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What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Gilded is a bold reimagining of the fairy tale "Rumpelstiltskin" from Marissa Meyer, the popular author of the Lunar Chronicles series and Heartless. Expect more gory violence in this story than in Meyer's past books. The main character, Serilda, cavorts with a whole world of the cruel undead led by the Erlking who kidnap young children and rip out their hearts. An undead creature gnaws at his own arm and attacks its live family, a hell hound gets an arrow shot through its eye, a ghost's head rolls off its body, and more. Magical animals are also captured with mentions that they are tortured. There's much talk of parent loss as well, and wonder if parents are truly gone or can be found. Sexual content is slightly more mature in Gilded as well. A straight couple has sex, with little described beyond kissing, some light groping, and undressing. Serilda's god-given gift for storytelling and lies gets her into trouble but it also keeps her alive and keeps her searching for the truth through story. Even though she's treated like a cursed outcast by most of her village, she's someone who looks past it and cherishes her relationship with children in the village and her father.
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What's the story?
In GILDED, Serilda, a miller's daughter, is an outcast of her agrarian village because of her strange golden-spoked irises. Her father claims she's been blessed by Wyrdith, the goddess of storytelling and lies, and indeed Serilda is adept at both. She's so adept that, when the dreaded undead Erlking visits one full moon with his Wild Hunt, she's able to save the lives of two moss maidens from the enchanted wood with only her tongue. Serilda is spotted by the Erlking and his undead friends just after she hides his moss maiden prey in her cellar. The king is full of questions. Has she seen the moss maidens? And why is she out in the middle of the night? Serilda is terrified, but still bold enough to weave one of her stories for him. She's out collecting straw, she tells him, because she can only spin straw into gold by the light of the full moon. The Erlking leaves, a little confused but satisfied, and Serilda breathes a sigh of relief. But the next full moon a ghost arrives at her door with a carriage. She's to ride to the Erlking's castle on the other side of the enchanted wood and on the other side of the veil separating the living and the dead. And she has one night to spin a roomful of straw into gold or she dies. Beyond despair, Serilda calls for help and it arrives in the form of the poltergeist of the castle, a mysterious redheaded boy who remembers nothing of his own life before.
Is it any good?
This deliciously dark retelling of "Rumpelstiltskin" full of ghosts, curses, and gnarly creatures has a surprisingly tender love story at its center. Gilded is author Marissa Meyer's most immersive fairy tale world since she took Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood, Rapunzel, and Snow White to the moon and back in her Lunar Chronicles series. Innocent villages butt up against a dangerous enchanted wood, and one town lives in the shadow of castle ruins that spew forth a terrible undead king and his merciless hunting party every full moon. The castle is full of secrets both because its inhabitants are ghosts and because its history is lost. As the story unfolds, this lost history becomes an even stranger curiosity, and perhaps the kind of knowledge that may save the main character's life.
The romance between Serilda and Gild weaves in like a glint of golden thread amidst the sinister stuff, and it's an ingenious turn away from the Brothers Grimm's "Rumpelstiltskin." What if the hunchbacked, warty, ancient magic dude that demanded the cruelest payment imaginable for his spinning services was actually a handsome, stand-up guy? What if he was someone lonely and lost and just as much a victim of the Erlking's cruelty as Serilda is? Can a trapped poltergeist and a storytelling miller's daughter make it work? The greedy Erlking has other ideas, and the dark twists at the end of Gilded will have readers clamoring for Book 2.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the surprising deaths in Gilded. Were they hard to read about? The original (or closer-to original) versions of Grimm's fairy tales were full of sometimes shocking violence. Why do you think that most of the fairy tales we read now are so much tamer? Which versions of fairy tales do you prefer?
How is this story like the original "Rumpelstiltskin"? How does it differ? Have you read books featuring the Wild Hunt before? It pops up often in Cassandra Clare's fantasies. How is Marissa Meyer's version of the Wild Hunt different?
Will you read Book 2? What do you think will happen to the main characters?
- Author: Marissa Meyer
- Genre: Fantasy
- Topics: Magic and Fantasy, Princesses, Fairies, Mermaids, and More, Adventures, Brothers and Sisters, Fairy Tales, Misfits and Underdogs, Monsters, Ghosts, and Vampires, Wild Animals
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: Feiwel & Friends
- Publication date: November 2, 2021
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 12 - 18
- Number of pages: 512
- Last updated: December 8, 2021
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