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A Curse Dark as Gold

3.59  ·  Rating details ·  12,495 ratings  ·  1,607 reviews
Charlotte Miller has always scoffed at talk of a curse on her family's woolen mill, which holds her beloved small town together. But after her father's death, the bad luck piles up: departing workers, impossible debts, an overbearing uncle. Then a stranger named Jack Spinner offers a tempting proposition: He can turn straw into gold thread, for the small price of her mothe ...more
Hardcover, 396 pages
Published March 1st 2008 by Arthur A. Levine Books
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Aug 20, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: starred, arcs
Let’s just make this perfectly clear: I loved this book. Fairy tales retold are pretty much a sure thing with me, but this one’s a humdinger. You think you know Rumplestiltskin? Think again.

Elizabeth Bunce refers to her work as “historical fantasy” and she’s dead-on. One of the main strengths of A Curse Dark as Gold is the setting. The mill stands firmly at the center of the plot, and Elizabeth Bunce makes the place feel very real, right down to the last creaking board. But the setting is more t
Dec 01, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I don't think I've ever read a retelling of Rumpelstiltskin before this. (view spoiler)
The bar is now set high.


The setting is a mill run by Charlotte Miller. <--all the names are like that. Shearing is the name of the town where they shear sheep, Hart is the name of the boy who loves Rosie, etc. I thought it was charming.
Stillwater Mill is the lifeblood of the small town of Shearing. Everyone is somehow employed by or makes their mone
Allison (The Allure of Books)
I bought this book expecting to fall in love with it, and it did not let me down. It was an incredible story, and my head is spinning with everything I want to say about it.

First of all, I was touched before the story even began. In Elizabeth Bunce's acknowledgements she says "And lastly, to my husband, Christopher, for always being there. If I wrote you into a story, no one would believe you were real." I think that is lovely, and I was in love with the author from the get-go.

On that subject-ma
If you, like me, are hard-pressed to find truly chilling gothic fiction, then A Curse Dark as Gold is not one to pass up. As a re-telling of “Rumplestiltskin,” this novel is haunting, poetic, and – most importantly – whole. Out of all the fairy tales in the world, “Rumplestiltskin” is easily my least favorite. After all, who really wants to read the story of a nameless heroine who later betrays the only character who helps her and winds up marrying the man who threatened to ruin her? It simply d ...more
Mar 02, 2008 rated it it was amazing
I LOVED this book! Loved the way this retelling of Rumplestilskin was fit into a real setting, loved the way even despicable characters had their moments when we felt sorry for them, loved the magic and the mystery. I loved the words, too. I'm living in a non-English speaking country and sometimes I feel starved for words, and by the time I got to page 2 it was all I could do not to stuff the whole book in my mouth and devour it. Lovely!

I've been savoring this one. I mean, I read a chunk every day, don't get me wrong. But if something happened to come up at night during my normal reading time, instead of muttering, "Vital point," like I usually do, I was up for it.

Watch a movie? Sure.

Clean out a few more boxes from the study? Let's do it!

Because I just didn't want this book to end. It more than lived up to the expectations I had, having heard such wonderful early reviews. And I was so pleased that it did because the initial pro
Jan 05, 2008 rated it liked it
Every possible fairytale is eventually hunted down and stripped of its elements for middle grade and YA novel reinterpretation. This is not an unusual thing. For centuries humans have been fascinated with such tales, telling them, retelling them, and changing them to suit current needs. Nowandays, when contemporary authors take a tale it becomes the skeleton for a larger story to come. Cinderella becomes Donna Jo Napoli’s Bound. East of the Sun, West of the Moon becomes Sun and Moon Ice and Snow ...more
Mar 17, 2009 rated it it was ok
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jul 13, 2008 rated it liked it
Not a bad book, really, just...a book that had some aspects to it that kept me from enjoying it enough to give it more stars.

A pet peeve of mine in fiction is when a protagonist constantly makes the wrong decision in situations that might have brought about a sooner resolution. Specifically, when other characters who want to (and can) help ask her what's wrong, and she keeps her secret bottled up, dealing with the problems on her own. This especially seems ridiculous when the character keeps he
Rachel E. Carter
May 25, 2017 rated it liked it
I was hoping for a bit more romance:/ The first half 5 amazing stars (view spoiler), the second half of this book was definitely a clever twist on Rumple's tale, but the direction it took lost me (even if it made sense, I just tend to get bored once characters get together -the whole get married, have babies, focus on the baby and Rumple storyline -while basically throwing love interest out of picture- isn't really my kind of read, it's not that it was bad, ...more
Nov 21, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Cara by: Ash
If there is one word that I would use to sum up this book it's intricate. I was floored to find out that this was the author's debut novel. Ms. Bunce is up there with the best veterans of the fantasy genre.

