Strands of Bronze and Gold

First Lines: You see, I had a fabulously wealthy godfather.  That was why anything was possible for me.

I decided recently that I’ve been reading a few too many dark contemporary novels and I needed to switch genres for a break.  So…enter in the fairy tale!  This is a retelling of the Brothers Grimm tale of Bluebeard (which I’ve never even heard of), but I was more than interested in giving it a shot.

When Sophia’s father dies, she gets a letter from her mysterious yet fantastically rich godfather, Monsieur Bernard de Cressac, asking her to live with him.  With no money and few other options, Sophie accepts.  Sophie has always longed for the ease and charm of sophisticated living, but she’s also surprised by what else wealth brings.  As she begins to thread together pieces of her godfather’s past, she begins to feel like his mansion is more of a prison than a home.  Because each of his former wives has a dark story–and hair as fiery red as Sophie’s.  Suddenly, she realizes Monsieur de Cressac may not be who he seems…and it may be too late for Sophie.

Again, I just want to say that I don’t know this original fairytale.  So I had no idea where this story was going to go.

In terms of “fairytales”, this was a bit lacking on your fairytale stereotypes.  There’s no magic, no mythical creatures.  The closest you get to anything like that are a few ghosts.

BUT the setting more than made up for it.  It’s set in 1855, Mississippi.  There was luscious scenery, a gothic abbey that had been brought over from England, and the dramatic backdrop of slavery in the South just prior to the Civil War.  I loved it.  How often does American history blend in with fairytales?

I thought the characters were pretty well done, but maybe some of the minor characters more so than the main characters.  Sophie, for example, seems a bit delusional at times.  Like she sees herself as the lion when clearly she’s the mouse being stalked by the lion.  But I suppose that’s a pretty human characteristic.  Perhaps the best-written character was M. de Cressac himself, who was equal parts charming and unsettlingly creepy.  He moved so smoothly between the two that you both kind of loved him and hated him at the same time.

As for the plot, I was pretty disappointed.  Because, seriously, nothing happens.  The story crawls.  I kept waiting for something, anything, to happen.  For Sophie to discover barely-hidden secrets or something.  But it really just ended up being some weird, creepy happenstances that only sort of added up to a conclusion.

And for like the whole second half of the book, I kept getting these really weird vibes.  Like ants-under-my-skin vibes.  It was uncomfortable and I just wanted to back away from the book slowly before it attacked me.

I was also a bit disappointed with how quickly the ending wrapped itself up.  We’ve spent this entire book building and building up to this conclusion…admittedly, it’s somewhat obvious how the story is going to end…but then the climax and the resolution happens in two chapters.  There are like 35 chapters in this books and that’s all the ending gets?  I felt cheated.

Overall, I thought it was an interesting tale (with a lovely setting!), but this probably wasn’t the best version of it.

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