A Curse as Dark as Gold, by Elizabeth C. Bunce

This book, buy released on Saturday, clinic came highly recommended by Tamora Pierce. I saw that it was a retelling of Rumpelstiltskin and realized I hadn’t read very many, urologist if any, full-length retellings of that particular fairy tale. I happened to glance at the copyright page, and saw that Elizabeth C. Bunce’s actual name is Stephanie Elizabeth Bunce. As a fellow Stephanie, I have to admit that I’m disappointed that she decided not to use her first name professionally. *sniff*

Charlotte Miller, seventeen, has just lost her father as this book opens. She has a younger sister, Rosie, who’s perhaps twelve or thirteen, and a mill. It’s perhaps the mid-seventeen-hundreds in a world rather analogous to England, and the mill has, for the past several years, been running on the edge of disaster for many years. In addition to the chancy market, as Charlotte discovers, there are odd occurrences that happen all the time — ruined bolts of cloth, broken floorboards, etc. Shortly after her father’s death, Charlotte discovers that he had taken out a mortgage on the mill — and the bank has sent a Mr. Randall Woodstone to collect. Luckily Mr. Woodstone turns out to be sympathetic — to the mill and also to Charlotte herself. Also, somewhat after the funeral, their mother’s brother, Mr. Wheeler, comes to visit. Sometimes he seems to be helping a lot, and sometimes he’s just a bit — odd. Things at the mill get stranger and more desperate, and when the mill is at its worst, a mysterious stranger shows up. As one might guess, he can spin straw into gold.

Charlotte, our first-person narrator, is wonderful. She is practical, possibly to a fault, but possessed of a deep need to care for every single person in the village. A less honorable woman might have sold the mill earlier, trusting that the employees would find another job. A less honorable woman might have treated Uncle Wheeler differently. Charlotte tries to believe the best of everyone, including drunken and temperamental employees. Charlotte’s sister, Rosie, is the spitfire little sister in the Dashwood mold. She helps take care of the mill, and worries about Charlotte. Mr. Woodstone is a perfect romantic hero, in the taking-her-away-from-reality mold. The townspeople all have their individual quirks, and the town’s wisewoman, Biddy Tom, is exactly as expected.

I really enjoyed Charlotte’s progression of falling in love with Mr. Woodstone. I found it incredibly realistic, fitting with the times, and well-paced. However, I didn’t like the major love conflict. It was my least favorite type: one spouse has a secret and refuses to share it with the other, even though sharing the secret will make life much easier. Distrust builds. Although it fit with the story, it bothers me that I find myself wanting to yell at the character, “JUST TELL HIM!” As a plotline, I advocate using it sparingly.

The setting was incredibly complete; each description jumped off the page as if it were a painting. Bunce also incorporated a good amount of detail regarding the mill itself, and the industry. The tone of the book is a bit melancholy, though; so much tragedy happened in the past that a truly happy ending would have been incongruous.

I have to admit, that while this book was very well-done in nearly every particular, it was the kind of book that one needs to be in a particular mood for. I’ll still award it 4.5/5 stars, but it’s a bittersweet story. I’d recommend it to nearly everyone, provided they have a taste for this kind of a novel, over perhaps fourteen. Adults should enjoy this just as much as YAs; the story has depth and richness beyond the age of the heroine.

2 thoughts on “A Curse as Dark as Gold, by Elizabeth C. Bunce”

  1. I also enjoyed this one, but, like you said, it’s a book you have to be in a particular mood for, and I wasn’t in that mood. It was a great book, but, well, I didn’t find myself really invested in the storyline as I was supposed to be.

  2. Jocelyn, I sympathize. When I finished reading the book, I thought, “wow, that was awesome!” but I almost regretted reading it as it put a bit of a damper on my mood. Ah well.

    Mind if I blog-roll you?

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