Saturday 12 February 2022

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Review: Gilded by Marissa Meyer (#Ad)

A close up photo taken from above of the paperback of Gilded half on, half off a circular gold tray, which is on a light grey duvet cover. The top of the book facing the top left, and the bottom facing the top right. Over the top right corner of the book is a small, gold, heart-shaped locket. A unclasped snake chain is laid across the top left corner of the book, with the rest of the chain coiling on the tray. A tiny jar of gold leaf is laid on it's side on the middle of the left side of the book, with a child's gold ring just above it, and a spool of metallic gold thread on the middle of the right side of the book, with the thread coiling over the bottom of the book.

I was received this eProof for free from Faber & Faber via NetGalley for the purposes of providing an honest review.

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Gilded by Marissa Meyer

Published: 2nd November 2021 | Publisher: Faber & Faber | Source: NetGalley
Marissa Meyer’s Website

The look he was giving her. Serilda had never been looked at like that before... the intensity. The heat. The raw astonishment. He was going to kiss her.

Cursed by the god of lies, a miller’s daughter has developed a talent for storytelling - but are all 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 prince.

But love wasn’t meant to be part of the bargain.
From The StoryGraph.

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I was so excited when I heard about Gilded by Marissa Meyer. A retelling of Rumplestiltskin, which I hadn't seen done often, but where Rumplestiltskin is the love interest? I was highly intrigued, and with this being Meyer's return to fairy tale retellings, I knew I would be in for a great story. And I loved it!

Serilda is the daughter of a miller who was granted a wish by the god of fortune, and he wished to marry the girl he loved and have a family. But the god of fortune is also a trickster god, and the god of lies, so when Serilda was born, she was born with their mark on her; golden wheels over the irises of her eyes. Serilda has been given the gift of storytelling, but everyone thinks her cursed, a liar, and no-one believes a word she says. But it's her clever tongue that gets her out of a tight spot when rescuing two moss maidens from the Erlking during the Wild Hunt. She tells him she is out harvesting straw to spin into gold - and he remembers. The next full moon, the Erlking kidnaps her, demanding she spin the straw in the dungeon she's locked in to gold by dawn, or he'll kill her. It's while she's crying and panicking, that a young man appears. A young man who can't remember his past, who is as trapped as Serilda is, but has a knack for spinning straw into gold...

I absolutely adored Gilded! Meyer has written another fairy tale retelling that lands on all the major plot points and events of the original Brothers Grimm story, but makes it completely her own. There's the lie of spinning straw into gold; a greedy king who locks the miller's daughter in a room with a spinning wheel and straw and demands she spins it into gold or she will die; there is someone who appears who is able to spin the straw for the miller's daughter for a price; and on the third go, there is the promise of the miller's daughter's first born child in exchange. What I adore with Meyer's stories is how she can take these pieces, and create something brand new. It's the same story, but not. The lie is told by Serilda herself. The king is the Erlking - or Elfking - a dark and fae creature, who leads the Wild Hunt every full moon, hunting animals and mythical creatures, abducting children, and seducing others to join the hunt that may end up killing them. The Erlking demands straw spun into gold, but it's for reasons other than greed. And there's a young man, who doesn't remember his own name, who is tied to the Erlking's castle, unable to leave, but who's magic can't work without something valuable given in return, no matter how much he may want to help. While you know where the story is going, with Meyer, you don't know how it's going to get there, or what will happen when it does.

Gilded is set in a historical German inspired setting, intertwining the story of Rumplestiltskin with Germanic Paganism. Throughout the story are creatures from Germanic folklore and stories straight out of Germanic belief, such as the Wild Hunt. As someone who has an interest in Paganism, I really appreciated all of the details, such as the various full moons having specific names because of what they meant on an agricultural calendar, the importance of the solstices and equinoxes. Although this is a fantasy story, it grounded the story for me; this is how people lived, and this is what they believed. Even the gods the people worship are loosely based on Pagan gods. I also really loved all the nods to the Brothers Grimm themselves. One of the ways of addressing the Erlking is, "You're Grim," which has the double meaning. And the Grimm's first collection of fairy tales is called Kinder- und Hausmärchen, which translates to Children's and Household Tales, with märchen translating specially to "little tales"; the town Serilda lives in is called Märchenfeld.

And stories play an important part in Rumplestiltskin. She's called a liar, but really Serilda is a storyteller. She doesn't often lie outright; the lies people object to are really just stories. She's judged for her eyes, for the so called curse that brings bad luck, and she's hated for things others have decided are her fault - which to me seemed similar to the accusations thrown around during witch hunts, the superstitions people held, which again grounds the story in time and place. Because of the prejudice against her, and her propensity to make up stories, when she is telling the truth, nobody believes her. She is not to be trusted. It reminded me of The Boy Who Cries Wolf, but without Serilda really crying wolf in the first place. As no-one will believe her, there are times when there is no help to be found, and she has to rely on herself.

Until she meets Gild. Gild is the Rumplestiltskin character, but with a twist, and I adored him. He's a prankster, doing all he can to wind up the Erlking, making a nuisance of himself, because that's all he's able to do. He's funny, and charming, but also really quite a tragic character. He is drawn to Serilda because she's human, and she's alive. He is surrounded by ghosts and the dark court only, but he can touch Serilda, and she's warm. I loved him, but I also felt so sorry for him. And for Serilda, he's someone who will listen to her, who believes her, who doesn't shun her because of her eyes. They each give the other something they can't get elsewhere, and from that blossoms something more. Their relationship was wonderful; the chemistry was great, but there's an aching, bittersweet element to it that just has you so completely rooting for them, but not really seeing a way out of it.

I was completely gripped by Gilded, by the romance but also the wider plot. As I read, I thought of and discarded so many theories as to what was happening and where the story would take us. There were three that I had that were right. But the story isn't predictable. I was never really 100% sure on any of them, not until the reveals. This is the thing with Meyer and her retellings; you can never really be sure where the story will lead. And I absolutely didn't see the ending coming! It suddenly gets a lot darker, and it was such a shock! It shouldn't have been; we're constantly told how terrible the Erlking is and what he's capable of, what he's done in the past. And I've read Meyer's previous fairy tale retellings, she definitely goes there when it comes to the horrific. It struck me like a blow though, and completely knocked me for six. I was completely devastated, but there's no time to get used to it before the next shock comes, and the story ends on a cliffhanger! Something else that blew my mind, despite the original story, despite knowing where the story leads. I guess because of the dynamics between the various characters, I forgot that element of the story. But it left me with my jaw hanging, shouting, "No!" It's a belter of an ending, and I am so, so looking forward to reading the sequel, Cursed, when it's released on 3rd November this year. Considering most of the major elements of the original story were part of Gilded, I honestly couldn't really guess how the story will play out in Cursed, and I absolutely love it! I really can't wait, it's going to be epic! If you're a fan of fairy tale retellings, Gild is definitely one to bring to the top of your TBR!

Thank you to Faber & Faber via NetGalley for the eProof.

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