Author: Sharon Cameron
Reading level: Young Adult
Genre: Gothic/Historical Fiction
Size: 318 pages
Release Date: September 1st 2012
Publisher: Scholastic Press
Source: Publisher in exchange for an honest review
Find It: Goodreads | Amazon | BN | The Book Depository
A spine-tingling tale of steampunk and spies, intrigue and heart-racing romance!
When Katharine Tulman's inheritance is called into question by the rumor that her eccentric uncle is squandering away the family fortune, she is sent to his estate to have him committed to an asylum. But instead of a lunatic, Katharine discovers a genius inventor with his own set of rules, who employs a village of nine hundred people rescued from the workhouses of London.
Katharine is now torn between protecting her own inheritance and preserving the peculiar community she grows to care for deeply. And her choices are made even more complicated by a handsome apprentice, a secretive student, and fears for her own sanity.
As the mysteries of the estate begin to unravel, it is clear that not only is her uncle's world at stake, but also the state of England as Katharine knows it. With twists and turns at every corner, this heart-racing adventure will captivate readers with its intrigue, thrills, and romance.
"Warm sun and robin’s-egg skies were inappropriate conditions for sending one’s uncle to a lunatic asylum."
In this stunningly atmospheric and well crafted Gothic debut Cameron takes us to the brink of insanity and back. This book surprised me in the best possible way! Although marketed as Steampunk and Intrigue...it was really a superb Gothic mystery with a tinge of romance. I haven't read a good Gothic tale in ages and this one delivered in spades.
Sharon Cameron's use of language is beyond beautiful in the novel...she winds a tale that is both gorgeous and frightening with her wonderful use of imagery and language. I was captured from the first line and didn't want to put this one down until I got the the end. Some might find the prose a bit dense but I would consider it lush and perfect...just what one wants from a "Victorian Gothic." The setting of Stranwyne Keep and the surrounding villages comes to life for the reader.
The mystery develops and we are left wondering what exactly is going on, who can be trusted and who (if anyone) really belongs in an asylum. (My take on Uncle Tully is Autism and it is clear that Katharine herself actually has a bit in common with him considering her OCD tendencies) The plot details may be slightly predictable (though I admit that I kicked myself several times for being so wrapped up in the tale that I didn't figure things out that seemed quite apparent after the fact) but no less enjoyable for it. I chalk that up to Cameron being an amazing wordsmith and storyteller.
I loved our heroine Katherine...she is pragmatic and brave with a tough exterior that hides a sensitive soul. Lane is protective and reliable...and all the more fun for not being a "gentleman." The romance that slowly develops is sweet and simple, and provides just enough to add a nice touch to the main plot without taking over.
The relationships between the characters is perhaps the key to everything working. Lane and his obvious devotion to Uncle Tully who he has been in charge of since he himself was a child. Mrs Jeffries and Davy and her uncanny ability to read his words through his eyes. Davy and Bertram ...sweet little Bertram and his love of cucumbers:( And most especially Katherine and Uncle Tully...she knows just how to interact with him and the love, affection, and trust between the two shines like a beacon through the gloom. Is there really any question what she must do?
If you are looking for Steampunk--the novel doesn't deliver (very poor marketing) but The Dark Unwinding more than compensates with an amazing tale of love and responsibility, intrigue and mystery that transcends familial obligations and socio-economic status.
The penniless and dependent orphan, a carriage ride to a dark, rundown and secluded estate, the reticent servants with dubious motivations, the hidden passages and howling wind, and the genius yet childlike uncle who is the center of it all. The Dark Unwinding is a captivating tale with all the mystery and spookiness one could desire and a great cast of characters though which Cameron's writing shines.