I was hoping for a bit romance The first half 5 amazing stars view spoiler through the proposal hide spoiler I ve been savoring this one I mean, I read a chunk every day, don t get me wrong But if something happened to come up at night during my normal reading time, instead of muttering, Vital point, like I usually do, I was up for it.Watch a movie Sure.Clean out a few boxes from the study Let s do it Because I just didn t want this book to end It than lived up to the expectations I had, having heard such wonderful early reviews And I was so pleased that it did because the initial prospect of a Rumpelstiltskin retelling was not all that attractive.Let s face it, in its original form it s an awful fairy tale Awful Dad sells his nameless daughter to Awful King in exchange for money Awful King threatens nameless daughter with death unless she is able to spin straw into gold Otherwise he ll marry her Then to top it all off, creepily Awful Dwarf appears and saves nameless daughter s bacon.in exchange for her potential first born child And she s willing to make this Awful Bargain because she really doesn t want to die and can see no other way out So she marries Awful King, makes a baby with him shocker , and, when Awful Dwarf comes to claim his due, is only able to save her baby by guessing his Awful Name Yeah Not my favorite fairy tale.Turns out it wasn t Elizabeth C Bunce s favorite either I love that she rewrote it because it bothered her And she did such a splendid job filling in the cracks, reworking the plot, carefully shaping it into a lovely tale of courage and ill luck, curses and redemption The setting was a perfect choice eighteenth century England, just on the cusp of the Industrial Revolution And the beautiful names Charlotte Miller, Randall Woodstone, Shearing, Stirwaters, Jack Spinner The names truly belong to their characters and places I could tell each one was carefully chosen for effect, like a Dickens cast And I was drawn to them, the animate and inanimate alike For the mill, the mansion, and the curse itself are characters in their own right Bunce s beautiful, unselfconscious writing propels the story forward to its climactic conclusion This is a dark, drafty, remarkably real tale and, like Jack Spinner, it will spin its golden thread around you. Charlotte Miller Has Always Scoffed At Talk Of A Curse On Her Family S Woolen Mill, Which Holds Her Beloved Small Town Together But After Her Father S Death, The Bad Luck Piles Up Departing Workers, Impossible Debts, An Overbearing Uncle Then A Stranger Named Jack Spinner Offers A Tempting Proposition He Can Turn Straw Into Gold Thread, For The Small Price Of Her Mother S Ring As Charlotte Is Drawn Deeper Into Her Bargains With Spinner And A Romance With The Local Banker She Must Unravel The Truth Of The Curse On The Mill And Save The Community She S Always Called Home I LOVED this book Loved the way this retelling of Rumplestilskin was fit into a real setting, loved the way even despicable characters had their moments when we felt sorry for them, loved the magic and the mystery I loved the words, too I m living in a non English speaking country and sometimes I feel starved for words, and by the time I got to page 2 it was all I could do not to stuff the whole book in my mouth and devour it Lovely AND IT JUST WON THE WILLIAM MORRIS AWARD FOR BEST FIRST YA Not a bad book, really, justa book that had some aspects to it that kept me from enjoying it enough to give it stars A pet peeve of mine in fiction is when a protagonist constantly makes the wrong decision in situations that might have brought about a sooner resolution Specifically, when other characters who want to and can help ask her what s wrong, and she keeps her secret bottled up, dealing with the problems on her own This especially seems ridiculous when the character keeps her secret from characters she should trust The whole idea of Charlotte marrying a man, and then refusing to let him help her one ounceuntil he is so frustrated he leaves her.just.seemed rather frustrating and far fetched One thing I did notice and appreciate, however, was that the author put the emphasis on the emotions and the plot, and not on the descriptions of the two girls In fact, I ended the story not quite clear whether the girls were blonde, brunette, or redhead, actually pretty or plain In an age of storytelling where the female protagonist is usually described within the first few pages as uniquely pretty or plain compared to her sisters, with long red hair etc, it was actually refreshing to have an author focus on substance rather than physique although I ll admit, I do love a story with a pretty protagonist too. Every possible fairytale is eventually hunted down and stripped of its elements for middle grade and YA novel reinterpretation