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A Curse Dark As Gold

Review

A Curse Dark As Gold

There are whispers all around the town of Shearing that Stirwaters mill is cursed. Charlotte Miller doesn't know the half of it. That is, until her father dies and she and her younger sister Rosie are forced to take over Stirwaters. It seems that as soon as Charlotte gets hold of something at the mill, something else falls to pieces. It's an overwhelming task for anyone, but especially for two young girls in a time and place when women aren't exactly running everything.

Luckily, Charlotte and Rosie's Uncle Wheeler soon arrives to take charge. Their late mother's brother, Uncle Wheeler wears powdered wigs and insists that the girls get ready for their seasons in the city so they can begin to look for suitable marriage partners. So, perhaps, his arrival is more unfortunate than fortunate. As Charlotte struggles to keep the mill that has been in her family's hands for generations, Uncle Wheeler seems to have more debts accrue and more secret dealings with Pinchfields, the rival mill to Stirwaters.

Just as hope seems to be lost, enter Jack Spinner, a mysterious man who offers to spin simple straw into the most beautiful, pure golden thread the Millers have ever seen. He asks a small price, so Charlotte allows Spinner a night in the mill, and when he leaves, there are spools and spools of golden thread just as he promised. Simple, right?

Fleshed-out, fairy-tales-turned-novels are not really new. You can probably guess the story this particular book mirrors. But A CURSE DARK AS GOLD is truly different, and I did not anticipate each and every turn of the tale. It's a seamless fusion of fantasy and historical fiction in a world that is as utterly recognizable as late-18th century England as it is completely new and fantastical. The novel is a study of early industrialization, of how surnames came out of early occupations, and of early feminism. It is also, just as importantly, a clever and engaging story.

Fans of Libba Bray's Gemma Doyle trilogy will probably love A CURSE DARK AS GOLD. Its narrator remains grounded in the conventions of her world but still sounds modern and relatable. I enjoyed walking through Charlotte's universe in this impressive first novel by Elizabeth C. Bunce.

Reviewed by Sarah Hannah Gomez on March 1, 2008

A Curse Dark As Gold
by Elizabeth C. Bunce

  • Publication Date: March 1, 2008
  • Genres: Fiction
  • Hardcover: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Arthur A. Levine Books
  • ISBN-10: 0439895766
  • ISBN-13: 9780439895767