I smell the blood of an Englishman,
Be he alive, or be he dead
I’ll have his bones to grind my bread. – Joseph Jacobs
The only thing Jack Wicket is willing to work hard at is coming up with schemes to avoid having to work hard at anything at all, but getting rich while remaining idle isn’t working out so well for the boy either, while he watches—and largely scorns—his best and only friend, Blythe Midwinter, as he grudgingly traipses about the countryside, and to market, selling his sister’s baked goods. It’s not exactly fulfilling any of Blythe’s dreams, but at least it’s an honest trade, as much as he dislikes it.
Blythe is a fifteen-year-old boy living with his sister, Molly, who is more mother than sisterly, and his flatulent frère, Bertie, whose specialty seems to be filling their small and humble cottage with unsavory aromas of the gaseous variety, as well as enduring attention from the mothers and daughters who see Bertie as potential husband material. The Midwinters may not have much in the way of material wealth, but they’re a family and sometimes family is everything.
Gold in the Clouds is a coming-of-age story, told in and around the fairy tale Jack and the Beanstalk, with a smattering of other tales woven in for fun. From The Emperor’s New Clothes to The Bremen Town Musicians to Rumplestiltskin, just to name a few, Hayden Thorne spins her word-magic and has created a story of first love between two boys who may be on opposite ends of the social spectrum but who very much fulfill the recipe of the perfect fairy tale romance between the charming suitor, Edrik Vicary, and Blythe, the poor but proud commoner.
There are no fairy godmothers or glass slippers in this story, but there is most definitely a cow and some magic beans and the riches found amongst the cloud ogres, who do not delight at all in Jack’s sticky-fingered visits. It’s a story that proves the point there can be only one hero in Jack’s quest, but Blythe has a journey all his own to realize, one in which he will find riches of a very different sort.
If you love fables of first love told with humor and heart, then I can’t recommend Gold in the Clouds enough.