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.
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.
Gilded is longer than the books I’d usually pick up, clocking it at 500 pages. I really struggled with the pacing: it’s fairly slow-paced to begin with, but it became repetitive after the first hundred or so pages (once straw is spun into gold for the first time). I also didn’t realize that this wasn’t a standalone; the ending, while interesting, seemed abrupt and didn’t lead to any revelations that I hadn’t already predicted. It set up the stage nicely for a second book, but I can’t help but feel that this would have worked better as a single story.
Gilded takes place in a German-inspired fantasy world, incorporating folklore beyond just the tale of Rumpelstiltskin to create a wonderfully dark story. I was disappointed that there was no map included in the hardcover edition of the book, if only to get a better sense of the world and how it was laid out.
The main area where this book fell flat for me was the romance, which quickly became central to the story. It was instalove, at best, and while I understood the mutual fascination with one another, the chemistry wasn’t believable. It did lead to an interesting twist on the Rumpelstiltskin tale, albeit through the use of a trope that I really don’t prefer.
Overall, Gilded had an incredible premise, but fell short on the execution. If the filler scenes in the middle were tightened up or cut entirely to make it a ~350 page standalone novel, I would have enjoyed it much more.