Marissa Meyer has yet to fail me. I loved every one of her books that I read before Gilded. The Lunar Chronicles is a lovely sci-fi twist on well-known fairy tales. Heartless is a thought-provoking look at the Queen of Hearts from Alice in Wonderland. Her Renegades series, Instant Karma, and the Lunar Chronicle graphic novels are the only ones I haven’t read, but I have no doubt about loving them as well when I get around to reading them.
Gilded excited me. I rarely see Rumpelstiltskin retellings, and they tend to be quite repetitive and without a lot of creative liberties. Knowing Meyer’s ability to take fairy tales and turn them into new, completely stand-alone works of their own, I knew that Gilded would have to belong on my shelf.
And I was right. I finished it the night before writing this and I’m still in awe. Serilda is our main character, a young woman blessed by the god of fortune and storytelling, Wyrdith. She has spindles in her eyes and spouts beautiful and terrible lies with every story she tells the local children. After a run in with the Erlking and his hunters, Serilda begins to understand the consequences of her lies. Forced to spin straw into gold to save not only her life, but her father’s as well, Serilda enlists the help of a strange poltergeist and gets so much more than she bargained for.
Despite the short and repetitive nature of the original tale, Meyer works it into a larger and more complex world filled with other German-inspired legends. It creates a full image, rather than the story only existing inside a cell. The reader sees Serilda traveling to and from the Erlking’s castle, other towns, and having a life between the full moons on which she is summoned. I loved that this story filled in the gaps that many original fairy tales have. For example, why does someone want the heroine spinning straw into gold? What purpose does it serve? Not only does Meyer answered that question, but she uses it to help build the tension as the story moves towards the end of book one.
The twist with one of the character’s abilities is something I did see coming, as the foreshadowing hinted at it without confirming that it was going to happen. There was room for the reveal to be different. It felt more important that I enjoy the writing and the adventure than whether or not I could predict the ending. It’s always so nice when I can do that. It feels like I’m reading for myself instead of reading for the review or for a class.
The romance was a slight bit unrealistic, but I was easily able to suspend my disbelief and fall into the love blossoming between the two characters. It was just the right amount for a young adult novel, in case anyone’s wondering. Definitely not graphic.
The phrase that kept popping into my head while I was reading was “this is a horrifying twist on a truly terrible tale”. The two details that most people remember about Rumpelstiltskin are spinning straw into gold, and that the woman must promise her first-born child away. That in itself is terrible. But adding in aspects like the Erlking, who steals away anyone he wants to join his wild hunt on full moons, brings the terror and fear in the story to a whole other level.
Gilded is for young adult fantasy fans and fairy tale retelling fans. It does end on a cliff-hanger that will be taken up next November in the sequel, Cursed. If you liked any of Meyer’s previous work, you’ll love this book. If you aren’t a fan of fairy tale retellings, this story might still be too repetitive for you. If you like A Court of Thorns and Roses, strong and badass heroines, or magic that comes with a price, pick up Gilded. You won’t regret it.
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