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A Curse Dark as Gold

By Elizabeth C. Bunce

A spellbinding fairy tale, spun with mystery and shot through with romance

The gold thread shimmers in the fading light...

It promises Charlotte Miller a way out of debt, a chance to save her family's beloved woolen mill. It promises a future for her sister, livelihood for her townsfolk, security against her sinuous and grasping uncle. It might even promise what she didn't know she needed: lasting hope and true love.

But at what cost?

To get the thread, Charlotte must strike a bargain with its maker, the mysterious Jack Spinner. But the gleam of gold conjures a shadowy past - secrets and bonds ensnaring generations of Millers. And Charlotte's mill, her family, her friends, her love... What do those matter to a powerful stranger who can spin straw into gold?

Reviews and Awards

Smithsonian 2008 Notable Children's Book
ALA Best Book for Young Adults, 2009
William C. Morris YA Debut Award, 2009
CCBC Blue Ribbon
A 2009 Kansas Notable Book
2016 YALSA Popular Paperbacks List

⋆"The death of her father leaves Charlotte Miller the last in the long line of Millers, a family that has kept its woollen mill going throughout the 1700s despite poor fortunes and an increasing belief that the mill is cursed. Charlotte is too practical-minded to fully believe in such natterings, but as debt, vandalism, and a profligate uncle bring the financial situation of the mill to a dire turn, she finds herself in the reluctant position of having to accept the help of a strange visitor calling himself Jack Spinner, who appears at the most desperate times and sports such wondrous skills as spinning gold thread from straw and restoring ruined cloth. When his price for services becomes too high, Charlotte realizes that she must not only believe in the curse but break it, and that she must allow the people who love and admire her to help. Bunce blends multiple elements in her savory stew of genres - mystery, romance, work, and chicanery simmer in a rich broth of history infused with light touches of traditional beliefs and folk magic. The Rumpelstiltskin story progression is deftly integrated into a plot that enfolds and extends its implications regarding class and the value of skilled workmanship. In an author's note, Bunce readily admits where she has tweaked historical detail to align more favorably with folkloric belief, and her instincts prove right on target as she gives flesh to distinctively individual characters with almost archetypal resonance. Charlotte's complex loyalties to her family, the mill, and the townsfolk who depend upon it for their livelihood make her an estimable character indeed, well worth applauding in a tale that is as spooky and suspenseful as it is satisfying." - Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, starred review

"An innovative interpretation of Rumpelstiltskin....The pastoral microcosm of Shearing is classic fairy tale, but it gains traction in the gritty social and economic details of small-town life, and the sisters, subtly differentiated, are strong characters defined by fierce loyalty, pride, and determination that goes beyond simple feistiness. Similarly, the villains are rendered with nuance. The result is a fully realized dramatic conflict characterized by the folkloric magic of memory imprinted upon place; inherited legacies; and the power of recognition, recompense, and forgiveness." - Horn Book

Purchase Options
Indiebound  Scholastic • Amazon • Barnes & Noble

Spring 2008
Young Adult Fiction
ISBN: 0-439-89576-6
Price: $17.99 / $21.99 Can
Trim Size: 5 1/2" x 8 1/4"
Page Count: 400
Foreign Rights: Scholastic
Translation Rights: Scholastic
Rights Available? yes

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