Charlotte Miller knows her share of hardships. Her mother and baby brother died, and the book starts with the reader witnessing Charlotte and her sister burying their father. Too bad for Charlotte that this is not the last she is going to see of bad luck. With her father gone she has to shoul
I really wanted to love A Curse as Dark as Gold. A historical fantasy set in a mill during the Industrial Revolution - what a perfect setting for a retelling of Rumpelstiltskin.

Unfortunately, it was really hard work to get through this and I skimmed a lot. The writing is tedious, the details of running the mill too thorough and dry. Plus, I was expecting something a bit more industrial out of the setting with a more Dickensian or Gaskellian feel - a mill in a place like Manchester, not in a sup
Jan 05, 2008 rated it it was amazing
This book arrived Thursday, but I didn’t get a chance to read it until Friday. We were out at the dentist when it arrived, and didn’t see it when we got back because it was lodging between our doors. Friday morning, my Mom was driving me to school, and we noticed something on our front steps. It was a package… I brought it in the car, unwrapped it, and found A Curse Dark as Gold. The book was frozen- literally. The pages cracked when I turned them. It was quite an experience. I didn’t think that ...more
Oct 18, 2014 rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2014, ya
I have to say that I am amazed by all the five star reviews of this book. I'm not sure we read the same tedious tome, but wow, five stars?
This book reads as if Jane Austen's Dashwood or Bennett sisters suddenly inherited a haunted woolen mill. And I love Jane Austen books, but still, I didn't like this one. This feels like a style of writing common to that era in which it was believed that it was dangerous for people to get too excited while reading so books were written in such a way as to not
Steph Su
Apr 23, 2009 rated it it was ok
I always look forward to fairy tale retellings, and with this one winning the Morris Award for Best Debut YA, I eagerly picked up A CURSE DARK AS GOLD after two years of having this in my TBR pile. Unfortunately, it was pretty much an all-around disappointment, and in rather unexpected ways: for some reason, the way the story was written, and the way it unfolded, really frustrated and repelled me.

A CURSE DARK AS GOLD theoretically had all the elements I like in a story: a unique spin on a fairy
Carol (StarAngel's Reviews) Allen
Sep 22, 2019 marked it as did-not-finish
With a heavy heart, I have to give this one a DNF at 40%. I don't know what was wrong that I just couldn't get into the book. I many times I wanted to stop but I kept giving another chance.

I honestly thought with all of the 5 Stars that this would be the book for, again I'll have chalk this one up to it was probably me and the mood I was in for what interests me.
Nov 29, 2007 rated it it was amazing

I could probably write a lengthy review about the many things I admired about this debut YA (#1 on that list - the skill with which the curse was woven all through the novel, with the mill itself becoming a creepy almost-character), but I think it boils down to one statement really. I simply can't decide which I wish more: that I'd been the one to edit this book, or the one to write this book! Alas, since neither were options, I'll settle for being a fan and waiting eagerly to see what Elizabeth
Aug 30, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: YA fantasy fans & my nieces
Recommended to Terence by: Amanda
Elizabeth Bunce’s A Curse Dark As Gold is a retelling of the Rumpelstiltskin myth set in an England-like world on the cusp of an Industrial Revolution, and it’s a wonderful book. The story centers round the village of Shearing and the millhouse of Stirwaters where Charlotte and Rosie Miller have been left orphaned by the death of their father. For five generations, Stirwaters has been in the Miller family despite the fact that no son has survived childhood and a curse seems keep the operation fr ...more
Aug 18, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Charlotte Miller is my new hero.

Not because she refuses to let a man solve her problems. Not because she tries so hard to save her family's woolen mill. Not even because she steps forward with courage in terrifying circumstances. She's my hero because she finds herself in a situation that is, by all accounts, dire, and never once whines about it being unfair. Though her story is a take on the classic Rumpelstiltskin story, Charlotte is no typical fairy tale girl.

When her father is buried in the
Sep 17, 2009 rated it really liked it
It's a retelling and historical fiction. Such a great combination. It's a great retake on the Rumpelstiltskin tale, set in the Industrial Revolution.

Charlotte Miller and her sister Rosie are the last of the Miller thread that make quality cloths. The whole process of making the wool was pretty nice. It didn't seem like it was teaching me anything but I still learned a little about the time period and cloth making.

I was frustrated with Charlotte a number of times. She is so responsible and carr
Oct 22, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Wendy by: Rose
Wow. This book took my breath away! An original, multi-layered, exquisitely written retelling of the Rumplestiltzkin story. Compelling characters who wrestle with painful ethical dilemmas, make mistakes, and ultimately gain a personal understanding of choice and accountability, repentance, and forgiveness. One word of caution--it's a ghost story--don't read it alone late on a windy night! ...more
May 09, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: fans of fairy tale retellings
When Charlotte Miller's father dies, her world feels flipped on its head, but she knows what she has to do: what she always has. The Stirwaters Mill has been in her family for generations, and it has always been at the center of the town of Shearing. All of the townsfolk work in and around the Mill--it provides livelihood for all of them.

