Publisher: Random House Children's BooksRelease Date: March 12th, 2013
Genre: Young Adult-Historical, Horror
Series: Strands of Bronze and Gold #1
Description from 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.
Review: Strands of Bronze and Gold was a bit of a slow starter for me. So slow, in fact, that I almost DNFed it. And then there was the fact that I had no previous knowledge of the Bluebeard tale. So at first I was really confused, thinking I was supposed to like de Cressac and I wasn't and the book was making me angry until the lovely Stephanie Parent suggested I look it up on Wikipedia. And I did and all of a sudden it made sense and then it started getting really creepy and I began to love it. So. I love my run-on sentences.
My point with all of this was that it was totally all my fault and even though the book started slow, if I had just been patient, I would have saved myself all the grief because it did end up getting really good. It's creepy, disturbing, unsettling, full of gothicky goodness.
But...I still had a few problems aside from the obvious slow beginning. I was not prepared to deal with slavery and I'm not sure I would have read the book if I knew there were going to be slaves and a particularly gruesome lynching scene. I avoid civil war books for this reason and it is not something I find myself interested in, plus there are times when I am pretty disappointed with how it's handled in the narrative. I thought it was handled decently here but I think we could have done without it completely if the book had been set somewhere else. I know this is just my opinion and I don't expect everyone to agree with me here, but if you are going to write about slavery, to use them as characters just to advance the plot and develop the protagonist's character feels kind of squicky to me.
The characters are not particularly well-developed, not memorable, and the main character, Sophia, is a little hard to like until the last third of the book when she finally does SOMETHING. Throughout the entire book she is a pushover with no desire to stick up for herself. She acts like she wants to, and she knows that things are not right (her inner voice laments on this more than enough times), but she does nothing. It's hard to like characters like this. Stick up for yourself a little bit. GEEZ.
There is a scene of animal violence as well and I could have done without that. I just...I know it doesn't bother some people and I know this is a personal grievance of mine, but I cannot handle it. It's why I decided NOT to read The Madman's Daughter and I did not see it coming here and it upset me. It's very short but it IS very horrific so I feel I should warn potential readers about that.
But ultimately, if you can get past the unmemorable characters (though de Cressac is awesomely bad-ass) and the slow start, the plot builds and builds until the climax, and I pretty much thought the writing was beautiful. I would advise familiarizing yourself with the Bluebeard tale if you are not because of how confused I was, and I would definitely only recommend this one for fans of gothic and slowly paced classics, but it is enjoyable. If you are the right person.