When I first heard murmurings about Jane Nickerson's Strands of Bronze and Gold, I immediately added it to my must have list. It's Bluebeard! Bluebeard! In the midst of a multitude of fairy tale retellings, we finally have a freaking Bluebeard book! I did have to wait a bit to finally dive in but the long weekend was the perfect opportunity.
After the death of her father, Sophia Petheram is offered a wonderful opportunity: her beloved godfather has offered her a place in his home as his ward. From the beginning, it is clear that Sophia will not want for anything. Her godfather is charming and good-natured, and has provided her with everything she could possibly need and more. But as time goes by, Sophia comes to realize that her godfather's outward appearance of charm and good humor is a mask for something more sinister. His moods change swiftly and his wrath can be quite harsh. Sophia is sure that her godfather's moodiness must be a result of his terrible losses. The longer Sophia stays in his household, though, the more she learns about her godfather's true nature.
Ok, Strands of Bronze and Gold is creepy! Like skin crawling creepy! In Nickerson's version of this tale, the story takes place in Mississippi just a few years before the beginning of the Civil War. Sophia's godfather - Bernard de Cressac - is a wealthy landowner from France whose main home is an old French abbey that was brought over piece by piece and reassembled in the South. The atmosphere Nickerson builds is fantastic, oozing with chilling description.
The other skin crawlingly creepy aspect, though, is Sophia's overall inability to see through her godfather's facade in the beginning of the book. I mean, it was ick! de Cressac is so clearly wooing his young ward and it seriously icked me out!
This was my one and only complain about the book as well. In terms of character growth, yes it gives us a chance to see Sophia come into her own. But the period of time it takes for Sophia to wizen up and stop brushing off de Cressac's actions was kind of agonizing for me. (It was like watching a horror movie heroine go up the stairs to investigate the noise when she should be running out the door!)
Anyway, beyond that, Strands of Bronze and Gold was a wonderful twist on the Bluebeard tale! Nickerson's got details on her next book, The Mirk and Midnight Hour, already listed on her website and it sounds equally to die for - voodoo and freaky fairies in Civil War Mississippi - I can't wait to read more from her!