Wednesday, May 12, 2010

This month’s Book: A Curse Dark as Gold by Elizabeth C. Bunce

curse dark as This is a wonderful retelling of the Rumpelstiltskin fairy tale, which I'm sure most of you are familiar with (you know, the weird little man promises to spin a roomful of straw into gold in exchange for something which will be named at a later time, and the poor deluded girl agrees, never dreaming that what she will have to give up is her child. Or... she could guess the little man's name and be released from her bargain). So when I started reading this book, I didn't think there would be much suspense, what with knowing how the story ends and all. But the way the author tells the story is so intricate and the characters so engaging, that you never really see what's coming (although there were times when I wanted to shout at her, "No, he's going to take your baby!") The story reads like historical fiction --Charlotte Miller's father has passed away unexpectedly, and now she is in charge of the family's woolen mill, on which the entire town depends for their income, and which has been plagued by bad luck as long as anyone can remember. She has her younger sister to help, and a previously unknown uncle shows up to "help" them, although it turns out he has nefarious plans of his own. A banker that her father had secretly taken out a loan from turns out to be an unlikely ally, and in fact, he and Charlotte fall in love. But as things spin out of control at the mill, Charlotte refuses his help. Did I mention that her sister became so desperate that she followed some ancient instructions to summon fairy help and conjured up a strange little man (remember that from the fairy tale?) who agrees to spin a roomful of straw into gold in exchange for a cheap ring that Charlotte received from her mother. The money from the gold thread saves the mill, temporarily, but of course their involvement with the little man, Jack Spinner, almost ruins them. Instead of guessing his name, Charlotte has to figure out what Jack Spinner's history is in order to remove the curse from the mill. I can't say enough about what a great book this is. It's a very accurate portrayal of the industrial revolution and the magical part of the story is really pretty minor (although the plot hinges on it), so even if you don't usually like fantasy, it's a great read.