A Curse Dark as Gold
by Elizabeth C. Bunce
Cover Artist: Michael Frost
Review by Nicole Brinkley
Arthur A. Levine Books Hardcover ISBN/ITEM#: 9780439895767
Date: 01 March 2008 List Price $17.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /
"Good." Spinner did not look at me -- his eyes were still on William. Slowly, as slowly as snow melting, his hand reached toward the basket, the blanket, the baby. "I'll take your son." Most kids were raised on the story of Rumpelstiltskin and the miller's daughter, who always remains anonymous -- but what happens when you see the story from her point of view?
Charlotte Miller is the last in a long, long line of Millers, and they have run the mill Stirwaters since ... since anybody can remember. When her father passes, though, and leaves the mill -- and all of its debts -- in her hands, Charlotte has to save the mill: townsfolk earn their pay from it, her sister lives there, and she loves that mill. When her Uncle Wheeler arrives with a letter from her father, saying that he is to care for her after her father has passed, she invites him right in.
But Uncle Wheeler is manipulating money out from under their fingertips, the bankers are asking for more money than she's ever seen in her life and, to top it all off, the mill seems to be cursed. It refuses to be repaired, and unexplainable events occur on a regular basis. As the bankers press for more money, she discovers a book of enchantments -- one of which calls aid. And when she chants it, a funny little man named Jack Spinner appears ... who spins her a thread of gold from straw. All of her problems are solved! But as the curse grows stronger, her needs grow more powerful, until Jack Spinner asks for the one thing she would not, could not, give away ... her precious son, the first Miller boy to have a chance of surviving in generations.
A Curse Dark as Gold starts out powerfully and keeps its plot going steadily throughout the whole book, with an occasional slow spot here or there that lasts but a few pages. The characters are strong and believable, and are neither 100 percent good nor bad. They have their faults -- I saw not one "perfect" character.
The beliefs that can be seen in small, rural villages were woven cleverly throughout the story, and by the ending, I found myself leaning forward, hunched over my book, praying that Charlotte would keep her son and that Jack Spinner would be vanquished for good (and perhaps that horrid uncle of hers as well). I loved the take on Rumpelstiltskin, and I highly recommend this book to any lover of folklore or fairy tales.