I wanted to absolutely adore A Curse As Dark As Gold. After all, I’ve heard a lot of great things from people whose opinions I trust (Miss Erin and Sookie at Over My Head, for example). So maybe I had unreasonably high expectations opening this book, and I’m afraid I wasn’t quite as taken with it as they were, though I did really enjoy it, and any disappointment is probably my own fault for having unreasonably high expectations. I will certainly look forward to future work from Elizabeth C. Bunce, and highly recommend this debut novel!

That said, A Curse As Dark As Gold is an enchanting fairy tale retelling of Rumpelstiltskin.  In it, Charlotte Miller’s father has just died, leaving her in charge of Stirwaters, the mill that’s been in her family for generations. Though their cloth is lovely and they work hard, Stirwaters has always had a run of bad luck. No son has lived to adulthood, so the mill has passed from Miller to Miller, but in a rather haphazard way–from uncle to nephew to cousin to brother, etc. Charlotte and her younger sister, though, are the last of the family, and they’re determined to hold on to the mill.

Of course, that won’t be as easy as it sounds. Charlotte has to keep the mill from being seized by debt collectors, and being female at this time makes things particularly difficult. And that bad luck? There have always been whispers of a curse on Stirwaters. Charlotte’s not the superstitious type, but now she’s starting to believe it might be true…

So what desperate measures will Charlotte take to save Stirwaters? She’s not sure how far she’ll go, until Jack Spinner shows up with promises to be her salvation. But what will be the cost, in the end, and is she willing to pay it?

Elizabeth C. Bunce’s debut novel is a well-told and well-written story, populated by interesting characters. Its setting is a slightly fictionalized time in English history, and, well, I’m a sucker for all things English, past and present, and I really enjoyed the setting. The story starts out a little slow for my taste, but certainly picks up by the end (the last hundred or so pages, I couldn’t put it down and read all through Spanish class). A Curse As Dark As Gold is an intelligent, original, and interesting new take on an old fairy tale, and a marvelous debut novel.

Also check out Erin’s wonderful interview with the author.

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This wonderful little anthology includes stories by Lois Lowry, Meg Cabot, Sue Limb, Anne Fine, Celia Rees, Rosie Rushton, Malorie Blackman, Jacqueline Wilson, Cathy Hopkins, and Meg Rosoff. Two things about that list of star authors stand out to me: One, they’re some pretty fantastic writers–some of my favorites. Two, most of them are British. According to the biographies in the back, Lois Lowry and Meg Cabot are the only ones who live in America (but I think Meg Rosoff is from the US, she just lives in England). I now have a confession to make: I love all things British, an obsession that has its root in a trip I took last summer to England. It was one of the best experiences of my life, so now I love to read English books and watch BBC America and such. It’s kind of dorky, I’ll admit, but it meant I was super psyched to read this story collection!

And it is in no way, shape, or form disappointing. There’s not a weak story in the bunch! I was completely captivated from the moment I started reading. They are all wonderfully well written (as they should be; all of these authors are masters of their craft).

Of course, I did have the problem I always have with great short stories–I wanted more! For every short story whose characters I fall in love with over the course of a few pages, I always wish that there was more to the story. For two of these, there actually is more–Lois Lowry’s is an excerpt from her novel. And Sue Limb’s story is about her character, Jess (star of Girl, 15, Charming But Insane and its equally fabulous sequels). But for the rest, sadly, as far as I know, this is all we will see of these characters.

While there are certainly no weak points in Shining On, there were a few stories that stood out to me personally as being exceptionally brilliant.

Sue Limb’s You’re A Legend is one. It’s a complete story in itself, but part of a larger body of work about this wonderful character. In this story, Jess goes to help her Granny sort through her dead husband’s belongings and makes a surprising discovery in the attic. I absolutely loved it!

Another story I loved was Malorie Blackman’s Humming Through My Fingers, an incredibly wonderful story about a blind girl who sees more than most of us who are sighted do. Simply brilliant! I mean, I adore Malorie Blackman, but I was still surprised at how completely marvelous this short story is! I’d love to read more about the characters, unsurprisingly. Hmm. Perhaps I’m too greedy to read short stories!

Anyway, another one I particularly enjoyed was Rosie Rushton’s Skin Deep, about a girl who is seriously traumatized (physically and emotionally) by an accident. I’ve never read one of Rushton’s novels, but I’ll have to after reading this story, which I thought was amazing (and I really shouldn’t even bother to say it after all this, but, yes, I wanted more! I feel so greedy).

Those are just a few of the highlights for me, but, trust me, all of the stories are breathtakingly wonderful. This collection is, of course, worth buying and reading because of its marvelousness, but even more so because a portion of the profits go to charity. So, to the bookstore! Or to your favorite online bookstore, if you want to let your fingers do all the hard work. And buy this book immediately!