A Curse Dark as Gold, by Elizabeth C. Bunce
I've been blabbering about this to everyone I see for the last two days. For instance, patrons:
Patron: Hello, dear*. I'm bringing this book back, I just loved it. It was about—
Me: Oh, that's great. I'm so glad you enjoyed it. Want to see what I'M reading?
Patron: Well, I—
Me (waving the book around, a bit crazed): It's a retelling of Rumpelstiltskin, and it's super fantastic. Look at the cover! It's so pretty! Look! Look!
Patron (backing away slowly): Well, it looks... wonderful. You enjoy it, dear. I'm going to look for another James Patterson book.
I should probably polish my reader's advisory skills a bit.
A Curse Dark as Gold is a retelling of Rumpelstiltskin, though I found it much more attractive than I ever found the fairy tale. It's about Charlotte Miller, the oldest daughter of the recently deceased owner of Stirwaters Woolen Mill. If she and her sister are unable to keep the mill running, to turn a profit, than the mill—which has been in the family for five generations—will die. If the mill dies, so will the town.
Enter their lilac-scented, powdered and bewigged long-lost uncle. At first, the girls are hopeful that he will help—but he quickly makes it clear that he believes the only thing to do is sell the mill and marry the girls off.
Enter the young banker, who informs the girls that the bank he represents wants the mortgage—NOW.
Enter Jack Spinner, who can spin straw into gold, who can save the mill. But at what price?
Charlotte is a stubborn and likable heroine (though I predict that some people will be frustrated with her refusal to ask others for help). Curse has loads of atmosphere and the story feels familiar but, at the same time, new and different and surprising. Elizabeth C. Bunce's spin on protective circles was simple and just (I can't believe I'm about to say this, but here goes) lovely, and her Author's Note provides not only suggestions for further exploration but also her issues with the original story.
It's FANTASTIC. Highly, highly recommended to fans of Shannon Hale, especially to those who loved Book of a Thousand Days for its historical-fiction-with-a-dash-of-fantasy feel. I was reminded a bit of The Perilous Gard for the same reason. Also, obviously, give it to any and every fan of fairytale retellings.
*A lot of them call me dear. It's odd. The only possible explanation is that I must have an excellent game face at work.