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Strands of Bronze and Gold by Jane Nickerson: A Book Review

Strands of Bronze and Gold
Author: Jane Nickerson
Genre: YA, Historical, Mystery & Suspense,  Horror
Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf
Release Date: March 12, 2013
Pages: 352
Source: Personal Collection
Synopsis: When seventeen year-old Sophia Petherham's beloved father dies, she receives and 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 peice 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, an suspense are woven into this breathtaking debut-- a thrilling retelling of the "Bluebeard" fairy tale.

     My Review: "Bluebeard" is not your average classic fairy tale like, "Cinderella", "Beauty and the Beast", or "Rumpelstiltskin". Rather it is a less well-known fairy tale, a tale that is dark and grim like an old-wives tale. It's message is very clear: curiosity killed the cat. However, Jane Nickerson's retelling of "Bluebeard" reads more like a gothic fiction in the style of the Bronte sisters rather than the Brothers Grimm or Charles Perrault.

     Sophie, a young teenager, goes to Mississippi from her home in Boston to live with her wealthy and handsome godfather. Sophie comes from a very poor family, and when she got there, she had servants that came to her every beck and call. Her godfather showered her with handsome gifts, and she lived her life like a princess. Soon, she realized that things aren't as perfect as they seem to be. Her godfather can be volatile and possessive as well as extremely charming. He also keeps her from having friends, kills her pets, and prevents her from leaving her estate. Sophie is so troubled by her godfather's controlling behavior that she decides to embark on a quest to find out her godfather's mysterious past. She also finds love awakened when she secretly meets the kind, simple parson from the nearby town.

     The author creates interesting characters. Sophie is at first innocent and naive, but gradually begins to grow wiser, more cautious, and curious of what is going on at her godfather's estates. It is through her eyes that we see that the estate is not as it appeared to be. The author does a good job portraying the contrast between the dark, handsome, seductive, and manipulative godfather to the simple, honest, plain, kind parson. These men symbolize the light vs the dark and good vs evil.

     Overall, the story is slow-paced, and the plot is very predictable. There are no real twists until the last few pages of the book. Until then, the author goes at a pace reminiscent of a languorous Southern afternoon. If you stay invested in the characters, though, the payoff is worth it. Her characters are well-developed. The heroine is definitely not a damsel in distress. The climax is terrifying, thrilling, and well worth waiting for. This book will definitely delight fans of Jane Eyre and gothic fiction.

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars


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