This is not an unusual thing For centuries humans have been fascinated with such tales, telling them, retelling them, and changing them to suit current needs Nowandays, when contemporary authors take a tale it becomes the skeleton for a larger story to come Cinderella becomes Donna Jo Napoli s Bound East of the Sun, West of the Moon becomes Sun and Moon Ice and Snow by Jessica Day George or East by Edith Pattou Nothing against the titles I ve already mentioned, but my favorite reinterpretations are always the ones that aren t considered princess tales The Magic Circle, which took the Hansel and Gretel tale and turned it into a story of mental illness Or this book, A Curse Dark as Gold which reimagines the Rumpelstiltskin story with cleverness and style Though I feel some judicious pruning was probably in order, Bunce s debut binds together a strong story with characters that make you believe Few books are lucky enough to do so much It s so much simpler to live your life when you know what you want When Charlotte Miller s father dies and leaves his mill, Stirwaters, to his daughters Charlotte knows that all she wants is keep the place running Tragedy after bad luck, however, sees to it that unless Charlotte wants very much to see Stirwaters survive she must seek the help of a stranger Named Jack Spinner, the man promises to give Charlotte the things she wants the most But at what price There is much to be said for a story that knows what it s about from page one onward Sometimes you ll read a novel and as the plot progresses it feels as if the author is realizing where the story goes alongside their reader Such books tend to be disappointing Curse, however, has no such internal weaknesses No gaps in the narrative or flaws in the work I can see some young readers becoming confused with Bunce s mechanical take on the old Rumpelstiltskin tale They might wonder for some time where the spinning comes in Of course, all is cleared up when Charlotte mentions to a visitor, Spinning is at the heart of our operation here It is the machines that spin, of a fashion And like Paul Zelinsky s version of Rumpelstiltskin, Bunce understands the technical aspects of this fairy tale When the gold is created it doesn t lie in bushels but rather as Gleaming reels of thread stacked chest high all along one wall, like rows of corncobs Sometimes the technical the text, the better the read The romantic element, I must admit, is fairly forgettable Having read this book about a year ago I d entirely forgotten that Charlotte even had a beau until I reread it again recently What sticks far clearly in the mind is Charlotte s personality, her love of her sister, her uncle s attempts to become World s Greatest Cad, and Jack Spinner I even remembered the reason why Spinner does the things he does, but I could not remember Charlotte s beau Randall to save my soul He s a steady fellow, but not at the heart of the piece As such, I wouldn t sell this book to kids with the lure of romance Rather, I d fashion it as a gripping mystery and a book where magic is at its most duplicitous This is a book too slippery to slot in the standard lovey dovey romance aisle Give it a little respect The KLIATT review of this book said that it takes place in the nonspecific past of the Industrial Revolution That s fair Bunce basically says as much at the beginning of her Author s Note The School Library Journal review said, A rich opening to Jane Austen s world for teens That s bizarre Surely if you had to compare this book to something then it would be far of a George Eliot piece, yes Bunce s talent at putting a smart sentence together is commendable as well One such example might be when Charlotte is compelled to tell the truth against her instincts I sat in stony silence a crack in my foundations growing wider and wider by the moment I love that kind of stuff The slow and steady tone of the piece is not in and of itself a problem Not every novel has to interrupt itself with car chases and fight scenes, after all Magic isn t even hinted at, in fact, until page 100 or so More difficult is the sheer length of the novel At 400 pages there are times when the reader wonders if every scene here is absolutely necessary Working at of a clip the length of the book would be less noticeable As it stands, the weight sometimes drags the reader down Kirkus suggested in their review that Charlotte was possessed of an infuriating secretiveness , which normally drives me bonkers in books There is no type of story that disturbs me than one where the protagonist constantly goes against the will of the reader But Bunce s tale didn t have that affect on me Maybe it was because she put us so effectively into the head of her heroine Maybe it had to do with the fact that we understood her motivations And maybe it