REVIEW #69: Strands of Bronze and Gold (Strands of Bronze and Gold #1) by Jane Nickerson

Title: Strands of Bronze and Gold
Series: Strands of Bronze and Gold #1
Author: Jane Nickerson
Publisher: Random House Children Books
Release Date: March 12, 2013
Pages: 352, Hardcover

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.


I found this book to be incredibly unsettling but I guess that is something to be expected in a retelling of a sinister fairy tale. So even though I felt a range of emotions, mostly unpleasant, I thought it was an successful portrayal of the Bluebeard fairytale.

For those unfamiliar with the story, a charming and handsome nobleman, commonly referred to as Bluebeard due to the glint of blue in his beard, has a bad habit of killing his wives but passing it off as an accident. He travels frequently and often leaves his wife in charge of his estate in his absence. As he hands wife #5 the keys, he instructs her not to go in a certain room. Curiosity gets the best of her and she enters the room to find the dead bodies of Bluebeard's previous wives. Bluebeard discovers his wife's disobedience which puts her in danger of the same fate as the others. Due to some timely assistance, she narrowly escapes with her life, whereas Bluebeard meets his unfortunate end.

Sophie is pleasantly surprised when she meets her godfather again after so many years. He is handsome, charming, and incredibly generous (as the story goes). He showers her with gifts and fancies every childish whim of hers. She can't help but get quickly get swept up in the ease and comforts of this new life and the attention provided to her by Monsieur Bernard. The story sort of gleams over Sophie falling in love with him which gives the reader an initial impression of Sophie as naive, shallow, and foolish.

There were plenty of signs that something wasn't right with Monsieur Bernard or Wyndriven Abbey.  Sophie saw the signs too - a feeling here, a look there, all the secrets - but she chose to ignore them. Even when she discovered Monsieur's four previous wives had died under unusual circumstances, and all had fiery red hair like her own, she brushed it off as coincidence. It wasn't until Monsieur Bernard discovered some old letters of Sophie's that she got a glimpse of how bad his temper could be and her perfect illusion shattered.

After that night, Sophie's situation steadily became more perilous. She finally began to see Monsieur Bernard in a new, much darker, light. He became increasingly temperamental and controlling both toward Sophie and the rest of his household. She began to tread carefully in his presence but it became more and more difficult for her to smile and pretend she enjoyed his company. And Monsieur Bernard only became more bold. When she finally decides to leave it is too late. Monsieur Bernard is determined to have Sophie as his wife and has her caught in a web of promises and lies that all but requires her to say yes, lest she choose to be selfish, which she could not. But Sophie has a hard time conceding so easily and as the fairytale goes, when she makes an ill-timed and ill-fated discovery she is forced into action.

This book definitely got under my skin. Monsieur Bernard gave me the creeps. His interest in Sophie was too intimate and inappropriate and made me uncomfortable. But the intent was for readers to feel uneasy toward him. Lets just say, Jane Nickerson was very successful on that front. I also got a little frustrated with Sophie's naivety. Monsieur Bernard's intentions were obvious to any sensible person but Sophie refused to see reason. But I do have to recognize that she is a very innocent, good-natured person, and still very young, so I guess I shouldn't expert her to doubt or question him so quickly either. When she did come around, I thought she acted fairly maturely and cleverly so she redeemed herself somewhat. But then she becomes so submissive again in the presence of her family that I wanted to scream at them all. But again, I could understand her actions and appreciate her selflessness. She had yet discovered the worst of Monsieur Bernard and she never thought it would be so bad. Her situation was a little scary, desperate and hopeless. It was tragic.

Obviously in a retelling, you sort of know what to expect but it's the author's own personal twist on the story that draws you in. Jane Nickerson stays relatively true to the classic fairytale, as you can see in my summary but her strength lies is in the details. There was a creepy undertone to the story that could not be ignored. I got goose-bumps just reading this story. It wasn't just the depiction of the characters or the old estate and ominous grounds that gave readers a sense of unease. Every word spoken aloud, or thought in Sophie's head, or used in narrative, added to this feeling of apprehension. It is for this reason that I think this book deserves 4 stars, although it is not my usual cup of tea to read a book that leaves me feeling so disturbed. I sincerely think Jane Nickerson captured the darkness of the Bluebeard fairytale clearly and made readers feel it in their bones. 



  1. Gah, I need to get my hands on this one! Like yesterday! I've wanted it for so long, but it just doesn't seem to be happening for me!

    I LOVED this review! It's brilliant!

  2. This one is on my TBR shelf. It sounds creepy but really good. I always have a fascination with retellings.

    For some reason I feel like a lot of books I have been reading have some really naive main female characters, and that makes me sad and can be frustrating when reading, unless there is a very good reason as to why she is like that.

    Thanks for the great review!


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