Published by Arthur A. Levine Books on March 1st, 2008
Genres: fantasy, retellings, young adult
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This ravishing winner of the ALA's William C. Morris YA Debut Award is a fairy tale, spun with a mystery, woven with a family story, and shot through with romance.
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 mother's ring. As Charlotte is drawn deeper into her bargains with Spinner-and a romance with the local banker-she must unravel the truth of the curse on the mill and save the community she's always called home.
Since we tightened the budget in the house and cut out paying for TV (we have streaming Netflix, DVDs and good friends), my sister has taken it upon herself to snoop around in my bookshelves and delve back into her reading. This was one of the books she decided to snag when I recommended it to her, warning her that I have only read some reviews. Afterwards, she insisted that I add this to my reading list right away.
A Curse as Dark as Gold is something I never expected. This fairytale retelling of the German Rumpelstiltskin delivers a beautiful and powerful tale about survival, stubborn will, and the power of love in many forms.
The novel spans over many years, so the novel focuses on the development and the relationships of Charlotte and Rosie Miller’s small, tight knit community, Stirwaters. The town is highly dependent on the woolen mill that is owned by the Miller family. Charlotte takes up command of the ill-fated family business when her father passes away. One strong positive aspect of the book is the focus on love and dedication to people. Heads up, YA genre – there is more than just romantic love! It was refreshing to see a novel depict the variety of the bonds of love. There is a sweet romantic portion of the book for both sisters, but the novel (thankfully) used Charlotte’s loyalty and affection for her workers and her town to drive the story.
Charlotte was a nice, well rounded character. She (at times) seemed wiser than her years, but her soft heart, her stubborn attitude, and her behavior in dealing with major problems helped create a strong yet realistic female lead. At times, I wanted to shake her when she turned away from trusting the people she loved, but, on the other hand, I understood her hesitance to let the people inside to assist her when events took a turn for the worse. The miller’s daughter went out of her way to save everyone, and made some very troubling choices. She did it all for the sake of those she loved. I adored Charlotte, and I loved that she and I shared a flawed connection.
The romance in this book – high praises! Charlotte and Rosie’s sweet love stories were so different, yet endearing. Charlotte marries in the book (since the fairytale calls for the first born), and I was shocked to find that I found this a welcomed part of the story. In so many young adult fiction books, the goal is to date or attract the other person. However, Charlotte steps past the “happily ever after” and must attempt to balance a married life along with her slew of conflicts. I believe it is fair to depict a marriage in an adolescent book. Most of the fairy tales and the romance never focus on the “forever” part. It takes hard work and personal growth to make a relationship work. A majority of young readers will marry eventually – why not show the truth of the life after the wedding, and what is to come?
Lastly, the villain situation in this novel was very entertaining and original. The story introduces struggle in many forms – a mysterious and misogynistic family member, a struggle to understand the “curse” of the mill, and the fantasy element of the fairytale antagonist. There is no definite “good” and “evil.” Everyone has a hand in the conflict and the resolution. There are some characters that lean more towards villain than hero, but each person in the tale had a fair balance of both qualities Too many times, there is a clear line between the good guys and the bad guys. A Curse as Dark as Gold steps out of the black and white realm and portrays a more realistic approach to conflict and resolution.
I will say that I was overall highly pleased with the story. I felt that, at times, I was a little lost in the terminology and the culture of the wool mill lifestyle, but the story takes a bold step and tells a very lively and heartfelt story. I highly recommend this for fairytale twister lovers, and this book would be ideal for an October read.