When their father dies, Charlotte and Rosie Miller are the only heirs to Stirwaters Mill. Their father was the last male in the line of Millers, one of many unfortunate happenings that seem to hang over the family and the run down mill house. Charlotte is determined to keep the family business alive, but with a untrustworthy uncle, a secret mortgage, and a series of inexplicable events at the mill, it will be difficult.
It couldn’t be a curse. It couldn’t.
This plot has a solid premise. I like the industrial angle that Bunce tries to employ, with Charlotte and her sister trying to maintain a failing industry. Behind in technology, money, and luck, it’s difficult to keep Stirwaters on their feet.
The solution seems to be the fantastical Jack Spinner, a man who can spin straw into gold. Unfortunately this is where the novel falls flat. There’s a lot of ambiguity as to what Spinner is, and he shows up so infrequently its hard to tell if he’s the antagonist or not.
Likewise, Uncle Wheeler never really felt like much of a threat. The most interesting plot is probably Randall but its not really expanded on.
I like Charlotte and Rosie. They are strong female characters, both stubborn and with flaws. I can identify with Charlotte—the elder sibling, feels like she has to do everything herself, that she’s responsible for everyone. Rosie is a mechanic, which you don’t see often in these settings.
The male characters are rather cliched though. Their uncle is a classic rake, Randall is the typical caring and considerate love interest. As for Jack Spinner, our Rumplestiltskin character, I wish I had more sympathy for him, but the way Bunce has written him doesn’t give much.
But in the end I understand the character personalities and motivations, and with that I am satisfied.
Bunce’s writing is just a little dull for my taste. Even with everything in first person point of view, I felt very removed from the story. The pace was also slow. And this is rather unfortunate, because the plot is quite interesting, but it lacks some fantastical factor.
I understand Bunce’s angle of making the Rumplestiltskin fairytale more realistic, but the whole story lacks that air of fantastical that makes the fantastical conclusion a little unsatisfying.
There’s quite a bit going on in this book, all of which I wish were just explored a little further.
First there’s the idea of superstition. Charlotte doesn’t believe in curses, and the story really seemed to push that idea of “it’s not the curse, it’s the power you give the curse”….that is until the end. So that was strange.
Thwn there’s the idea of industry and innovation. The book really picked up once Chaotte realized how far technology has advanced compared to her mill. Rosie as an engineer helps bring this idea a little, but there reallu wasn’t as much mention of it as I would have hoped.
And finally there’s the balance of home and work, which Charlotte struggles with through the novel, and gets resilved in a rather hand-wavy fashion.
A Curse As Dark As Gold is a fun little retelling of Rumplestiltskin, addressing many problems we may have with the fairytale in modern times. But the book lacks a level of depth that I typically expect with retellings like this.
Recommendation: Maybe. I recommend this to fans of fairytale retellings, but with a grain of salt—it’s not the most engaging read. You might enjoy it, but you might also be a little bored.