Gilded by Marissa Meyer is a fantastic reimagining of the Rumplestiltskin fairy tale. Honestly, for the longest time, I avoided retellings because I was afraid I wouldn’t like them as much as the originals. I am so glad I changed my mind about that because if I hadn’t, I would have missed this amazing story.
Serilda is such a fabulous character. She pretends to be tough and independent to those in her village, to her father, and even to herself, but there is no hiding her vulnerability from the reader. I especially appreciate the fact that while she is a sweetheart who cares about all living things, she is not as saccharine as a Disney character. She has grit and is not too afraid to fend for herself when necessary. Serilda is a character who does not shy away from getting her hands dirty, especially when doing so means protecting others.
In many ways, Gild is the male version of Serilda. He is just as strong and yet just as vulnerable as she is, which makes him the perfect companion for her. Just like her, Gild cares about others and finds ways to show that as often as possible. At the same time, he is willing to sacrifice himself if it means saving someone else from pain. With characteristics like these, among others, it is no wonder why Gild and Serilda find themselves attracted to each other, which is such a lovely addition to the story.
At the same time, the Erlking is the perfect amount of indifference. Serilda and the rest of her world call him evil, but to me, it is not that he is evil. To me, the Erlking is simply indifferent to anyone or anything other than his wants and needs. He likes violence, and so he tends to be violent towards those he meets. He likes to hunt, and therefore he hunts every full moon. Like most hunters, he searches for the rarest trophy, and he keeps those trophies for his pleasure. For someone like Serilda, who cares with her whole heart and maybe a bit too much, he is the perfect foil.
The story itself follows the Rumplestiltskin fairy tale with necessary changes to fit Serilda’s world. Yes, she has to spin straw into gold, and yes, a mysterious person, Gild, helps her for a price. The king who imprisons Serilda just happens to be the Erlking, the master of the wild hunt, and a being known for his lack of compassion or generosity. Serilda’s world is Germanic, with names and other words that are similar to German while not being genuine German words. However, that is where the similarities end, as Ms. Meyer creates a much wider world with fully fleshed characters. The story is not so much about this poor girl who finds herself in an impossible situation, beholden to a mysterious magic person, but rather about a girl who would rather right wrongs and find a way to stop one being from terrorizing others. And it is fantastic.
I was not aware that Gilded was part of a series, so I was not expecting the story to end when it did. Where it did end, however, leaves a lot of potentially exciting options open, all of which are going to make the wait for the sequel interminable. I am very excited to see where Serilda’s story goes next.