I finally had the chance to return to this series and pick up Volume 2, and I have to say that the more I read of this series, the more I fall in love with it. The art is still holding strong and the story keeps getting better. If you haven’t already read my review for volume 1, I would highly suggest starting there before we get into spoiler territory. If you’re looking to pick up some volumes of this series, I honestly will suggest getting the physical copies, it’s worth it. They come in only hardcover, but I think that also allows the publisher to present the art and pages in a larger format which also means better quality to showcase Kaoru Mori’s amazing artwork. Buying a manga or any comic in general in hardcover just gives me a completely different feel than buying the regular soft-cover manga volumes. I’m not sure why, but it’s almost like it gains an extra sense of importance or respectability. But that also could just be me and my brain making weird connections.
Anyways, the story of the second volume picks up where we left off after Amir’s family’s first visit to her new family to try and take her back to their tribe to remarry. After being turned away once, they return again in full force determined to take her away this time. The only problem is Amir is part of their family now, and this family does not give up so easily. We are also introduced to a new character, Pariya, who is commonly considered by prospective husbands as too cheeky to be a worthy wife. Later on, we are also given more insight into Mr. Smith’s past as a messenger arrives in town baring letters from far-off lands. Kaoru Mori continues to weave interesting stories set in the not-so-standard 19th century Silk Road.
I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of Mori’s art. I just honestly can’t get enough of it. The way she draws her characters, the action scenes, and the amount of detail she puts into backgrounds and clothing just adds so much to an already interesting story and concept. Take chapter 6 where we are introduced to Pariya. Amir and the rest of the women all go to the communal ovens to bake their bread. It’s there she meets Pariya who is talented at adding interesting designs to her bread. Not only does this scene contain nicely detailed shots of bread and the communal space, it also adds to the overall culture of the setting. I had no idea about the designs women would commonly put on their bread or how it was done. It was really interesting to learn about and Mori’s art just adds another layer to my own fascination with the culture she’s presenting.
Another great scene is in chapter 10 when Tileke and her mother are embroidering her future wedding linens. Mori crafts this chapter in such a way that she can show off her love of embroidery patterns while giving us another look into the culture of this village. Part of this process is teaching Tileke the patterns created and passed down by her family including ones made by her great-grandmother as well as other relatives. It’s an interesting look not only into family history but also into the history of bridal traditions in this area. Mori does a great job in showing how these patterns connect the family together while giving us some really interesting panels and even a large double-page spread to really feast our eyes on. I especially love the fact that Tileke is only interested in embroidering hawks, and in one panel her hawk jumps out of the fabric at her, coming alive in her imagination.
However, Mori is also really talented at giving us exciting action scenes. Amir’s family is a nomadic tribe who relies a lot on horses and hunting to survive. Part 1 and 2 of the battle chapters give us a lot of great scenes involving riding horses and fighting between the villagers and Amir’s relatives. I especially love how Mori switched to using a black background between panels for Part 2. I think it helps emphasize a lot of the high-tension scenes, forcing your eyes to the panels and making some of the details pop a little bit better. It even seems to add to the tension in a way, the stark black backgrounds heightening the scenes they surround and making this pre-dawn raid all the more intense. Some of the best scenes as well are when a character is using a bow. The close-ups of their face as well as the panels that follow the action of the arrow makes for some pretty dynamic and exciting panels.
The story picks up pretty good in this volume too. We get a nice mix of action, cultural exploration, and characterization that kept this volume feeling diverse and exciting. We see a lot of character and relationship development from Amir and Karluk as they face down Amir’s relatives and become closer as a couple. I especially love seeing Karluk standing up for Amir against her relatives. He shows a lot of spunk and proves just how much he cares for her. I definitely makes him seem a lot older than he is in comparison both to his wife and to her relatives. Yet, we also get to see a lot of youthfulness and naivete from Amir as well that kind of balances their age difference out a bit and gives her a more well-rounded character. We see her struggle with shyness as she tries to find a seat at the communal ovens, or her overeagerness to please Karluk by hunting for something he hasn’t tried yet, as well as her feelings of being both confident in her body yet unsure of their relationship. I really do love seeing how these characters slowly come into their own over the chapters.
What’s also interesting is that we finally get to see a little of Mr. Smith’s background. I don’t think the last volume really went into his motives for coming to stay with them or just why he wants to study their culture. His character kind of acted like the outsider we, as the reader, could relate to and through him, the characters could explain different parts of their culture without it sounding too much like exposition. Through the letters her receives and his subsequent explanations, I think we really get a good sense of where he came from and what he’s trying to accomplish. His last letter also gives us a hint at the future state of political relations in the country, something that provokes a little bit of tension or suspense for the future of this village.
It looks like the stories Mori will be telling in the coming volumes will be expanded to include new characters and cultures. I’m really interested to see what she comes up with as well as how our current Amir and Karluk grow as characters. I probably won’t be able to get to another one of these reviews until July as I’m getting ready to move house, so it may be awhile before we return to A Bride’s Story. But we shall return! You can count on my love of this series to drag me back.
~~Thanks for Reading!~~
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