Tuesday, January 12, 2010

A Curse Dark as Gold by Elizabeth Bunce

Genre: Young adult/fantasy (fairy tale)
Publisher, Year: Arthur A. Levine, 2008
Other Works: Debut novel
Rating: A+ or Must Read Now!
Challenge: Reliquiae, Count, Tales, Library
Premise: The miller's daugther finds herself in a pickle, based on the fairy tale Rumpelstiltskin.

I am finding that I’m a real sucker for fairy tale retellings. There is just something about them! I haven’t met a bad one yet. I hope I never do. Elizabeth Bunce’s debut novel was no exception, based off of the fairy tale Rumpelstiltskin. Beautifully written, excellent story, creatively crafted. Loved it.

Charlotte is the miller’s daughter. Stirwaters mill has been in Charlotte’s family for generations—although never passed from father to son. There’s a dark cloud that hangs over the business, which only thickens as Charlotte’s father dies and she and her sister, Rosie, are left to try to run the mill alone. Problems keep cropping up: between bad weather and family obligation to machinery repairs and debt collection, Charlotte finds herself hard pressed for solutions. In the superstitious 18th century country town, the sisters happen upon a mysterious and unlikely answer to their problems, and they have to decide what they are willing to pay to save their livelihood. +/-

I was drawn into this story from the first page. Stirwaters is a spooky, yet comfortable place, and I came to love it as much as the Millers. The whole town of Shearing, where Charlotte and Rosie live, comes alive with skillfully written, colorful characters. Uncle Wheeler, Mr. Woodstone, Biddy Tom, and the most unforgettable character of Jack Spinner, round out the cast. You’d think in a novel like this one where you know the main storyline from beginning to end, that it would be hard for an author to bring such a fresh and interesting look to it! But, the book was still somehow full of moments of mystery, intrigue, and surprise.

The author very deftly described the “mill” life, acquiring wool, spinning it into thread, weaving it into cloth, and dying it to make valuable fabric. The whole process really captivated my interest. She breathed new life into this topic, making me wish I could take another trip to Lowell, Massachusetts, where they have textile museums as the trade spread to the United States. There’s nothing that can make a time period come alive like a well-written and -researched historical novel--this one happens to be both.

This book is part historical fiction, part fairy tale retelling, part fantasy. It’ll capture your attention and imagination. I’m definitely looking forward to what else Ms. Bunce may have up her sleeve.


Tena said...

adding this to my list now! Great review

kaye said...

I loved this book too.