Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Release Day Review: Strands of Bronze and Gold by Jane Nickerson

Strands of Bronze and Gold
Jane Nickerson
Book #1 of Strands of Bronze and Gold  series
Publication: March 12th 2013 by Random House Children's Books
Genre: Young Adult Historical Urban Fantasy / Folklore

Amazon B & N Book Depository Goodreads
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.

I adore fairy tale re-tellings, and when they're placed in a historical setting, I love them even more. Strands of Bronze and Gold  takes place in the 1850s during the height of the Underground Railroad and retells the folktale of Bluebeard, a man with a blue beard and who has been married multiple times, though no one knows what has happened to his wives.

I've never read the original Bluebeard story, but I know it, and this time around, that worked against a fairy tale re-telling. I expected more mystery and suspense, and I wasn't surprised at all. While Strands of Bronze and Gold  had a lovely, lyrical prose and I was drawn into the time and location because of the beautiful descriptions, I quickly found the plot was slow to build up, too. Sophia, the female protagonist, does little more than explore the mansion and comment on every detail of its opulence the first half the book.

I also didn't know how to feel about Sophia herself. Independent, growing up in a modest household, and coming from the "forward-thinking" north, she treated the slaves like equals and friends. Yet, her thoughts of the "long-held belief that [she] was destined for luxury"  made her more of spoiled brat than the fanciful, upper-crust-ignorant she was written out to be. A part of me understands the absolute need for character development, and I did appreciate seeing Sophia grow as she loses her illusions of grandeur by the end, but my indifference, almost dislike, for her didn't help the beginning.

Then there was Bernard de Crussac (Bluebeard). Instead of creepy, I found him more of a creep. Considering he's Sophie's godfather and at least twice her age, his strong advances and how theyfirst set Sophia's heart all-a-flutter came off disturbing rather than romantic or even chilling if that was the aim. While Sophia often remarked on how charismatic and entertaining Bernard was, I didn't see  it; I was told  it in the form of a summary from Sophia's perspective and thus didn't feel  it. His demands and expectations only made him more of a pretentious narcissist. Who wouldn't hear "You do not need to be anything but decorative" and not offended, outraged, or even just a little disheartened—something, anything!—right off the bat? (Sophie.) The intention to make her his wife were clear, and that didn't help my opinion of Sophia either when she was so slow to realize it. Again, I understand this is part of Sophia's character development, but it was hard to sympathize when everything about Bernard was as blatant as his wealth.

By the middle of the book, I was close to dropping it. But I had high hopes for Strands of Bronze and Gold  and wanted to see it get better. It does. Somewhat. The plot picks up; Sophia slowly begins to unravel the mystery behind the wives, and a little bit of the supernatural genre seeps in. The Romance begins; Sophia meets and falls in love with a young Reverend (albeit a bit too quickly for my tastes). And new characters are introduced, adding to the subplot and more depth to Sophia. All of it was good, but not great or exactly heart-thumping.

And since I'm nitpicking, I would've liked if the author cinched together the overall story with the Underground Railroad subplot so that the latter didn't feel as if it was just because the author chose that setting and time. There was a good deal on the UTR and interactions with the slaves, yet it never really plays a part in the climax or ending.

While I wasn't blown away by the story and didn't connect with the characters, I do think some people who don't know the Bluebeard tale would enjoy Strands of Bronze and Gold, though. And while knowing the original tale worked against me, those who've read it might appreciate this retelling more than I did, as well. It has a bit of every genre: Mystery, Romance, Historical Fiction, with a Fantasy-esque feel. The literary and historical references were wonderful, and the writing is  absolutely beautiful. It had these lines that made me ache and I'll love for all time:
"You're marrying for money."
I raised my bowed head and said, "No, Mr. Stone, I'm not. I'm marrying for love—love for my family."

eARC provided by the publisher via Netgalley
in exchange for an honest review. Thank you!


Post a Comment