I’m completely new to Marissa Meyer’s books — I’m sorry — but I’m very thankful I decided to start with Gilded.
From the Blurb:
Cursed by the god of lies, a miller’s daughter has developed a talent for storytelling — but are all of her tales as false as they appear?
When one of Serilda’s stories draws the attention of the devastating Erlking, she finds herself swept away into a world of enchantment, where ghouls prowl the earth, and ravens track her every move. The king locks Serilda in a castle dungeon and orders her to spin straw into gold, or be killed for lying.
In despair, Serilda unwittingly summons a mysterious young man to her aid. And he agrees to help her, for a price.
But love wasn’t meant to be part of the bargain.
Gilded is a beautiful retelling of Rumpelstiltskin, the fairy tale where a girl is tasked with spinning straw into gold at the behest of a king, and is seemingly rescued by Rumpelstiltskin — until he comes to claim the payment of her first born child. Marissa Meyer tackles this story with relish, and stays true to some of the key elements: the bargaining chips, the three tasks, the mysterious name of the man who aids our heroine. But she also adds some beautiful changes, most prominently that Serilda, our main character, is the one who lies about her ability to spin straw into gold.
Serilda is bold-faced, fiercely independent, and has a penchant for storytelling. Cursed by the Wyrdith, she is looked upon with suspicion by most in her town because of her strange eyes and quick lies. I found her delightful; both her stories and her character were enchanting and I rooted for her from beginning to end. She has a big heart and a quick mind, though she is not immune from making mistakes. Yet when she does, she acknowledges them, and does everything within her power to set them right, and to fight for what she believes in.
Gild is another fascinating character, although we don’t get as much insight into him as we do Serilda. He is a mystery wrapped in auburn hair and outdated clothing — a mystery Serilda is desperate to solve. I loved Gild, but I do wish he had been given a little more depth, or perhaps screen time to explore his depth. He is clearly a complex character beneath the surface, but I am not convinced he was given proper time to shine.
The plot as a whole is relatively predictable, especially if you know the original tale well or are a veteran YA reader like myself. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing — in fact, it was exactly what I needed to pull me out of my reading slump, and it also makes it perfect for new YA readers. It is fast-paced and full of action, perfect for keeping the reader entranced as Serilda does her best to escape her fate in servitude to the Erlking. And it does have a few twists and turns which, though the reader may pick up on the foreshadowing, are shocking nevertheless. I devoured every page and let me tell you, the dread in my stomach when I realised there weren’t enough pages left to satisfactorily wrap up the story…
My biggest frustration with this book is that it is the beginning of a duology? And that’s only because I have to wait a while to read the ending. Again, I can already predict what will happen in book number two (entitled Cursed according to Goodreads), but that isn’t a bad thing. I know the fairy tale well, and am enjoying seeing it played out in this lovingly developed world.
Finally, a note on the world-building. I loved the world Meyer has built — I only wish the book has been blessed with a map to add that little extra sprinkle of wonder. Her descriptions of both everyday life and fantastical elements were vivid, and she creates the perfect haunted castle to house the fearsome Erlking and his retinue of dark ones and trapped ghosts. However, many of the fantastical characters tend to fade into the background in favour of Serilda’s monologue. I hope in the sequel we see more of them, because I can already tell Meyer is great at writing them.
All in all, Gilded is a fun, fast-paced read full of perfect fairy tale elements and bold characters. I’m sure any fantasy lover — whether or not you know Rumpelstiltskin — will find something to love here. And if, like me, you couldn’t get enough of Gild and Serilda, then head over to Goodreads, where a synopsis of book number two already awaits!