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A Curse Dark as Gold by Elizabeth C. Bunce

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 prospect of a Rumpelstiltskin retelling was not all that attractive.

Let's face it, in its original form it's an awful fairy tale. Awful Dad sells his nameless daughter to Awful King in exchange for money. Awful King threatens nameless daughter with death unless she is able to spin straw into gold. Otherwise he'll marry her. Then to top it all off, creepily Awful Dwarf appears and saves nameless daughter's bacon....in exchange for her potential first-born child. And she's willing to make this Awful Bargain because she really doesn't want to die and can see no other way out. So she marries Awful King, makes a baby with him (shocker!), and, when Awful Dwarf comes to claim his due, is only able to save her baby by guessing his Awful Name. Yeah. Not my favorite fairy tale.

Turns out it wasn't Elizabeth C. Bunce's favorite either. I love that she rewrote it because it bothered her. And she did such a splendid job filling in the cracks, reworking the plot, carefully shaping it into a lovely tale of courage and ill luck, curses and redemption. The setting was a perfect choice: eighteenth century England, just on the cusp of the Industrial Revolution. And the beautiful names. Charlotte Miller, Randall Woodstone, Shearing, Stirwaters, Jack Spinner. The names truly belong to their characters and places. I could tell each one was carefully chosen for effect, like a Dickens cast. And I was drawn to them, the animate and inanimate alike. For the mill, the mansion, and the curse itself are characters in their own right. Bunce's beautiful, unselfconscious writing propels the story forward to its climactic conclusion. This is a dark, drafty, remarkably real tale and, like Jack Spinner, it will spin its golden thread around you.

Links
Bookshelves of Doom Review
Look Books Review
Miss Erin Review, Miss Erin Interview
Sarah Miller Review

Comments

  1. Great review for a great book. :)

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  2. Such a great book.

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  3. Congratulations! So excited for you guys.

    I want to read this book.

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  4. Thanks, Kos! We're excited, too.

    And I think you'd really like this one. Really the most original reworking of a fairy tale I've read in ages.

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  5. Anonymous5:08 PM

    Thank you! I'm delighted you enjoyed it. And may I say, what a perfect job you did summing up the Awfulness of the original fairy tale! So true.

    ~ecb

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  6. Thank you! I keep trying to describe to people what you did with it to make it so different and wonderful and I end up saying, "Oh, just read the book!"

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  7. What a fantastic review! I love your description of the original fairytale, with which I am in complete accord. It's one of my least favorite fairytales, which may be why I have put off reading both this retelling and Naomi Novik's Spinning Silver. But I will be bumping this one up to near the top of my TBR pile now.

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    Replies
    1. Totally understandable reason to avoid the retellings. But I can attest this one and SPINNING SILVER are both absolutely lovely. I'm so glad both authors chose to rework such a problematic tale.

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