The Crimson Thread – by Suzanne Weyn
The Crimson Thread is among the latest in the Once Upon a Time series published by Simon Pulse. I was intrigued by the concept of a retelling of Rumplestiltskin, as it is used more rarely than some of the other fairy tales in the series. I have to say that ultimately, I found it somewhat forgettable but enjoyable nonetheless.
The story is set in the Industrial Age in the United States and centers on a girl from an Irish immigrant family. Bridget gets a job working for a wealthy New York family, sewing and designing clothing for their textile business after her father brags about her skills, claiming, as in the traditional tale, that she can spin gold from straw. She gets aid in the form of a tailor who calls himself Ray Stalls, and who clearly has a romantic interest in Bridget, though she is more interested in the handsome but useless son of her employer. The historical fiction aspect was an interesting and unique frame for the story, and the inclusion of a non-magical way of spinning straw into gold was well done.
Bridget’s story manages to follow the basic lines of the fairy tale with a personal spin (no pun intended), while staying squarely in the historical fiction genre. Unfortunately, though I certainly have nothing against fantasy, Weyn adds a prologue and an epilogue from the point of view of a fairy who appears to have no purpose but to follow Bridget around and make note of her adventures as a descendant of the last King of Ireland. This royalty and fairy plot is largely pointless and could have been left out entirely without compromising the story in the least. Are princes, princesses, and fairies a requirement of the series, or does Weyn really think the reader needs these things in a fairy tale retelling? At the very least they should only be included when they add something to the plot.
Beyond that, my only real complaint is that I wish that discovering Ray’s true name had been more of a crucial part of the story’s resolution and less of a side note.