My Rating: 4 stars
Many thanks to the author, CamCat Books, and Wunderkind PR for the review copy!
Gold Spun is a YA retelling of “Rumpelstiltskin.” When con-artist Nor is given golden thread by a faerie in return for saving his life, she spins a plan to get money by tricking people into thinking ordinary straw can be turned into gold. The soon-to-be king, Casper, comes across her and, knowing it is a con, announces that if she can spin the straw into gold, he will marry her. I won’t say much on the book as a retelling here because I intend to write a full post on it. But I will say that I enjoyed June’s take on the fairy tale, especially the motives she added for several characters.
Nor is the biggest highlight of the book. June states in her acknowledgements that she felt it was high time the miller’s daughter of the tale got some agency. I fully agree, and June does an excellent job providing this. Nor is smart and scrappy with a devious mind that she uses to provide for her three brothers. She isn’t always a good person; I mean, she is a con-artist and thief, after all! But she’s not a bad person, just a flawed human being trying to keep her family alive. It makes her quite relatable. Her narrative voice is quick, fun, and an overall joy to read. And I loved her relationship with Casper and the way it develops. It doesn’t feel rushed or insta-lovey, which is also appreciated.
June has also created an interesting fantasy world and done it all without info dumps. We learn about the world through conversations that feel entirely natural. Casper and the other nobles discuss politics, Nor’s outlook is colored by living through the destruction of her town during a war, and we get glimpses of religion in a coronation ceremony. And the magic is great! It all felt seamless, and I’m excited to see more of this world in the sequel the ending seems to promise.
The middle of the book did feel a bit lacking. It mostly deals with Nor adjusting to court life and forming a relationship with Casper, both of which are important for her development as a character. However, it doesn’t have the tension of the first part, with Nor facing exile if she can’t somehow turn ordinary straw into gold, or the action-filled finale. I just felt there needed to be a little more there, some kind of conflict other than the pettiness of court ladies.
Overall, Gold Spun is a fascinating take on a well-known fairy tale and an overall enjoyable read. I’m looking forward to the sequel!