A Touch of Gold is a charming if somewhat predictable update to the King Midas legend


Annie Sullivan expands on the well-known legend of King Midas by giving him a sheltered but still utterly capable daughter — who he also happened to turn to gold.

One of the best things about fantasy stories is how they can reimagine tales that are already well known to us. Annie Sullivan’s A Touch of Gold is a great example of this, taking the story of King Midas and updating it for a younger, more feminist (and romance-inclined) audience.

The mythological tale of King Midas is pretty well known. But, the basic strokes are these: Midas does a good deed, earns a reward from a god, and subsequently chooses the power to turn anything he touches into gold. This is where the idea of someone having a “golden” or “Midas touch” comes from. But, poor King Midas didn’t think things through and nearly starved to death because he couldn’t eat anything since he kept changing all the food to gold. He’s ultimately able to reverse the curse by washing himself in a river, but, still. Be careful what you wish for, and all that jazz.

In this version, Midas has a daughter named Kora, and she’s also one of the things he accidentally turns to gold. While he’s ultimately able to save her from being a statue forever, Kora nevertheless remains cursed: Her skin is golden and she possesses a bizarre connection to the remaining pieces of her father’s cursed gold objects. Her appearance — along with the rumors that swirl around the country about what it means — causes Kora to spend a decade of her life in virtual hiding, covering herself with cloaks and hoods and avoiding public appearances.

All of that changes thanks to the arrival of a charming duke, who suddenly makes Kora feel as though she’s more than her curse. Then there’s the theft of Midas’ cursed gold, which gives her a new purpose. As Kora embarks on a journey to save her father and the kingdom he rules, a second chapter of the Midas story begins. Only this time, it’s about a woman, which makes everything suddenly feel fresh.

On the whole, A Touch of Gold is a creative twist on a familiar story; with a likable heroine who gets the chance to become more than she ever thought she could be. Some of its twists — particularly in the romance department — are pretty predictable. And the bulk of its secondary characters are little more than caricatures. However, the story is still fast-paced and fun, complete with pirates, evil sea temptresses, a bar brawl and more. It’s an easy summer YA read that’s perfect for the beach, the pool, or just hanging out in the AC.

Why? Here are our thoughts:

Kora is so darn likable

As far as heroines go, Kora is pretty great. She’s charming and likable, despite the fact that her curse has left her with such low self-esteem that she’s practically a shut-in. Watching this princess embrace her identity outside of her curse and make real connections with others, even those she thought didn’t care about her, is a much more important hero’s journey than her quest for her father’s gold.

We like her and want her to succeed; even when she’s making choices that we can tell are probably the wrong ones. The after-effects of Midas’ curse on her life are fascinating, and go well beyond her simply possessing golden skin. (I wouldn’t be surprised if, at some point, we find out that Kora has even more secret abilities locked within herself.) She’s the reason that you’ll keep going with this story, even if you roll your eyes a bit at her affairs of the heart.

The romance is kind of unnecessary

As with any YA novel these days, A Touch of Gold has a significant romance in it. Several, actually. But the thing is, none of them are terribly surprising, or even particularly interesting. In fact, if you’ve read almost any book of this type before you’ll be able to guess every twist before it happens and none of these couplings will surprise you. It’s hard to really root for anyone in this story when you can chart the course of every person’s relationship with every other one pretty much from the moment they meet. If there are certain character types you particularly enjoy — brave heroes who harbor secret suffering, sassy girls who learn to fight with swords — you’ll find a lot to like here. If you can’t stand realizing about a hundred pages before it happens that someone isn’t who they claim to be, well. Buckle up.

The thing is, in this story more than many others, it makes sense for Kora to find love. It’s an important part of her journey to self-acceptance, realizing that not everyone will reject because of her appearance or rumored powers. She deserves to know that someone cares about her for herself, not just her title, her rumored riches, or her magical abilities.

It’s just unfortunate that the love story in this novel feels more like a drag on Kora’s development than something that makes her stronger. None of the romances are developed particularly well, as everyone’s feelings for everyone else simply drop out of the sky fully formed. Want to see two people fall in love? Well, too bad, because the folks that are supposed to like each other pretty much do so instantly. Yawn.

Where will a sequel go?

The ending of A Touch of Gold makes it clear that we’ll see another story in this universe about Kora and friends. The implied direction of said sequel is much more open-ended than the very specific mission of this original novel. But I think that’s a good thing. Expanding the world of this story beyond Midas’ kingdom and the ship that Kora basically commandeers will not only allow her character to grow, it’s a chance for the story to introduce a bit more excitement and suspense.

It’s not an accident that this novel’s most entertaining sequence occurs when Kora and company are basically off the map battling mythical monsters. And it’s that feeling of possibility that this universe and these characters need a bit more of. Not everything is — or should be — set in stone.

light. Related Story. Dance of Thieves is a good romance, but not an easy spin-off for newcomers

A Touch of Gold is available now.