Since her father's death, the fate of the Miller family woolen mill and that of the Shearing village rests on Charlotte's shoulders. An unexpected and seemingly insurmountable debt leads to a difficult choice for the normally practical and levelheaded miller's daughter.
Must she take the offer of the strange little man who can weave straw into gold, or can she make her own way through the maze of ill luck and deceit that seems her family legacy?
Elizabeth C. Bunce's A CURSE DARK AS GOLD is worth its own weight in gold and then some. A folkloric re-telling beyond Rumpelstiltskin proportions, this tale weaves the best storytelling techniques into a fine tapestry of intrigue, drama, and romance.
The tight writing never wavers. Gorgeous, consistent language abounds, like, "I sank to my knees in a sea of crumpled flannel and pressed my hands into the sharp shale of the yard, as if bites from the stones could remind me of who I was."
And just who is Charlotte Miller? Certainly one of the most fascinating characters I've come across of late. If not self-confident at the beginning of our story, she is at least confident in what she knows: the mill cannot go under and the families of Shearing cannot be allowed to starve or scatter to the winds. As she is the only one around to prevent these happenings, Charlotte will do what she must to prevent them. And so she does.
As time goes on, and with Pinchfields Mill of Harrowgate nipping at her heels, Charlotte's choices become ever more difficult and the stakes are raised as she struggles through crisis after crisis. Charlotte's resolve to dismiss the very idea of the Miller Curse crumbles into a pile of wasted wishes as the harsh reality of the unreal comes to be. She is forced to play the hand that's dealt, facing sinister forces she once easily dismissed.
A strong protagonist indeed.
Every word counts in this amazing book. The language, while assuredly stunning and appealing, is never frivolous. It's hard to believe this is a debut novel, and I eagerly await whatever Ms. Bunce wishes to put in front of me next, as it's sure to be delightful and satisfying if it's near the quality of A CURSE DARK AS GOLD.
It's only fitting that this novel be recommended for the Gold Star Award for Excellence and admittance to the TeensReadToo Hall of Fame.
Reviewed by: Julie M. Prince