Author: Sharon Cameron
Genres: Victorian era, almost-steampunk, coming-of-age, bunnies.
Rating: 4 stars!
Source: finished copy from the publisher, Scholastic Press
Summary: 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.
I'm always cautious when reading a debut novel. Usually they're either horrible, or wonderful. The Dark Unwinding fell into the latter category, and I would definitely recommend it!
The story takes place outside of London in the mid 1800s, and the first thing I noticed was that the dialogue was good for the times. It felt naturally English and old fashioned, and not fake or stilted.
Mainly, lots of the good dialogue comes from Katharine's crazy uncle (who nowadays would be characterized as highly-functioning autistic) because the paragraphs of nonsense is really well written. His condition is sad and at the same time hilarious if you think of it positively. A true genius inventor is often a bit crazy and the author captures that craziness unusually well.
Now the main character, Katharine, I have a few mixed feelings about. She isn't the usual kick-ass or even sort of tough character I look out for when choosing a book. Prone to the occasional painting spell and easily scared, she isn't used to the safely of her London home. But there's good development and for what she lacks in physical abilities, I really felt she is strong in spirit. Katharine is torn for most of the story between her own self-preservence and the saving of her uncle and his whole estate/town and the jobs of his people. So I liked her for that, and she's smart-though often proves to be too curious for her own good.
The supporting characters are delightfully present and rounded. I grew attached to all of them, even the rather annoying Miss Jefferies who determined to give Katherine the hardest time possible while visiting.
On the other hand, the romance...was predictable. Not in the bad kind, I still liked it, but every new thing she discovered about the two possible angles of her triangle I had already guessed. But I will admit the way it turned out surprised me a little with an open ending. Honestly, there wasn't actual romance in it, because that's not what the plot centered around.
There's a nicely set pace with plenty going on to keep you guessing, its as much of a mystery as historical. But the climax turned out to be slightly confusing, lots happens at once, and it's disorienting with the commotion. Though the storytelling recovers toward the resolution of the book, when much of it is explained, so I understood what happened by the end.
The Dark Unwinding is one of those books that would make a great movie, and it was nice to read a standalone rather than the beginning of a series debut. I look forward to reading more of the author's work in the future.
**Thanks to the people at Scholastic Press for providing me with a finished copy to review. It did not effect my review in any way. I reviewed it honestly and without bias.**