also had something to do with the fact that when Charlotte is surprised by something, we the readers are surprised as well Bunce does us the honor of not pulling her punches and we respect her in turn.All first time novelists are usually marketed as that first time novelists This is both a blessing and a curse If they do supremely well then people will marvel over their so called luck Inevitably, they will then write their second novel and no matter how good it is, someone somewhere will be disappointed in it However if the first novel is well done but has a few areas that deserved tightening up, critics will smile patronizingly and murmur, That s all right She s clearly a debut novelist Give her a few books and I m sure she ll straighten right up I don t particularly want to say that about this book, but I do honestly believe that this is a strong start straight out of the gate with a few areas that could have been helped Do not let this put you off, however Bunce has clearly defined herself as one to watch and I ll be first in line to see whatever it may be that she has hidden up her sleeve next A good start to an authorial career.Ages 10 and up. This is a good book but I didn t enjoy reading it.Good writing, good dialogue, tightly woven plot, good research BUT for 90% of the book neither the reader nor the narrator know what s going on, which is 1 incredibly frustrating and 2 leads to a big info dump at the end.The time and place is unspecified which being a fairy tale, should be ok, but here I was slightly maddened that the writer tried to put such a real world context to it, especially all the information about the early Industrial Revolution, yet refused to give so much as the current monarch s name.What I did like was here the Rumpelstiltskin character was both menacing and sympathetic I ve seen versions where he is one or the other but the combination here was a new twist, although it took forever and a day to clarify who he was, and how he got all his powers in the first place was too vague.It was pretty horrifying to learn that generations of the Miller family had been willing to choose a pile of timber over their own sons and considering how dangerously schizophrenic the mill itself was, I was cheering on for its demise the whole book, despite the supposedly positive role model of the main character being a girl in man s world proving she could too run a business I didn t like the main character she really failed to elicit my sympathy, especially her tendency to be so practical as to ignore all evidence pointing towards the supernatural, and then, AND THEN , when she jumps on board the S.S Witchcraft, full steam ahead, damn the torpedoes, she promises without being tricked into saying it Anything as the payment Never promise anything next thing you known, John the Baptist s head is on a sliver plate, the sun chariot gets crashed, and , surprise, surprise, you re asked to hand over your own baby What rock was she living under If there is one word that I would use to sum up this book it sintricate. I was floored to find out that this was the author s debut novel Ms Bunce is up there with the best veterans of the fantasy genre.Charlotte Miller knows her share of hardships Her mother and baby brother died, and the book starts with the reader witnessing Charlotte and her sister burying their father Too bad for Charlotte that this is not the last she is going to see of bad luck With her father gone she has to shoulder the responsibility of being in charge of the mill Stirwaters is everything to their town, and she can not and will not let it fall She literally will do anything to keep the mill going When things start to get rough a mysterious man who calls himself Jack Spinner comes in to save the day Charlotte being the level headed young woman she is doesn t buy it at first, but Jack Spinner proves himself to be reliable Of course everything always comes at a price Will Charlotte be willing to pay the highest price of all In the beginning of the book you feel like Charlotte, that everything is rooted in reality As the story progresses though you can feel that the lines of reality begin to blur into this magical world around them Not even once did I think this world was not real The historical background of the story gives the reader a sense of realness and helps to make the magic believable Charlotte at times could be stubborn beyond comprehension, but I understood her even though I didn t always agree with her She always did everything to protect the people she cared about, and you really can t be mad at someone who has that quality The plot is done superbly Every character and every bit of info comes back around to show what had been hiding in plain sight all along The right person just had to be willing to look Characters