fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsbook review Gregory Frost Fitcher's BridesFitcher’s Brides by Gregory Frost

A widower, with a little help from his cold-hearted new wife, has fallen under the spell of Elias Fitcher, an apocalyptic preacher who predicts the world will end within the year. Packing up all his earthly belongings, and his three daughters — romantic Vernelia, neurotic Amy, and practical, skeptical Kate — he and his wife move to a tiny village in upstate New York to await the end of days. There, the charming, charismatic, and utterly horrifying Fitcher takes a shine to Vernelia, and sweeps her off her feet in a whirlwind courtship.

It says on the very cover that it’s a Bluebeard story, so I’m not spoiling much to say that Vernelia goes mysteriously missing, and Fitcher then marries Amy. When Amy, too, vanishes, it’s up to Kate to find out what has happened and stop Fitcher’s horrible spree. There’s a storm brewing, of course, and the plot goes from atmospherically creepy to nail-biting as the storm rises to fever-pitch. I could have sworn I heard thunder when I discovered Kate’s middle name, when she stood up to him as no one had previously done, when she raced against time to stop him from adding her to his collection. Does she survive? Read and see.

Gregory Frost here gives us an unforgettable rendition of one of our darkest fairy tales, a heroine to root for, and a truly terrifying villain. An added bonus is Terri Windling‘s introduction. Her introductions are always a treat, but she’s getting even better, as evidenced first by the fascinating one for White as Snow, and now by the essay she wrote for this novel. She points out, most interestingly, that Perrault’s famous version blames Bluebeard’s murders on his wives’ curiosity and disobedience, but that the older version give us heroines, like Kate, who save themselves by their willingness to question authority and look for answers.

Fitcher’s Brides — (2002) Publisher: The tale of Bluebeard, reenvisioned as a dark fable of faith and truth. 1843 is the “last year of the world,” according the Elias Fitcher, a charismatic preacher in the Finger Lakes district of New York State. He’s established a utopian community on an estate outside the town of Jeckyll’s Glen, where the faithful wait, work, and pray for the world to end. Vernelia, Amy, and Catherine Charter are the three young townswomen whose father falls under the Reverend Fitcher’s hypnotic sway. In their old house, where ghostly voices whisper from the walls, the girls are ruled by their stepmother, who is ruled in turn by the fiery preacher. Determined to spend Eternity as a married man, Fitcher casts his eye on Vernelia, and before much longer the two are wed. But living on the man’s estate, separated from her family, Vern soon learns the extent of her husband’s dark side. It’s rumored that he’s been married before, though what became of those wives she does not know. Perhaps the secret lies in the locked room at the very top of the house-the sin-gle room that the Reverend Fitcher has forbidden to her. Inspired by the classic fairy tales “Bluebeard” and “The Fitcher Bird,” this dark fantasy is set in New York State’s “Burned-Over District,” at its time of historic religious ferment. All three Charter sisters will play their part in the story of Fitcher’s Utopia: a story of faith gone wrong, and evil countered by one brave, true soul.


  • Kelly Lasiter

    KELLY LASITER, with us since July 2008, is a mild-mannered academic administrative assistant by day, but at night she rules over a private empire of tottering bookshelves. Kelly is most fond of fantasy set in a historical setting (a la Jo Graham) or in a setting that echoes a real historical period (a la George RR Martin and Jacqueline Carey). She also enjoys urban fantasy and its close cousin, paranormal romance, though she believes these subgenres’ recent burst in popularity has resulted in an excess of dreck. She is a sucker for pretty prose (she majored in English, after all) and mythological themes.