Author: Marissa Meyer
Narrator: Rebecca Soler
Audiobook Length: 15 hours 33 minutes
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.
While Marissa Meyer has a ton of novels, I am still new to actually reading them and still have many to go. Gilded is the first novel in the duology of the same name that is an intricate and unique retelling of Rumpelstiltskin. When this novel was first introduced, I originally thought it was a standalone. Now that it is complete, I am glad that there is an additional installment to complete the tale. The story follows a girl named Serilda who has been cursed by the God of Lies since birth. As she is a gifted storyteller, she uses them to entertain children, but they also affect her everyday life and people believe she is a liar. While out one night, she encounters the mysterious and dangerous Erlking, who is out for his Hunt for magical creatures. She ends up telling him a story of her being outside to collect straw to turn it into gold. Intrigued by this idea, he imprisons her to prove that she is telling the truth.
While Serilda is held at the Erlking’s castle, she encounters Gild. While he has no idea about his previous life before the castle, he agrees to assist Serilda’s mission to turn straw into gold in exchange for items and stories. As Serilda is saved by Gild, the two interact more and become closer. She becomes curious to discover the mysteries surrounding Gild’s past, as well as, the Erlking’s castle. The Erlking himself is a nice dark villain, while Serilda is a fun morally grey character, which made for an interesting dynamic between the characters. This is a Rumpelstilksin retelling with some elements that reminded me of the Goblin King, so there were many plot points and moments that felt familiar; however, they were nicely balanced with some new twists and turns.
The pacing in this 500ish page story goes varies greatly. The beginning builds up the world and main characters to bring the reader the initial straw to gold moment. As Serilda returns to the castle, this moment where she exchanges items with Gild for his help is repeated as she offers anything she can think of at the moment. Due to this, their relationship felt a little forced as they only interacted a handful of times before they connect more. It came across as two lonely individuals seeking companionship rather than having a little more meaning behind it. Since the story is a duology, there is still a lot of room for more development and I cannot wait to see what happens. One thing to note is there is an element that occurs towards the end of the story (I am attempting to avoid spoilers, but you can find it in other reviews if you are curious), which I am not fully on board with given the ages of the characters and circumstances. This is another piece that could be further explored in the next installment, but I was not quite in agreeance with its occurrence.
Overall, there are some pieces that are answered in this novel and many more that still need to be explored, so I am looking forward to reading the sequel. As Serilda is a storyteller whose stories actually connect to the plot, I wish this was a little more apparent at the beginning. While it was easy enough to figure out early on, it was difficult to catch at the start and I had to go back to reread that section. This could just be me, but there could be other readers where this slight change would benefit them. The pacing in the middle was a little slow for my taste, but it can sometimes happen in a duology as the author wants to leave enough open for the concluding novel. There is a lot at the end that nicely set up the sequel and I cannot wait to read it later this year!