Gilded by Christina L. Farley
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Gilded (The Gilded Series Book 1) by Christina Farley
Gilded is probably going to be one of those books that people either love or hate with little in between. I picked the novel up from an ad running in Goodreads and I usually read the bad reviews first. There were some brutal thoughts there and, sometimes, that can color a readers point of view. Thankfully the story begins quite well and was able to draw me in. I really enjoyed it.
The story uses some standard tropes for young adult novels and it does seem geared for the lower to middle end of the scale, but it doesn't necessarily exclude adult readers. The grammar and spelling are well handled so there is little in mechanical road bumps going into the story. It is written in first person which seems again par for many young adults and it's a great POV to use when starting writing. There are a number of pitfalls that naturally occur in first person writing that seem to have been avoided; so it's a job well done. It is also presented in present tense, which can be a challenge to both the writer and the reader. Christina Farley handles it all quite well, but even so it's not always that easy to convince the reader to read on; even when it's well done.
The writing and pace flow quite well and make this a very quick read for a novel of its length. I found myself sailing through it in the early part of a quiet weekend. It was easy to finish in one sitting. With all these great things going for it, I have to wonder why there are people who were disappointed in the novel as a whole. I think that one thing that stood out was that many expected something different from this novel. I can't put my finger on why, because I knew right off since it was young adult and involved mythology; so I knew it was going to be a strong fantasy story. I felt that I got as much as I expected. If you consider learning a few things about Korea, then I obtained a bit more than that.
Because there are a lot of young adult novels out these days there does seem to be a standard pattern of tropes that weave into most narratives and that is probably another potential negative point. With this in mind it makes it hard on the writer who writes young adult, because they have to create some strong characters that are different in order to give the reader more than just the same old same. Christina Farley does a good job of creating a diverse group of people to drive her story. There are some decisions about main characters that stand out; often not quite in the best way possible and I think it was a style choice rather than poor writing. What I mean by that is that this is a heavy fantasy with the need for the reader to suspend their disbelief a lot about the plot and the underlying world of the story. With that in mind the reader needs strong realistic characters to pull them through all of the wonder; and in some way the decision to portray Jae Hwa a specific way may not have helped some readers.
What I mean by this is that many times I felt Jae was being portrayed as someone who acted a few ages below her actual age. This lack of maturity may have been meant to offset the fact that she seems to be a master at Tae Kwan Do and a crack archer. She most times seems fairly bright but the lack of maturity and being up against some heavy duty academic types in her new school often seems to off-balance her character too much. This created the opportunity to overlook the fact that part of the story seems to be about her character flaw of being somewhat immature and having to work on reaching a more mature attitude and as a reader I almost lost that entirely.
This growth is there; unfortunately it occurs at the same time as the reader is distracted by the somewhat obvious collection of 'key' elements that Jae must assemble and then by some bits of wit and mostly luck she finds how to use them. Many of these are pretty obvious to the reader, but extra time and words are spent making sure the reader sees them several times to have them indelibly placed within their thoughts. It may have proven as profitable to spend as much time on the clues to Jae gathering maturity.
That much said; I think I did figure it out and I was thoroughly entertained, which is why I give Gilded high marks. It takes a little bit of thought and some great patience to get to the end and realize that Jae has actually made some strides forward.
This is a good read for Young Adults on the lower to middle half of the scale and for all lovers of pure fantasy and a bit of romance.
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