are always the heart of the story and this particular cast of characters were true to form and kept the book pulsating Randall was my favorite, but I d say the most interesting was Uncle Wheeler Uncle Wheeler I d say is the one who really hits the theme of what a name truly means, and what it doesn t A brilliantly crafted story of love, mystery, and magic. I bought this book expecting to fall in love with it, and it did not let me down It was an incredible story, and my head is spinning with everything I want to say about it.First of all, I was touched before the story even began In Elizabeth Bunce s acknowledgements she says And lastly, to my husband, Christopher, for always being there If I wrote you into a story, no one would believe you were real I think that is lovely, and I was in love with the author from the get go.On that subject make sure you read the Author s Note at the end I thought it was a fantastic addition to the story in itself She touches on several key points of her story, and I thought the notes were fascinating.Now the story I thought it began a tad slow, although I was in love with Charlotte Miller from the beginning From the first paragraph, she easily takes on the strong female lead role There are so many lovely characters in this storyeveryone from the witchy midwife Biddy Tom to the wool dyer Mr Mordant added such rich life to the story.Usually when a book begins too fairy tale like I get annoyed, but Curse has such a great mix of reality and fairy tale that it works The things that would normally seem like quite a stretch just work in this case I love reading a book with a constant cloud of suspense Through this entire book, you get the something is just not RIGHT feeling, and it intensifies as Charlotte uncovers just exactly what it is that isn t right She falls in love with Randall At first, he seems like a knight in shining armor, then his character begins to look a bit weak I wonder if that was on purpose I hope so , then at the end he really does help save the day.AnywayI m rambling Suffice it to say that I LOVED this story, and I highly recommend it to anyone that loves YA, fantasy, or fairy tale retellings. If you, like me, are hard pressed to find truly chilling gothic fiction, then A Curse Dark as Gold is not one to pass up As a re telling of Rumplestiltskin, this novel is haunting, poetic, and most importantly whole Out of all the fairy tales in the world, Rumplestiltskin is easily my least favorite After all, who really wants to read the story of a nameless heroine who later betrays the only character who helps her and winds up marrying the man who threatened to ruin her It simply doesn t make for good literature and, over, there is something grotesque about the dark underbelly of human nature that it manages to expose With A Curse Dark as Gold, however, Bunce has taken this flawed and largely unlikable tale and crafted it into a believable story, one full of human flaws, but also realistic virtues A Curse Dark as Gold is, as many readers will undoubtedly rush to admit, slow And yet, it is never cumbersome Bunce s writing is beautiful and as she builds for us the mythical village of Shearing, she also slowly writes the creeping tale of ill luck and curses that have followed the Miller family for ages Charlotte and Rosie, the two sisters of Stirwaters, are orphaned when this novel begins, but quickly take up the difficult mantle of running their late father s business As can be expected, a slew of new changes is in store for them, from their little seen Uncle Wheeler making an appearance to the discovery of thousands of pounds of debt their father hasn t paid and my favorite the introduction of Randall Woodstone, a banker As Bunce throws multiple hurdles at these two sisters, she also peels back the layers of rumors and superstitions that surround Stirwaters and the Miller family One of the only reasons this novel excels is because of Charlotte Not only is Charlotte a headstrong, self sufficient, and reliable heroine one who doesn t shirk responsibility and embraces hard work but she s also extremely pragmatic Charlotte refuses to believe in the Curse of Stirwaters, meeting challenge after challenge with a clear mind And yet, as this novel progresses, as misfortune presses down upon her, Charlotte slowly begins to fall back upon the hidden mysteries of her home that she has refused to acknowledge Where Bunce truly shines in her portrayal of Charlotte is in displaying the dual nature of her personality Every trait of Charlotte s that is one to be applauded her stubborn nature, her commitment to the mill, her loyalty to her family are all slowly spun in such a way to become her downfall and revealed to truly be flaws A Curse Dark as Gold is, as I mentioned earlier, a very slow, creeping read, one