See more of my reviews sooner on The YA Kitten! My copy was an ARC provided by the publisher via NetGalley.Before I read this, "Bluebeard" was a mystery to me, so I did what I do and read the famous fairy tale. That may have been a mistake. Strands of Bronze and Gold needs to go the extra mile thanks to the tale it is based on, but it never mkes up for readers knowing how the great mystery of the novel turns out. Nickerson succeeds in tapping into the dark horror of the original tale, especially toward the end, but those moments are few and far between.Blubeard's (here, Bernard de Cressac) characterization and the novel's lovely, Gothic style are two of its few strong points. The first chapter's lovely writing had me and though I wavered thanks to the novel's many other issues, I never stopped loving the writing. As it goes on, the elements of Gothic stories we all love so much, like ghosts who may or may not be real and secrets hidden in a massive manor, take greater and greater precedence. M. de Cressac is appropriately creepy and layered too, showing times of weakness and humanity despite who he is: the monstrous Bluebeard. If only Sophie and the other characters were as strongly established.The writing can only carry one so far on its own, though. The characters aren't dynamic enough to keep readers going, nor is the plot enchanting enough. Sophia's days are spent exploring the house, getting creeped out by her godfather, wandering the woods (and meeting a boy a few times before that gets nipped in the bud), and other such dull things. I nearly DNFed this novel multiple times because so little was happening and the Gothic elements didn't become well-developed until the latter portions of the novel.Taking place in 1855 Mississippi as it does, there are plenty of slaves on M. de Cressac's plantation, and Sophia meets more than a few of them. She has the right ideas about slavery (it's wrong, she wants to help them escape, etc.), but the slaves only serve to show off how compassionate and right-minded she is on the issue. While exploring the forest, she meets a wise old black woman named Anarchy who gives her advice. The only other purpose she serves is to let Sophia interact with someone new. That's really... Yeah.It's a shame my first read of 2013 is such a disappointment, especially since I've been anticipating it for some time. Nickerson will have two more novels set in this world, but I don't think I'll be reading them. This might be a novel only those unfamiliar with "Bluebeard" or able to put it out of mind will enjoy.