Size Doesn’t Matter (183): A Curse Dark as Gold; Furthermore

Size Doesn’t Matter (183): A Curse Dark as Gold; FurthermoreA Curse Dark as Gold by Elizabeth C. Bunce
Narrator: Charlotte Parry
Length: 12 hrs, 29 mins
Published by Scholastic Audio on November 1, 2010
Genres: Fantasy, Fairy Tales, Retelling
Format: Audiobook
Source: Purchased
AmazonThe Book DepositoryAudible
Goodreads
three-stars

Gold thread promises Charlotte Miller a chance to save her family's beloved woolen mill. It promises a future for her sister, jobs for her townsfolk, security against her grasping uncle - maybe even true love. To get the thread, however, Charlotte must strike a bargain with its maker, the mysterious Jack Spinner. But the gleam of gold conjures a shadowy past - secrets ensnaring generations of Millers. And Charlotte's mill, her family, her love - what do those matter to a stranger who can spin straw into gold?

This is an award-winning and wholly original retelling of "Rumplestiltskin."

A Curse Dark as Gold has been on my to-read list pretty much since I first started reading YA back in 2008. It was one of the earliest books in the post-Twilight wave. In addition to the overwhelming paranormal wave, there was an initial surge of fairy tale retellings. I put everything on my list but I can only read so much, though I do try. A Curse Dark as Gold feels like older YA because it is; it’s clever and good, but bored me a bit tbh.

Props to Bunce for retelling a less popular fairy tale. It’s the same sort of tale as Rumpelstiltskin, with a miller’s daughter trading increasingly valued things for a mysterious stranger performing magic for her. It’s a tricky tale to retell for a couple of main reasons: there’s not as much of a YA feel to it and romance isn’t the focus.

Bunce does a nice job with the story, and she adds feminism to a base structure that I’ve never liked. Where the miller’s daughter is helpless set dressing without a name in the original tales, Charlotte Miller is determined, strong (not physically but of character), and never gives up. Charlotte succeeds not because she learns a name, but because she uses a power that women are taught to embody more than men: empathy. I really appreciated that Charlotte succeeded at removing the curse where generations of men had failed precisely because she was a woman and had been raised to approach confrontations and problems differently.

However, the book has a lot of detail about milling, which is great for authenticity but not so great for the amount of fucks I had to give. The plot moves slowly, and you spend most of the book waiting for things to finally happen, a lot of which are frustrating. Charlotte’s one of those “push people away to keep them safe” characters, and it’s torturous watching her make those choices veeeeery slowly. The romance could have been cute and emotional, but it was just kind of there.

A Curse Dark as Gold reminded me heavily of McKinley’s fairy tale retellings (Beauty, Rose Daughter, Spindle’s End), so if you really liked those, you should absolutely venture into the backlist for this one. Otherwise, you might want to pass on this.

Tl;dr – Review in a GIFfy:

 

Size Doesn’t Matter (183): A Curse Dark as Gold; FurthermoreFurthermore by Tahereh Mafi
Series: Furthermore #1
Published by Dutton Juvenile on August 30, 2016
Genres: Fantasy, Retelling
Pages: 416
Format: Hardcover
Source: Library
AmazonThe Book DepositoryAudible
Goodreads
four-stars

Alice Alexis Queensmeadow 12 rates three things most important: Mother, who wouldn’t miss her; magic and color, which seem to elude her; and Father, who always loved her. Father disappeared from Ferenwood with only a ruler, almost three years ago. But she will have to travel through the mythical, dangerous land of Furthermore, where down can be up, paper is alive, and left can be both right and very, very wrong. Her only companion is Oliver whose own magic is based in lies and deceit. Alice must first find herself—and hold fast to the magic of love in the face of loss.

TBH, I wasn’t that interested in Furthermore. To the degree that I didn’t bother obtaining an ARC from ALA when I totally could have. Obviously, I’m kicking myself a bit now about that miscalculation, but whatever. Everyone proceeded to tell me how great and adorable it was, so, upon the urging of Gillian and Jessie especially, I got Furthermore from the library, and you guys were totally right about this (as you usually are lbr).

The Shatter Me books did show writing talent, particularly books two and three, since the metaphors go a bit over the top beyond the goal (again imo), but I still didn’t know Mafi could write like this. For all that Furthermore was massively hyped, I couldn’t help being impressed and surprised (almost gobsmacked) by how clever and beautifully crafted this book actually is. I’m not sure if it’s the additional experience Mafi has gained with time or that Juliet/that concept was the problem or just that middle grade is perfect for her talents. Either way, Furthermore‘s really excellent. I know some didn’t like the way the narration worked, since it’s very in-your-face quirky and in control, but I found that part of the story’s charm.

That said, it’s not my favorite plot. Nothing inspired by Alice in Wonderland ever will be. However, Furthermore easily slid into place as my very favorite Alice in Wonderland, including the original. While very clearly being inspired by Alice, Mafi adds a real frame and purpose to the absurdist trip to Wonderland (in this case, the super magical land of Furthermore). Alice and Oliver travel to Furthermore knowingly with a mission: to rescue Alice’s missing father. While the plot still does meander through a series of weird adventures without much clarity (intentionally so), there’s a guiding force that kept me more interested than these sorts of tales generally do. The world building’s fascinating, and I love the magic bunches too. Across the board, Furthermore‘s exceedingly clever.

Big shock here but my favorite part, along with the prose, is the ship. Tiny baby middle grade ships can be just about the cutest things ever, which certainly applies here. Alice and Oliver have a glorious hate to friendship arc that’s just the most precious thing. He used to pick on her, and she’s loathed him ever since. Now he needs her help to rescue her father (his mission from their magical town), and he gives her strict orders to follow his directions, which lol. Alice is one of those people who, if you tell her to stay in the car, she’ll be out of the car before you even are. They’re sniping is fun, and even more fun is when they begin to appreciate and trust one another. They better show up as teens in love in Whichwood.

From being an author I read for the unintentional lols, I’m genuinely massively impressed with Furthermore and now must read everything Mafi writes ever.

Tl;dr – Review in a GIFfy:

 

One response to “Size Doesn’t Matter (183): A Curse Dark as Gold; Furthermore”

  1. A Curse Dark As Gold is definitely slower but I must have been in the mood for that sort of atmospheric book! And I do love that it retold a tale that gets overlooked a lot of the time. Hmmm I wasn’t interested in Furthermore before but now I’m curious! I do like Alice-type tales and especially clever ones. Love your review! I actually want to read it now haha 🙂
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