Sarah's Reviews > A Curse Dark as Gold

A Curse Dark as Gold by Elizabeth C. Bunce
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's review
Aug 20, 2007

it was amazing
bookshelves: 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 than just the place – it’s also the whole community, the time, and the culture, which are cleverly modeled on the years near the beginning of the Industrial Revolution. The competition between tradition and technology forms a smart backdrop for the Miller sisters’ struggles. The author also knows a thing or two about the woolen industry, that much is clear. I think it’s a mark of how well done the book is that I didn’t realize how much research went into the story until I’d read the afterword. Even though the story doesn’t take place in a firm time or location, the author is very clear about what elements of industry and society are factual and what’s been altered, and that goes a long way with me – even in a fantasy.

Yes, despite the realism of the setting, this is unquestionably a fantasy. Much to my delight, the author goes about introducing the fantasy elements gradually. When an author gets me firmly entrenched in a seemingly normal world before unleashing the magic, I’m much more willing to go along for the ride. In the case of Curse, it’s hard to tell just when the magic starts, and that’s a good thing. Strange happenings abound, but they’re not blatantly otherworldly at the outset. Is it a curse, or isn’t it? Are the townsfolk onto something, or is it just country superstition? Even the heroine herself shows a good deal of uncertainty and skepticism, further helping to suspend my disbelief.

Because let’s face it: fairy tales are full of gaps. All sorts of improbable things happen with little or no explanation. Now, I’m not looking for someone to explain every inch of a tale and give me a step-by-step lesson in spinning straw into gold, but a good retelling – like this one – will have you half believing the story is possible. Fairy tale characters also seem to get pushed around like chess pieces – especially the girls A good retelling will also put a little muscle on those underdeveloped characters, and give them minds of their own. True to form, Charlotte Miller is no wishy-washy helpless heroine. This girl’s got some backbone *and* a head for business. That’s not something you find a whole lot of in the Brothers Grimm.

Of course, a good chunk of the fun of retellings is wondering how the author will weave in the familiar elements of the backstory. What will change? What stays the same? Sorry, I’m not telling. Instead, I’ll leave you with these questions, which A Curse Dark as Gold will answer for you in March:

What did Rumplestiltskin want that baby for?

Why did the miller’s daughter agree to Rumplestiltskin’s price?

And most importantly:
What’s in a name?
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Reading Progress

Started Reading
August 1, 2007 – Finished Reading
August 20, 2007 – Shelved
December 5, 2008 – Shelved as: starred
December 7, 2008 – Shelved as: arcs

Comments (showing 1-3 of 3) (3 new)

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message 1: by Hayden (new) - added it

Hayden Wow, you made me want to read this WAY more than the description did!I just hope this lives up to your review.

message 2: by Rhea (new)

Rhea I love your reviews!

tracey jones I love how you have everyone following in this book and I like to read it too,I've read this book about 20 times! LOL!!!

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