A Curse Dark as Gold
by Elizabeth C. Bunce
Anyone who aspires to write fiction, but who worries that all the good stories have already been told, needs to experience a book like this. Like many of the novels I have enjoyed over the years, it doesn't attempt to break new ground. It simply combines a retelling of a fairy-tale classic with the trappings of an authentic historical novel and the atmosphere of a gothic mystery. It's a shepherd's-pie of savory old favorites, or rather a worsted skillfully woven and dyed with a love for the people, place, and way of life around which the story is set.
My reviews have covered re-tellings of "Beauty and the Beast," "East of the Sun and West of the Moon," "The Sleeping Beauty," and other nursery favorites. This book happens to be a grown-up version of "Rumpelstiltskin," but instead of a king, it is a bank that demands a room full of spun gold. Instead of a medieval kingdom haunted by gnomes with unguessable names, it is set in a just-barely pre-Industrial England haunted by--oh, I don't know--a ghost, or maybe a curse? And instead of the miller's daughter being handed over like chattel by her greedy and boastful father, this book's Charlotte Miller is a strong, independent young beauty who is fighting to save her mill, her family, and her community from the grasp of an unscrupulous competitor.
It's a chilling, romantic, and at times strangely believable tale. It features a local witch who doesn't do magic, a wool mill with a mind of its own, a dandified uncle you'll want to strangle, a long-forgotten injustice that will make your flesh crawl, and a romance seemingly threatened by such inevitable tragedy that your heart will ache. This book, or rather this author, faces brave and unashamed the problem of how to tell an old story and make it feel new. Read it and you will agree that it is possible, after all, to spin an original yarn out of well-worn material. When it's done just right, even though you know where the thread is going, you can get caught in it anyway. And yes, this book's Kansas City-based author does it right.
St. Louis, USA
Recommended Age: 13+
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