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The Crimson Thread: A Retelling of "Rumpelstiltskin" (Once upon a Time Series)

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by Suzanne Weyn

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"Once upon a Time" Is Timeless

The year is 1880, and Bertie, having just arrived in New York with her family, is grateful to be given work as a seamstress in the home of textile tycoon J. P. Wellington. When the Wellington family fortune is threatened, Bertie's father boasts that Bertie will save the business, that she is so skillful she can


"Once upon a Time" Is Timeless

The year is 1880, and Bertie, having just arrived in New York with her family, is grateful to be given work as a seamstress in the home of textile tycoon J. P. Wellington. When the Wellington family fortune is threatened, Bertie's father boasts that Bertie will save the business, that she is so skillful she can "practically spin straw into gold."

Amazingly, in the course of one night, Bertie creates exquisite evening gowns — with the help of Ray Stalls, a man from her tenement who uses an old spinning wheel to create dresses that are woven with crimson thread and look as though they are spun with real gold. Indebted to Ray, Bertie asks how she can repay him. When Ray asks for her firstborn child, Bertie agrees, never dreaming that he is serious....

Editorial Reviews

Children's Literature - Keri Collins Lewis
When the O'Malley family arrives on the shores of America, they are blissfully unaware of the tests they will undergo as Irish people in the masses of immigrants streaming into New York City in search of a new life. Without a mother, caring for three-year-old Eileen, the three O'Malley sons, and the patriarch of the family falls to Bridget, who is only seventeen. In the squalor of a tenement apartment, Bridget struggles to hold her family together, and every time she feels particularly downtrodden or in need, a dark young man who goes only by the name of Ray magically comes to her rescue. His genius becomes evident when one night, Bridget's father promises his boss, textile tycoon J.P. Wellington, that his daughter is so skilled a seamstress that she can transform dull cloth into beautiful fashions and save his fortune. Ray's skills as a weaver and tailor prevent Bridget from losing her job but land her in an even more difficult predicament. As she discovers her own skills and strengths she is also faced with harsh realities and must decide what she values most. A compelling story of the plight of immigrants in late nineteenth century America, Suzanne Weyn's contribution to the "Once Upon a Time" series balances historical fact with emotional drama to transport readers back in time, where they will discover the stark differences in the lives of the wealthy and the poor and the grueling challenges of immigration. Weyn delicately navigates the conflicting philosophies of hiding their heritage to survive and the desire to remain loyal to their homeland, while demonstrating the benefits of friendships with people of different cultures. While the ending feels somewhat rushed, the fun twiston the original "Rumpelstiltskin" will appeal to teens' romantic sensibilities. Reviewer: Keri Collins Lewis
KLIATT - Donna Scanlon
"Rumplestiltskin" has always been my least favorite fairy tale. The miller's a liar, the daughter's a wimp, and the king has a poor grasp of acceptable courtship behavior. The only person with any semblance of integrity is Rumplestiltskin, the villain of the piece and the only one to keep his end of the bargain. Weyn redeems the tale with her retelling set in 1880. Bridget "Bertie" O'Malley has just arrived in America from Ireland with her father, three brothers, and little sister. Bertie almost immediately encounters Ray Stalls, a strange young man who seems to appear out of nowhere, at one point purchasing some crimson thread for her. Bertie soon finds work sewing in a sweatshop, but loses her job when her father and brothers get into trouble with the law. When her father changes his name from Patrick O'Malley to Rick Miller, he finds a job with a wealthy textile merchant and manages to get a job for Bertie as a seamstress. All is well until her father's gift of gab gets her into trouble, saying that Bertie could construct an elaborate gown overnight from scratch. Once again, it is Ray Stalls to the rescue, but Bertie is soon ensnared in more difficulties in a place where no one can help her. Weyn paints a lively and informative historical portrait of New York City at the brink of the 20th century, capturing the sounds, sights, and scents of the city. The images are evocative and the plot is gripping. In addition, Ray and Bertie are both appealing characters for whom the reader cares instinctively, even when things seem to have gone horribly wrong. Supporting characters are equally well drawn and realistic, from Bertie's impulsive father to the evil "prince" of the textile industry.Libraries that carry the Once Upon a Time series should definitely pick up this title, and for libraries new to the series, this title is a good place to start. Reviewer: Donna Scanlon

Product Details

Simon Pulse
Publication date:
Once upon a Time Series
Edition description:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
4.10(w) x 7.00(h) x 0.70(d)
Age Range:
12 - 17 Years

Read an Excerpt

Once upon a time, I believe it was 1880 or thereabouts, a young princess set sail from Ireland for a faraway land. Bridget O'Malley never knew she was of royal lineage, due to the reduced circumstances into which she was born.

Foreign conquest had brought endless brutal war to the land, and the devastation of this strife, coupled with the dire poverty it left in its wake, had long ago vanquished the line of magical druidic priestesses and high kings from which Bridget was descended. Though she did not appear the part in her rags and cloddish, peat-covered boots, Bridget O'Malley was, indeed, a princess, and, on her mother's side, a distant but direct descendent of the high king Cormac mac Airt of legend.

For anyone with eyes to see, her lineage should have been clear enough. She carried the brilliant, orange-red crown of vibrant, unruly curls that marked all the royal women of her line. She had the unmistakable crystal blue eyes and the spray of freckles across her high cheekbones.

