Long ago cursed by the god of lies, a poor miller’s daughter has developed a talent for spinning stories that are fantastical and spellbinding and entirely untrue.
Or so everyone believes.
When one of Serilda’s outlandish tales draws the attention of the sinister Erlking and his undead hunters, she finds herself swept away into a grim world where ghouls and phantoms prowl the earth and hollow-eyed ravens track her every move. The king orders Serilda to complete the impossible task of spinning straw into gold, or be killed for telling falsehoods. In her desperation, Serilda unwittingly summons a mysterious boy to her aid. He agrees to help her… for a price. Love isn’t meant to be part of the bargain.
Soon Serilda realizes that there is more than one secret hidden in the castle walls, including an ancient curse that must be broken if she hopes to end the tyranny of the king and his wild hunt forever…
*A massive thank you to Faber and Faber ltd for sending me an ARC of this novel via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review*
Gilded is an atmospheric, dark and irresistible tale which I pretty much devoured – it was so up my street it’s unreal. Gilded is quite honestly one of the best retellings I’ve ever read and has firmly placed Marissa Meyer on my list of favourite fantasy authors. I read Heartless (Meyer’s Queen of Hearts retelling) recently but was left feeling a tad underwhelmed, however Gilded was a completely different story altogether.
The story is a Rumpelstiltskin retelling – but instead of rehashing what readers may already be familiar with or playing around with the original story, Meyer makes it utterly her own and crafts this immersive tale with only little mentions or teasers of the original story which makes the story far more interesting and fresh. The whole book is imbued with this gothic, haunting edge and it gets pretty dark and twisted at certain moments – which I wasn’t initially expecting but it definitely makes all the events in the story and characters choices hold more weight.
I really liked Serilda and how she is a born storyteller – weaving these intricate and frightening stories out of thin air which enthral and scare her father and the children of her town in equal measure. One dark night when the sinister hunt comes through her small town, in a bid to save her own life as well as others she spins another story; that she has the ability to spin straw into gold. Thus she enters into a dangerous battle of wits with the sinister Erlking and his court; every new moon that passes she must demonstrate her abilities and produce more gold, the consequences if she doesn’t are more than she can bear.
The world building and folklore that Meyer includes in the story is absolutely brilliant and heightens the foreboding atmosphere. I especially loved all the moments spent in and around the quaint town of Adalheid and the nearby castle – there was something wonderful and also really sad about the history of this place and reading as Serilda tries to uncover this lost piece of time was really interesting. I also liked the inclusion of the Erlking and his deadly court, and all the other figures from popular folktales like moss maidens, goblins and kobolds which add to the rich fantasy element.
The love story / romance element also felt really well written and so genuine. I love when we have this really earnest and honest romance evolve in a way which feels natural and that’s exactly what we get here. When Serilda is tasked with spinning the straw into gold, she doesn’t expect to meet a strange boy who offers to help her, and certainly doesn’t expect to befriend him and fall in love. But that’s exactly what ends up happening and it was so incredibly tender and beautiful, there’s also this undercurrent of danger however as each time Serilda must make a wager and as we know how the original story goes, some wagers are heavier than others.
Overall, Gilded was a truly excellent read and I can’t wait to see what happens next. I’m assuming that there will be a sequel so I’m already in eager anticipation to see where Marissa Meyer takes us next.
Until next time,