By Jane Nickerson
Series: Strands #1
Source Received from the publisher
Published by Random House Children's Books
on March 12, 2013
Received from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
A sweeping Gothic thriller based on the spine-chilling "Bluebeard" fairytale.
17-year-old Sophia Petheram has been sheltered by her doting family all her life, until the day her father dies. It's 1855, and with no money and few options, she goes to live with her guardian, the mysterious Bernard de Cressac, at the astonishingly lavish Wyndriven Abbey in 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 woven around her. And when she begins glimpsing the ghosts of his former wives (all with hair as red as her own) in the forgotten corners and dark hallways of the Abbey, Sophie knows she's in de Cressac's trap.
I love historical fiction, so I was already drawn to this book, and a retelling of the Bluebeard fairytale intrigued me, and struck me as something very different from what I’ve read lately, so I was very excited to have the chance to read this book.
I loved the writing in this book. The descriptions were great, and I felt that I could picture, feel, smell everything that Nickerson wrote about, and she created a spooky atmosphere that made me feel that I was right there with Sophie.
Sophie was a very sympathetic character, and I really liked her. It was easy to see how she would be carried away at first and impressed with Bernard’s wealth and the lavish gifts that he bestowed upon her. Everything was so extravagant, but slowly, as she realized that she was essentially trapped, Sophie came to see how useless and unimportant all of the dresses and jewelry were. She wanted to be strong and to help people, to be a good person.
She matured a lot in a short period of time. She was at first somewhat attracted to Bernard, although he was much older, and entertained fantasies of a future with him. However, once she discovered his true nature and meets a young man who truly is kind and good, I think it opens her eyes to what it means to love someone. Unfortunately, Sophie knows that there is no way Bernard would ever let her leave to be with another man.
As Sophie began to see how Bernard kept her isolated, and she began to feel more and more alone and helpless, this feeling of claustrophobia developed and I felt so sorry for Sophie. She was lured into Bernard’s home, and the story begins with her excitement to be on her way to meet him and stay at the Abbey, but he uses his authority and wealth to trap her. Not even her brothers and sister could help, and I was so anxious reading about her family’s visit to the Abbey: by that point, Sophie knew she had to somehow escape Bernard, but her family was charmed by him at first, as she had been, and could not do anything to help her leave.
Bernard was a fascinating character, because he was equally charming and frightening. I wish I had been able to delve into his psyche a bit, to really get a sense of why he was the way he was, but he made for a very effective ‘bad guy’ in this book. Even though I knew from the outset that he was going to turn out to be a monster, I could see how Sophie, and his previous wives, were attracted to him. He had good looks and lots of money, and was quite generous. He was so quick to change moods, though, which was nerve-wracking. He was in good humour one moment, and furious the next, making him very dangerous indeed.
I only wish that there had been more of the supernatural element in this story. I thought it would be more prevalent, but it wasn’t, at least not enough for my liking. I loved the idea of Bernard’s dead wives somehow haunting the Abbey and perhaps trying to help Sophie, but it felt like they were barely in the story. Maybe I’m just biased, though, because I love supernatural and paranormal stories, and I don’t think this would put off readers who aren’t supernatural/paranormal fans.
I’m a little unclear on whether this will be a series or not. The book certainly had a clear ending, but on Goodreads, there are two other books listed as Strands of Bronze and Gold #2 (The Mirk and Midnight Hour) and Strands of Bronze and Gold #3 (Twisted Trees). They’re both listed as taking place in the ‘Strands’ world, so I don’t know if that means that they are new stories set in the same world, or if Sophie and Bernard will be part of those stories. Either way, I enjoyed this book and would certainly want to read more stories set in this world.
This is definitely a recommended read for fans of YA historical fiction.