What a great book. Elizabeth Bunce managed to fit thrills, mystery, fairy tales, romance, friendship, and intrigue into one amazing young adult book. I can certainly understand why this fantastic fantasy novel has been included on the Cybils shortlist for the SciFi/Fantasy category. And that's with it being a retelling of a famous fairy tale...a feat often difficult to accomplish successfully.
A Curse as Dark as Gold focuses on Charlotte, a young woman forced to take over as the executive of her father's mill once he passes away unexpectedly. The employees of the mill, as well as most of the townspeople believe a curse has been placed on the mill, as nothing good ever comes within the walls. People die there, family members become ill, machines break constantly, and a boy that has been born to a Miller has never survived to adulthood. Charlotte doesn't believe any of the curse talk and refuses to allow the gossip to take her focus away from the tasks she has to perform, but leaves her feeling incredibly lonely and worried about how she is going to continue to keep the mill running.
When financial problems become more than she can bear and Charlotte is in a complete state of despair as to what she should with a mill practically falling down around her, a strange man appears, offering Charlotte and her sister reels of gold thread, spun from straw of all things, in exchange for a simple gift as payment. Not believing in the man's witchcraft, the girls agree, more out of curiosity than of greed. When the man does indeed spin the gold and it is able to be sold in order to pay the mortgage on the mill, the girls are amazed, though still wary.
As time goes on, the bad events surrounding the mill continue and the strange man shows up on more than one occasion bailing Charlotte out financially with his magic ways. When she agrees to give him absolutely anything he wants for just one more time of magic, the man agrees and once he comes to collect his payment, Charlotte realizes just how deep she has gotten herself into a web of deception and magic.
The writing in this novel is just amazing, sucking me in from the very first page. Though anyone who has heard the story of Rumpelstiltskin knows how the tale goes, Bunce has managed to weave an impressive story into the popular fairy tale. Fans of Libba Bray will go crazy for this one!
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A Curse as Dark as Gold
Elizabeth C. Bunce
Arthur A. Levine Books