As Queen Avriel of the Faerie Folk of Eire, I have watched these disowned royals, these noble spirits without crowns, for centuries too numerous to count. A descent in fortune may obscure royal lineage in the eyes of mankind, but not so in the realm of Faerie. Here we know that true royalty remains in the blood regardless of fortune's deviations. And so I watch and record the royal ones, despite the fluctuating cycles of rise and fall that they may experience.

Bridget and Eileen O'Malley were my special concern. After their mother died, Bridget and her wee sister were the last princesses of their line. In my ancient Book of Faerie their histories were recorded with no less attention than when their kinswomen of times past wore the Celtic crowns on their heads.

Bridget and little Eileen's lives were hard from the start, and then the Great Hunger struck. When the potato crop failed, the already-dire starvation, poverty, and crushing serfdom spun wildly out of control. The famine left mothers to die in their thatched cottages, their frozen babes blue in their arms. Between 1846 and 1850 droves of starving, desperate families set sail for distant shores. They went to lands known as Canada, Australia, Great Britain, and a place called America. Hundreds of them left, their meager belongings in tow, not knowing what lay ahead, but praying it would be better than the crushing life they'd had.

When Bridget's mother died, her father, Paddy O'Malley, decided that the time had come to do as so many of his neighbors and kin had already done. He would take his children to America.

And so — invisible to all — I went too, in my role as faerie historian. A strange fate awaited Princess Bridget. I never would have predicted the turns of events that she encountered, being unfamiliar with the magic of foreign lands as I was at the time. For the mix and tumble of exotic magic she experienced was like nothing I could have imagined; nor could have Bridget.

And thus begins this faerie's tale. Copyright © 2008 by Suzanne Weyn

Meet the Author

Suzanne Weyn has written more than 100 novels for children and young adults and has had her work featured on the New York Times bestseller list. Her books in the Once upon a Time series include The Crimson Thread and The Night Dance among others. Another contribution to the Pulse line is her Romantic Comedy, South Beach Sizzle. Suzanne lives in Putnam Valley, NY.s

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Crimson Thread: A Retelling of "Rumpelstiltskin" (Once upon a Time Series) 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 47 reviews.
TeensReadToo More than 1 year ago
Bridget O'Malley and her family are new immigrants to America in 1880 looking for a better life full of riches and dreams come true. Things in America aren't immediately wonderful and the family finds themselves looking for jobs and food while living in a small cramped tenement apartment in New York City.

In order to obtain a job as a coachman with the wealthy J.P. Wellington, Bridget's father changes the family name to Miller and boasts that his daughter, now known as Bertie, is an impressive seamstress. Paddy is quite the storyteller, and although Bertie has a talent for sewing, her skills are not quite what her father claims.

When the Wellington's find their family fortune in the textile industry in jeopardy, Paddy once again makes an outrageous claim about Bertie -- this time claiming she has the talent to spin straw into gold and fashion ugly plain fabric into stunning dresses with intricate designs. Bertie fears there is no way she can design and create the dresses expected of her. Desperate and in need, Bertie finds herself relying on the mysterious Ray Stalls for help.

THE CRIMSON THREAD is the latest addition to the ONCE UPON A TIME series, a series filled with retellings of fairy tales. Setting the story of Rumpelstiltskin amidst immigrants, wealth, and fashion of 1880 was an interesting take on the famous tale and added a touch of magic. I would imagine the story of Rumpelstiltskin a difficult story to re-tell, but the author added her own twist on the tale and characters which made it unique. A wonderful addition to the series and a must read for fairy tale lovers.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The second time I read this book I realized just how much I loved it. I could not help but fall in love with the story the character was telling. I found the character of Ray fascinating and totally fell in love with this character. I only wish that it has no ended so quickly. I think that this is one of the best books in the Once Upon a Time series and should be added to any fans collection.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
One of or the best of the series. In the middle of the book, I got fustrated though, with a decision the girl made. I thought it would ruin the whole book. I was wrong. I was pleased with the ending.
Kara Kuczkowski More than 1 year ago
I absolutely loved it. I have no complaints.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
hshust More than 1 year ago
BEWARE PLOT SPOLIERS!  I haven't read the book and now I won't due to more than one plot spoiling of them even has the spoiler as the review title!  Seriously?  Reviews are meant for people who have not yet read the book who are trying to decide if the book is worth purchasing.  If you want to discuss how the book ends, save it for a book club!!!  If you are considering buying this book, know that most people thought it was a good read .  Save yourself the frustration of having the ending ruined and don't read the reviews!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This was a really good book. Once again the main character finds true love which is common in the once upon a time series. I liked how the story all turned out but bertie made some pretty bad decisions in the story and she didnt stop to think when she said shed marry james. Bertie makes many friends though and all of the good characters lived happily ever after.
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book was amazing! It was not a fake and sappy like some love stories, but it still had a fantastic plot, a riveting romance and it showed the hardships of the time period! I absolutley recommend this book!!!!!!
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Crystal_Kido More than 1 year ago
I really enjoyed reading this story and did not want to put it down! The characters are really interesting and I especialy liked the role that Rumpelstiltskin played in this re-telling.
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