Wednesday, March 13, 2013
Strands of Bronze and Gold
Strands of Bronze and Gold by Jane Nickerson
Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers, 2013
YA Historical Fairy Tale
Source: Received an e-ARC via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
I am a long time lover of fairy tales with "Cinderella" being far and away my favorite; happily that is one of the most popular for retelling. But I do try to seek out less well-known stories so learning that this was based on "Bluebeard" prompted me to pick it up.
Sophie has just been orphaned but receives a very welcome invitation from her godfather to come live with him, lifting her from being a burden to her three older siblings. He is fantastically wealthy, living in an English abbey he had shipped over to his plantation in Mississippi in the antebellum era. Although initially cowed by Bernard de Cressac's charm and wealth, Sophie soon finds herself increasingly uncomfortable and on the verge of a terrible discovery.
Having finished, I kind of wish I hadn't known that it was based on that tale (if you thought this looked interesting and didn't know that, I'm sorry for spoiling you-hugs!) as it would have had a lot more dramatic tension for me if I hadn't known. If you don't know the tale of "Bluebeard," maybe don't read it beforehand. Instead I spent the entire book waiting for Sophie to figure out what I already knew and cursing her slowness.
This book also suffered due to some of the other books I've been reading, which featured abusive relationships such as how Bernard controls Sophie. My emotions were already pretty spent from them and it was harder for me to become engaged in yet another one. I did feel very isolated and trapped (almost the entire book is set in the abbey and it gets a bit boring), right alongside with Sophie as Bernard won't let her leave but I spent more time checking the page count than worrying about Sophie's fate.
On the positive side, I thought the atmosphere was very well-done. The abbey was very Gothic and fitting for the plot while the muggy Mississippi climate was well communicated to me. I have mixed feelings about the slavery as presented in this book. I feel like it was mostly used to communicate how awful Bernard is and how good Sophie is for morally opposing slavery even if unable to actually do anything about it. But none of the slave characters got to have much of a personality and I just wish a few could have had a presence.
Apparently there is going to be a sequel, set in the same world and based on The Ballad of Tam Lin. I wonder if that means we will focus on one of Sophie's siblings or if it will be set in the plantations around.
Overall: A slow dark-ish read-recommended for those who don't really know the Bluebeard story or those who really love the Bluebeard story.
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