And so Charlotte knows that she must pick up where her father left off, and, with the help of her sister Rosie, run the Mill and keep the town afloat.

But one sp
Jennifer Wardrip
Reviewed by Julie M. Prince for

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?

Charlotte Miller and her sister Rosie have problems. Their father has just died, leaving their family mill in deep debt. Their long-lost uncle has arrived and is pushing them to sell. But their small community relies on the mill for its residents' livelihoods, and Charlotte isn't willing to give up her life and her friends' lives so easily. When Jack Spinner shows up and promises a way out, Charlotte makes a bargain with him to save the mill, but she gets far more than she bargained for and must ...more
What a beautiful tale!

I haven't read many books of such kind (of this genre) because I am always afraid that would be just a romance mixed with dragons and fairies, and so on. When I find such gem I am simply happy.

The strongest part of this novel is the world and the narration. Elizabeth C. Bunce created not only the gripping world. I can imagine that one could dream up a fascinating world but it is not enough. One must also be able to show it to a reader. Bunce did it perfectly. I have lived
Nicole Prestin
Oct 05, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fantasy, young-adult
This has to be the most enjoyable book I've read all year.

I have to admit that in the beginning, I was skeptical about all of the praise I'd seen about this book. While I love fairy tale retellings, Rumplestiltskin isn't exactly one of my favorite fairy stories. But this loose retelling, set at the beginning of the industrial revolution, is pretty damn entertaining.

I think a lot of that has to do with the author's style. The story just kind of creeps up on you as you read it. The atmosphere is
Jan 16, 2014 rated it did not like it
I don't understand why people loved the story. I was bored with the story and the only thing I ask for In a story is for it to be enjoyable.

I despised Charlotte for being this obstinate and I think that underneath all that strong outside she was really a stupid heroine. Mostly I despised her for holding this strong onto stirwaters. I don't know why, it's just that why couldn't Charlotte give up the mill when spinner asked for her baby? I don't care for all her agonies and wailings....wind roarin
Lisa Brown
Jan 11, 2009 rated it it was amazing
This book caught me up in the very first pages. Instantly I was drawn to Charlotte Miller, the main character. The story begins as Charlotte and her sister are buring their father, and with the decisions they must make to survive. Deciding to run their father's mill in his place, they are faced with ill luck, a family curse, and all manner of hardships. As the story intensifies, so does the danger and the stakes. I loved the wonderful suspense and clues the author weaved throughout the story, an ...more
Apr 14, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Lauren
Shelves: fantasy, fairy-tale
This is probably one of the best fairy tale retellings that I have ever red; and definately the best Rumplestilskin one.
The story begins in Charolett Miller's point of view, shortly after her father's death. Orphaned, Charolett and her sister Rosie must take over the family wool mill in order to survive. However, bad things keep happening, making the girls question whether there is actually a curse on the family mill. As their financial problems mount, they enlist the help of Jack Spinner, in t
Aug 26, 2008 rated it it was ok
Shelves: fantasy, ya
This retelling of Rumpelstiltskin changes the focus of the story to the mill. Orphaned Charlotte and Rosie are struggling to retain their family mill after their father dies. Desperate for money, they make an unwise bargain with a shifty stranger. For my taste, there was too much detail about milling, cloth-production, and worker employment -- very well done, just not interesting to me. I kept skimming to try to get to ahead with the story and ended up skipping so many pages that I couldn't real ...more
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Morris Award Winner - Independent Novel Project 1 4 Sep 30, 2015 04:33PM  
Smith English 4250: Review 1 3 Nov 09, 2014 08:01PM  
Into the Forest: Curse Dark as Gold - Spoilers 9 39 Nov 12, 2013 11:27AM  
Into the Forest: Curse Dark as Gold: No Spoilers 9 20 Oct 18, 2013 04:20PM  
! YA Heroines !: 2013 JUN - A Curse Dark As Gold by Elizabeth C. Bunce 4 17 Jun 28, 2013 11:34PM  

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Elizabeth C. Bunce is the author of the new Myrtle Hardcastle Mystery series, beginning with Premeditated Myrtle.

Her first novel, A Curse Dark as Gold, won the inaugural William C. Morris Award for a young adult debut novel and was named a Smithsonian Notable Book. Her high fantasy Thief Errant series includes the novels StarCrossed, A Chicago Public Library Best of the Best book for 2010, and Lia

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