2018’s A Bride’s Story, Vol. 10 is the tenth tankōbon in Kaoru Mori’s historical manga, which is titled Otoyomegatari in the original Japanese. The English translation of this volume appeared in 2018.
Volume 10 covers two (mostly) unrelated storylines, one in Central Asia and one in the Middle East.
Married at twelve to the twenty-year-old Amir, Karluk is painfully aware that he does not fit the usual stereotypes regarding masculine prowess vis a vis his bride Amir. Amir is the better horseperson. Amir is the better archer. Amir wins all their arm-wrestling matches. Amir towers over her husband.
Rather than fume over his wife’s physical superiority or worry that she will eventually be unfaithful, Karluk sets out to become a better husband. The training he craves is not available in his (unnamed) town. Therefore, he turns to his Halgal in-laws, now 100 percent less homicidal, for help.
Life out on the steppes is far more challenging than it is in town. Karluk misses living with Amir. However, this is the price he must pay to achieve his goals.
Meanwhile, in Persia, Dr. Henry Smith and his faithful guide Ali have survived manic twins and wandering bandits. Thanks to inclement weather the mountains that lie between them and Ottoman Ankara appear to be literally insurmountable. True, the pair could simply abandon the caravan with which they are travelling and forge on ahead, but this could be suicidal.
Surprises wait in Ankara. Some are ominous. Others are the exact opposite of ominous.
I am as shocked as you are that Karluk’s instinct is to train up to Amir’s level, rather than finding some legal pretext to subjugate his highly competent wife. It is as though he does not understand traditional patriarchy at all.
The link between the Smith plotline and the Central Asian plotline is foreshadowing: Smith’s friend Hawking is an avid collector of military intelligence. Russia being Britain’s great rival in Asia , Hawking keeps a particularly close eye on Russia. What Hawking knows is that even now, Russian troops are advancing towards the Halgal territories, beyond which lies the nameless town where Amir and Karluk live.
Foreshadowing! I am genuinely curious how many characters survive the next couple of years. On the one hand, the series generally prefers not to focus on the most brutal aspects of the setting. On the other, history is history.
This volume has what may be the nicest man in all Central Asia (which is a competitive field in this series). In Smith’s absence, the beautiful but somewhat cursed five times widowed Talus, last seen in Volume 3, has married for a sixth time. Her new husband discovers on his wedding night that Talus is pining for Smith, and having himself being personally familiar with heartbreak, decides to escort Talus across half of Asia so she can track down Smith. When asked why, he replies:
As usual, the author/artist delights in lavishly detailing 19th century Eurasia, from Ankara to the steppes . Despite the tsunami of history bearing down on the series, the mood is more upbeat than not. I hope that the author can keep this up all through the final volumes, and that the ending isn’t the extermination of most of the characters at the hands of the Russian army.
1: Aware that Smith could be mistaken by members of the caravan for a Russian, Ali passes Smith off as a Tatar. The fact Ali opts for a Tatar disguise and not a British one suggests that the British are not much more loved in Central Asia than are the Russians.
2: One exception to my abiding love for the artwork in this manga: a few times characters were drawn with faces that were similar enough to confuse me.