This is the story of how a once bustling town decayed into a decrepit haunt that everyone tries to avoid, as its curse could crawl away with any visitor.
Yeva, the main character, is a girl who only grows more beautiful with age. She is so beautiful that even friends would try to kidnap her. And though this may seem wonderful, for Yeva it is not. Eventually, she is too beautiful to leave her home without someone trying to take her or chaos breaking out in response to not having her. Her beauty works as a sort of spell to twist the will of anyone who sees her.
When she comes of age, Yeva's father creates a contest to win her hand in marriage.
Semyon is a Tidemaker, a member of the Grisha, and though he is very poor he decides he wants to marry Yeva. His powers to control water help him complete the initial task, but Yeva's father sets another because he doesn't want his daughter marrying anyone but a prince.
Throughout this 'contest' Yeva is focused on only one thing: how do these tests determine if the man will be a good husband? (Good question, sister!) I think it's this question that aligns the readers with Yeva. Through her repeated asking, readers realize that she doesn't really care about gold, or fancy food, or imported fabric. She's deeper than that.
Semyon completes the second task but then comes a third and final trial. Again, Semyon achieves the task's goal but wonders if Yeva's father will just try to continue setting tasks or kill him after he hands over the prize. Semyon thinks he comes up with a plan to avoid this, but he underestimates the power of Little Knife, the river who helped him complete all of the tasks. It turns out he cannot control the water; the water had been using him to reconnect with its separate pools. The river takes Yeva away giving her a sense of freedom from being eagerly and relentlessly sought by men.
This is my favorite story so far in this collection! I love that Yeva gets to voice her concerns and ultimately choose her self over the suitors that are only obsessed with her beauty. I did not expect her to be given the option to choose no-one and was both surprised and happy that she was. Though this story does have a twist, like all of the others thus far, it was of a different kind. Again, there was the theme of trusting someone/something that you don't really know, but this time it was for the main character's benefit. I also really appreciated that Yeva wasn't taken in by her own beauty. Receiving that kind of attention could have turned Yeva into a selfish woman who only cared about the beauty of others and what they could give to her -- which was kind of demonstrated by her father -- but she didn't. She didn't fall prey to her own power. She remained a woman only concerned with how she would live her life and if she would marry a good man, not a rich or handsome man. Beauty has a been a troublesome characteristic throughout these stories and there's a recurring message that beauty isn't everything. There are more important things in life and for Yeva that was freedom.
Next Story (Nov. 5th) - The Soldier Prince
Read about the first three stories: