Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Book Review: Strands of Bronze and Gold

The Bluebeard fairy tale retold. . . .

When seventeen-year-old Sophia Petheram’s beloved father dies, she receives an unexpected letter. An invitation—on fine ivory paper, in bold black handwriting—from the mysterious Monsieur Bernard de Cressac, her godfather. With no money and fewer options, Sophie accepts, leaving her humble childhood home for the astonishingly lavish Wyndriven Abbey, in the heart of Mississippi.

Sophie has always longed for a comfortable life, and she finds herself both attracted to and shocked by the charm and easy manners of her overgenerous guardian. But as she begins to piece together the mystery of his past, it’s as if, thread by thread, a silken net is tightening around her. And as she gathers stories and catches whispers of his former wives—all with hair as red as her own—in the forgotten corners of the abbey, Sophie knows she’s trapped in the passion and danger of de Cressac’s intoxicating world.
Glowing strands of romance, mystery, and suspense are woven into this breathtaking debut—a thrilling retelling of the “Bluebeard” fairy tale. Quoted from Goodreads


I never much cared for the Blubeard fairy tale.  Still, despite knowing it's subject matter, I was pretty excited for Strands of Bronze and Gold.  I love fairy tale retellings, especially the more obscure ones, and I couldn't wait to see what Jane Nickerson did with this one.

I loved the writing.  The book itself is kind of slow.  It all takes place at Wyndriven Abbey, and while there is a brief flirtation with slavery issues and the underground railroad, it's mostly about how something breathtaking and ideal slowly warps into a nightmare. Jane Nickerson does a great job of bringing the abby and it's surroundings to life.  Everything is given a taste, a texture, so you experience it alongside Sophie, and I really enjoyed that.

Honestly, I think I would have enjoyed the book more if I hadn't already known where the story was heading.  It's probably a good thing Bluebeard is a more obscure fairy tale because it diminished some of the suspense for me.  Still, Bernard de Cressac is an absolutely excellent character. Despite knowing who and he what he is from the outset, you still have to admire how wonderfully his was portrayed.  He could be so sweet, then so cruel at the drop of a hat, and you can pity him while at the same time know he is an absolute creeper of epic proportions.

Sophie is also an interesting character. Part of me thought she was a bit too nieve, but that may have stemmed from knowing the end from the beginning.  I did love how brave she ended up being, especially in the end, and I loved the careful, creepy, steps Bernard took to manipulate her into doing what he wanted.  She really grew throughout the book and discovered who she was.  Even in horrible circumstances she was brave and tried to put a cheerful face on things, and I admired that.

All in all, I think Jane Nickerson did an excellent job with the fairy tale she chose.  Is it my new, number one fairy tale?  No.  But I did enjoy the way she put it all together.  It was creepy and beautiful all at the same time. I loved the contrast between Bernard and Gideon and the person Sophie became at the end.  I love Ducky and her purposeful blindness, Ling with his slight help but ultimate silence. They knew who Bernard was, or at least had an inkling, but they still stayed with him, and maybe even loved him.  I thought it was portrayed really well. 

They make a several references to Beauty and the Beast in this book. I never really put those two stories together in my head, but it was kind of an ingenious contrast.  Both start out very similar, but in one, she discovers the beast is a man, and in the other she discovers the man is a beast. I loved that.

All in all, this is a fun 3.5 stars for me.  I thought she did a good job of keeping up the suspense in the later half of the book and her writing is beautiful.  I also loved the different characters.  I'll admit, the first was a bit slow for me, but it almsot had to be to establish the setting and explain why Sophie and all Bernards previous wives married him in the first place before everything began to fall apart. It's a great adaption of an old fairy tale, and while Bluebeard still isn't my favorite, I'm really glad I read Strands of Bronze and Gold.

No comments:

Post a Comment