that builds its gothic atmosphere as the curse becomes and actualized in our minds As Bunce writes this atmosphere, though, she perfectly captures its effects upon her protagonist, rendering her a far three dimensional character than the nameless heroine she was originally based off of Bunce continues to strengthen the original tale of Rumplestiltskin through her interpretation of the dwarf himself Jack Spinner, a mysterious man who appears whenever Charlotte and Stirwaters are nearing their ends, is one of the best villains I ve come across I am relieved to announce that Bunce does, in fact, tie up all loose ends concerning Spinner s character by the end of the novel, and she does so brilliantly, instilling a level of history, sorrow, and depth to a villain we formerly may have thought to be forgettable And yet, what makes Spinner such a brilliant character is his ability to bring out the worst in the best people I love that Bunce took an innocuous device from Rumplestiltskin the dwarf s ability to prey upon helpless individuals, gradually increasing his payments and forcing their own hand at evil to stop him and brought it to life, even encompassing than before, to drive home the extent of gray matter that exists within everyone s hearts Nevertheless, A Curse Dark as Gold would fall seriously short of its mark of brilliance without its cast of secondary characters First and foremost, the village of Shearing is a force to be reckoned with Bunce makes this fictional environment come to life, with her accurate descriptions of the Industrial Age how I love a well written historical fiction novel in England and her lyrical prose More than that, though, her vision of Stirwaters a mill that provides for the livelihood of an entire village is given breath and air as these workers become just as dear to us as they are to Charlotte Stirwaters, not to be outdone by Shearing, comes with its own ghostly atmosphere, from hexes that refuse to be erased to equipment that won t work without the presence of a charm to ward off evil nearby Its owners, Charlotte and Rosie, are family that worm their way into your heart Rosie, though lacking the extent of responsibility that Charlotte faces, is no less admirable, courageous, and intelligent I particularly loved watching the relationship arc between these siblings, from their arguments to small gestures of love I would do this book an injustice, however, without mentioned my absolutely favorite character, Randall Woodstone Randall arrives in Shearing to collect the many pounds that Charlotte s father borrowed on loan from the bank Although he is easily dismissible at first glance, Randall soon continues to makes re appearances in Charlotte s life and their romance, though brief, is fitting for this time period What I truly loved about his character, though, is that he embodies the qualities that I seek in a worthy romantic interest loyal, intelligent, and respectful Randall allows Charlotte free rein of her business, never interfering and only seeking to support her Although my heart broke at the multiple hurdles they faced not always together I loved the progression of their relationship, from their realistic stumbles to their messy patch ups Bunce never allows us to view this couple through rose tinted glasses, showing us the stark reality of their relationship and the strain of both the curse and hidden secrets, but our patience and love for these two pays off by the end A Curse Dark as Gold, if it isn t already obvious, is simply not one to miss Although this novel firmly remains a re telling of Rumplestiltskin and a brilliant one, at that it goes on to encompass so much than merely that, from its history to its characters It reminded me, very much, of Jennifer Donnelly s A Northern Light. If you re a fan of strong heroines, one who can t necessarily fight to the death but ones who can stand up for what they believe in and fight in any way they know how for their families, then this book is for you If you re a fan of fairy tale re tellings, especially re imagined ones that only serve to better the original tale, then this book is for you And, most importantly, if you re a fan of courage, especially found in dark times, then this book is most definitely for you Just take my word for it Stirwaters is worth the visit very much so.
Elizabeth C Bunce is the author of the new Myrtle Hardcastle Mystery series, beginning with Premeditated Myrtle.Her first novel, A Curse Dark as Gold, won the inaugural William C Morris Award for a young adult debut novel and was named a Smithsonian Notable Book Her high fantasy Thief Errant series includes the novels StarCrossed, A Chicago Public Library Best of the Best book for 2010, and
- 396 pages
- A Curse Dark as Gold
- Elizabeth C. Bunce
- 21 July 2019 Elizabeth C. Bunce