With my expectations properly adjusted, it’s much easier to appreciate this series’ considerable virtues. Though chapters devoted to things such as breadmaking, embroidery and the title character “obtaining the heart of a bride” could’ve come off as tiresome history lessons, mangaka Kaoru Mori’s skill with character development and art that is both rich in detail and expression makes them thoroughly engaging instead. The highlight of this volume is a two-chapter story where Amir’s family shows up to demand her return and her young husband Karluk, his family, and the rest of the village get involved to make sure that doesn’t happen. It’s a tense arc that showcases the resourcefulness of this community and gives pretty much everyone in the cast their moment to shine. Mori even finds the right moments to add a bit of levity to the story without disrupting the tone or momentum.
At this point I’d be content to follow the exploits of Amir and Karluk for several more volumes, but it seems that this isn’t the plan. The volume ends with Mr. Smith, the English anthropologist who has been staying with the family, heading off for another city. While focusing on him seems like it’d make for a nice diversion, Mori indicates in her (charmingly over-enthusiastic as always) afterword that the plan is to follow him for a while and introduce a new bride for the story to focus on. It’s a dramatic shift from what I thought the series’ focus would be, and in lesser hands I’d be worried. Not Mori’s, though. In her hands, the possibilities are exciting to consider.