Book Review of Strands of Bronze and Gold by Jane Nickerson

Posted March 11, 2013 by Kara in Kara / 18 Comments

Publisher: Random House Children’s Books

Release Date: March 12th, 2013
Pages: 352
Genre: Young Adult-Historical, Horror
Series: Strands of Bronze and Gold #1
Source: NetGalley

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. 

3/5 Dragons

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18 responses to “Book Review of Strands of Bronze and Gold by Jane Nickerson

  1. I feel like most people have been giving this an average rating, even if they are familiar with Bluebeard’s story, so I wonder how much I’d really like it. Still, that cover is so irresistible and I love a good horror, so I’ll give this a shot. I can (hopefully) make it through the slow start. Great review, Kara! 🙂

  2. I found Sophie’s inaction so frustrating because I knew the Bluebeard story. I feel like it’s better if you don’t know; otherwise you spend the whole book waiting for Sophie to discover what you already knew.

    The animal violence scene was so disturbing-it was completely unexpected.

  3. I really liked the cover and the title for this one, but I don’t mesh well with historical novels so it never made its way onto my TBR. I’m happy to see that you ended up sticking it out and finding things that you really liked about the story (and were horrified by, sorry to hear that.) Fabulous review, Kara!

  4. Ahhh the squicky stuff is awkward if it’s not your thing (and I’m glad you didn’t read The Madman’s Daughter, because even I flinched at least once with that one). I may have been swayed by a pretty cover here, and if the characters are average I’m not sure it’s going to work for me. But, ya never know!

    Great review!

    • Yes. 🙁 Origin by Jessica Khoury was more than I could take so I knew I had to skip The Madman’s Daughter, which is a shame, because I have heard awesome things. But I know I’d better not.

  5. Amy

    I’m not big on historical novels, but this one had caught my interest. It’s too bad that the characters aren’t that great, and I hate animal violence. It makes me sad. I might eventually get to this one, but I’m in no rush. Great review Kara.

  6. Yes, this is certainly one that fans of slow-paced Gothics will enjoy. I’m sad to hear that not being familiar with Bluebeard had such a negative affect on your reading this book–I was hoping it would make it more surprising/add the the creepiness. Sorry you didn’t really like the setting/Sophia either. I sort of felt like in her given situation, there wasn’t much she COULD do. Given the current time/place/society, her hands were really tied, she had no proof that de Cressac was anything but the gentleman he portrayed, and knew he would hurt her if she defied him in any way. I felt like Nickerson did a good job of showing how trapped she felt-knowing something was wrong, and wanting out, but not being able to do anything. Totally get your frustration though, I think there were just too many deal breakers in this one for you to really enjoy it (though we both ended up with the same rating in the end regardless). 🙂

    • That would have been great if it did and I think it might have if the opening half of the book was not so agonizingly slow. I think that’s what happened there. You are right about Sophia though, and I don’t really FAULT her for being that way, it’s just hard for me to root for someone like that. She did a GREAT job of creating the feeling of oppression Sophia was going through.

  7. I saw a really great review of this one last week and it got me super intrigued by it. I haven’t heard of the Bluebeard story either so I’d probably have to look it up, too, but this over reviewer hadn’t heard of it nor looked it up and I guess it makes sense after a while? Dunno. It’s definitely up my alley though there’s just something about gothic horror that I love! Good to know about the slow start though maybe it won’t affect me as much if I know about it going in. We’ll see. Depends just hot I find the characters I guess.

    • It does make sense after a while. What happened was this: I was ready to DNF it out of annoyance because it was stupidly slow and the plot was going nowhere until Stephanie suggested I look it up before I quit. I did and then it made sense to me and I pushed on. So not an experience everyone will go through, but you know how impatient I am. I can’t wait to hear what you think though!

  8. I think going in blind toward the Bluebeard tale was why I liked this so much – I had no clue if I was supposed to like Cressac, or if his intentions were going to be good, so I thought it was really fun to be constantly at war with myself about him.

    I agree completely about not finding Sophie overly memorable; I liked her well enough, but she really didn’t do much to help herself until it was almost too late!

    …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.

    This didn’t really bother me at the time, but reading how it made you feel makes me think I’d be a bit more critical with a re-read.

    And the animal scene! Ahh! Thanks for mentioning that something similar happens in The Madman’s Daughter – looks like I’ll be avoiding that.

    • This is an interesting point, Kelly. I think maybe my experience with this one was just unique to my personality. I am an incredibly impatient and get annoyed easily. It’s a personality flaw, hah! With the way this was so slowly paced in the first half, my brain just couldn’t take it!! 😀

      Yes, I ALWAYS comment when there is animal violence because I have a few followers who can’t handle it. I have a shelf on Goodreads called “animals die” expressly for this purpose. I just can’t do it. My dog is EVERYTHING to me.

      Thank you for commenting and leaving such a great one!

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