Source: Bought from Books-A-Million
Back Cover Blurb:
The gold thread shimmers in the fading light . . .
It promises Charlotte Miller a way out of debt, a chance to save her family's beloved woolen mill. It promises a future for her sister, livelihood for her townsfolk, security against her sinuous and grasping uncle. It might even promise what she didn't know she needed: lasting hope and true love.
But at what cost?
To get the thread, Charlotte must strike a bargain with its maker, the mysterious Jack Spinner. But the gleam of gold conjures a shadowy past -- secrets and bonds ensnaring generations of Millers. And Charlotte's mill, her family, her friends, her love . . . What do those matter to a powerful stranger who can spin straw into gold?
In her brilliant debut, Elizabeth Bunce weaves spellbinding fairy tale, spun with mystery and shot through with romance
This book is a re-telling of the Rumpelstiltskin fairy tale, though many of the details are different from the tale I read as a child. The story is set in a country on the verge of an industrial revolution, and the vivid details of the working of the mill bring the story alive. The other world-building details and the pacing are also excellent.
The characters are varied, interesting, and engaging. I found myself really caring about the characters, which was emotionally difficult since there was also a pervading feeling of pain, darkness, and hopelessness in the story. I kept feeling like the heroine couldn't possibly win out even though I knew she had to. The story did have a satisfying ending.
There was no explicit sex, though the heroine obviously has some because she has two children after she's married. There are ghosts in the story. The magic involved is folk superstitions--curses, hex symbols, corn dollies, and the like--but treated as if they were real. Overall, I'd rate this book "good, clean reading."
Excerpt: Chapter One
When my father died, I thought the world would come to an end. Standing in the churchyard in my borrowed mourning black, I was dimly aware of my sister Rosie beside me, the other mourners huddled round the grave. Great dark clouds gathered over the river, and I knew them for what they were: The End, poised to unleash some terrible wrath and sweep us all right out of the Valley. I let go my hold on Rosie's arm, for I was ready to be swept away.
Yet, somehow, I found myself still standing at the end of the service. I stooped and cast a handful of earth atop the casket, accepted a lily from the vicar, and joined the train of black-clad figures trailing back to the Millhouse--all the while wondering what had gone wrong. Surely at least the mill would mourn his passing, and I would find the old wheel splintered and cracked, riven from its axle, ground to a standstill in the wheelpit.
In the millyard, the old building stood as ever, casting its vast shadow over the house and grounds. Far above where the stones met the roofline, an old sign, so faded and weather-eaten as to be near illegible, spelled out STIRWATERS WOOLLEN MILL: MILLER & SONS, SHEARING. There was no Miller now, and there had never been any sons--just two half-grown orphan daughters, a crumbling ruin of a water-mill, and the mountain of debt it was built upon.
"Charlotte." The voice at my shoulder was gentle but insistent, and I turned to see Abby Weaver, big with child, standing beside me. The black gown I wore, twenty years out of fashion and so tight I could scarcely breathe in it, had been her mother's. Abby squeezed my arm and steered me into the Millhouse.