After the death of her father, Charlotte Miller and her sister are the last in a long line of Millers who have run Stirwaters Mill – a mill rumored to be cursed. Though unusual for a young woman to operate a mill in pre-Industrial Revolution England, hardworking Charlotte feels inexplicably linked to the mill and it’s workers who depend upon Stirwaters for their livelihood.
After a string of almost devastatingly bad luck (which Charlotte will never believe is part of an generations-old curse), she finds herself at the mercy of a strange man named Jack Spinner who only asks for trinkets as payment. But Jack’s requests grow steeper and more calculated each time Charlotte must turn to him in desperation. Feeling the weight of responsibility for the families in Shearing, Charlotte will do anything to save the mill that has become almost a part of herself and those she loves.
Bunce’s prose is beautiful – a sense of sinister foreboding is felt with each groan and turn of the mill wheel, intensifying with each mysterious revelation. Charlotte is inspiring as she tackles each new setback with a stubbornness and love of the mill which continually draw others to her as she slowly unravels the mystery surrounding Stirwaters. Most importantly, Bunce convincingly fills in the gaps inherent in the original story of Rumpelstiltskin – what does make a name so powerful and in what circumstances would the Miller’s daughter ever give up her only son?