Title: A Curse Dark As Gold
Author: Elizabeth C Bunce
Publisher: Scholastic Audio Books
Release Date: 1 November 2010 (first published 1st March 2008)
Genre: YA, historical fantasy, fairytale retelling
Format: Audiobook (unabridged)
Page Count: 396 (paperback)
A Curse Dark as Gold takes its inspiration from the Rumpelstilskin Grimm fairy tale, though you would be excused for not realising the basis in this lushly re-imagined tale. Charlotte’s father has just died, and she and her sister Rosie have inherited the cursed Stirwaters wool mill. As the debts mount and strange accidents keep occurring, can Charlotte unravel the mystery of the Stirwaters curse in time to save her own family?
I haven’t listened to an audiobook since Adorkable (Sarra Manning) earlier this year. I just couldn’t. Adorkable was so brilliant that I needed something equally as brilliant to get me listening again. Oh, I tried! I really did! But the narrators of the books I borrowed were either annoyingly American or monotonous. No one had the delivery I needed, or were reading books of such high quality I demand.
But this book. THIS BOOK. Well, this audiobook. MARRY ME, AUDIOBOOK. I couldn’t get enough of this book. Even though it was terribly depressing and every time Charlotte seemed to get one step ahead she’d be sent tumbling backward two or three or ninety steps in the process, I couldn’t get enough. I listened to it at work. I listened to it in the car. I listened to it at home while doing housework. I even put it on when my husband, who hadn’t been listening and had no idea what was going on, was around, and preceded to confuse the poor man.
“Is this set in Yorkshire?” he asked me.
“I don’t know,” I said. “The main characters have more southern accents but their workers all have northern accents.”
Then the locations Sheering and Harrogate were mentioned, and he proceeded to inform me that yes, they are indeed real places in the north of England. Yay!
So this book. Why did I love it so much? Well, first and foremost it was the narrator Charlotte Parry. I much prefer British narrators to American narrators and Charlotte’s delivery as Charlotte Miller was spot on. She slipped in and out of the various accents flawlessly and her delivery of Charlotte’s (Miller) narration vacillated between despairing, strong, wise, angry, wondering, soft, gentle, caring – you name it, she did it. She was amazing.
The book itself was also written flawlessly. Every word seemed to be meticulously chosen and lovingly placed on the page to give maximum impact to the story. Although the story was a gentle, slow sort of thing, with some time to kick in before the Rumpelstiltskin-type character appeared, everything before that was just as important and built up to the moments Charlotte most needed help. I was utterly enchanted by the day to day running of the mill and Charlotte’s little empire, and the bad news that kept piling one on top of the other.
The book also appeared to be beautifully, deeply researched and I really felt that Bunce knew what she was talking about when she described the mill and all its machinery, the process of wool milling, and all sorts of thing pertaining to that. I really felt immersed in the world, and the handling of the fantasy aspects twining with the historical was also flawless. I almost didn’t notice the fantasy aspects, so subtly and elaborately they were inserted into the narrative.
Charlotte (Miller) herself was a wonderful character, strong despite everything thrown at her, capable, and brave in the face of misogyny and people trying to take advantage of her. I did get annoyed at her when she refused to drag her new husband into her curse business (the Rumpelstilskin story has a baby as the final payment, so I don’t feel that this is spoilerific) but I completely understood her motivation. I loved her relationship with her sister Rosie and found all of the relationships between the other minor characters to be completely believable.
Overall I would really recommend this book to anyone who enjoys historical fantasy, or historical fiction, or light fantasy. I would wholeheartedly recommend the audiobook because of Charlotte Parry’s delivery. This kind of book really reminded me of Entwined by Heather Dixon, which is my favourite book of all time. Both of them are kind of slow and languid to begin with, but both are based on fairytales, so you should know the very basics of what’s to come and have patience enough to experience it if you think it’s a bit too slow. It’s the kind of book that will skim under a lot of radars because it is so quiet and dignified. Now, I’m off to track down Bunce’s other books!