volume focuses on the growing emotional connection between Amir and Karluk, and there’s a great episode that focuses on the tradition and symbolism attached to the embroidery patterns that are handed down between the women of the same family. Embroidered cloths end up being a way to hold on to memories of the women who created them, serving as a storytelling mechanism as they are unpacked to be shown off to a new generation. These hardcover volumes continue to be a manga collector’s dream. This is a special series, and it is nice that Yen Press is keeping the production values for A Bride’s Story so high.

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