The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO


June 18, 2012

Cari Rerat: ‘Rumpelstiltskin’ retelling features well-researched British history

JOPLIN, Mo. — ‘A Curse Dark as Gold’

Elizabeth Bunce

Teen Fiction

During this year’s teen summer reading program, the teen department has two book clubs -- one in June and the other in July. The June club is not accepting any more members, but registration for our July book club will begin on July 3. The Young Adult Advisory Council chose the books for both clubs. This month the club is reading “A Curse Dark as Gold” by Elizabeth Bunce.

When Charlotte Miller’s father passes away, his death leaves a mountain of responsibility for his elder daughter. The woolen mill that has been in her family for generations, the village it supports and her younger sister, Rosie, are now Charlotte’s to protect and care for.

As if that weren’t enough, Charlotte is blindsided by a hefty and secret mortgage, an uncle whose motives for helping the girls may not be all he says they are and a run of bad luck that seems to have sinister origins.

When Charlotte reaches the breaking point and things look their darkest, help comes in the form of a little man who can spin straw into gold -- his only fee is the ring Charlotte’s mother wore. Facing financial ruin, Charlotte has no choice but to take the deal.

True to his word, Jack Spinner spins a room full of straw into spools of fine gold thread. Charlotte is able to sell the thread and pay the handsome banker, but Jack Spinner and his curse on the mill are not finished with Charlotte yet.

Elizabeth Bunce uses the “Rumpelstiltskin” tale as the base for her story, but there is more depth here than a typical fairy tale retelling. The historical setting, Britain in the late 1700s, is well-researched and meticulously painted. The daily workings of the mill are also well-described.

Bunce points out some of the ways she deviates from history in her author’s note, but readers not familiar with those aspects of the Industrial Revolution will be hard pressed to pick out the creative license.

Character development is done well in the book. Readers will ache with Charlotte as her world begins to crumble. The other characters that comprise Charlotte’s inner circle -- her sister, her love interest and her uncle -- are equally real and distinctive.

The pace at the beginning of the story is a little slower than I like, but I stuck with Charlotte and was rewarded by a truly great historical fiction tale with just the right mix of fantasy, mystery and romance.

“A Curse Dark as Gold” is an excellent choice for teens and adults who like any of the above genres.

I am excited to announce that Bunce will visit the Joplin Public Library at 10 a.m. Saturday in the library’s large meeting room. Bunce will be available to sign copies of her books following her presentation.

Changing Hands Book Shoppe will have copies of “A Curse Dark as Gold” and Bunce’s other titles, such as “Star Crossed” and “Liar’s Moon,” for sale at the event. This event is open to all ages.

As mentioned above, teens interested in joining July’s book club can register at the library’s teen desk between July 3 and 11. We’ll be reading Brian Katcher’s “Almost Perfect.” Members of the club will receive a free copy of the book, courtesy of General Mills.

Cari Rerat is the teen librarian at Joplin Public Library.

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