The Dark Unwinding
Genre: Gothic, Historical, YA
Publication date: August 27th 2012
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.
-A copy was provided by Scholastic for review-
A decent dose of creepy, this was!
The Dark Unwinding started rough for me. For the first quarter of the book at least I had a very difficult time getting into it. My attention kept waning, my mind wandering. I think mostly caused by my own restlessness, though, but surely not helped by the ambiguousness of the plot by that point. It has a strong show rather than tell writing style; while it’s not always easy to initially situate ourselves in a story told as such, it does remain my preferred way of storytelling. I find it works especially well for this type of book, the eerie, gothic style, as it leaves room for our own imagination to creep ourselves out. This is where this novel excels, followed closely by its characterization. One thing to note is that if you’re expecting a steampunk you’ll likely be disappointed. While it has a few steampunk-like trinkets, this book is a historical gothic fiction in its entirety. We’ve got weird going abouts in this creaky house that seems to have unending rooms and hidden passages. Then our main character has been having bizarre dreams, even memory losses where she wakes up at completely different places with accusation of being a drunk due to wild acts she can’t even recall.
As most gothic novels, The Dark Unwinding does not have a high paced, action packed plot. It has tons of mystery, an extremely creepy mansion, and characters with wit that keeps the story interesting. The main plot doesn’t even get going until the second half of the book. The first half is filled with personality, however. This is where we meet and grow to love the many characters that walk these pages. Our protagonist, Katharine, is intelligent, a little uptight, but very determined. It was easy to fall into play with her, even through my initial misgivings she’s the one who kept me reading. You can also detect a great amount of character growth in her by the end of the book. Although our MC is great, the character I enjoyed the most was Uncle Tully. Autistic and fascinated by trinkets, Mr. Tully’s character is superbly crafted. He’s so lovable and sweet, making us sympathetic to his cause. It also brings to light how a now commonly diagnosed illness was once treated as if mentally unfit to be in society. But what stood out to me was how charismatic, how alive, Mr. Tully was despite the quirks brought on by his condition. He’s also obviously highly intelligent.
These are not the only bright personalities, there’s Davy, the sweet, innocent mute who’s going to steal all your hearts. Mary, our bubbly, eccentric maid who forms a delightful friendship with our MC. Mrs Jefferies who’s sort of their foundation in all the unruliness. There’s also Ben and Lane, our main male secondary roles. No hint of a love triangle, however. *everyone exhales* Although the romance does leave a little to be desired, especially in the creation of Lane’s character who has yet to open up to Katharine, but this is more of a longing for more details (which I hope will be in the sequel) than a complaint on the character development.
Very character oriented, highly atmospheric, with a plot that doesn’t disappoint – definitely one worth the wait. It has twists I never saw coming, and motives that were impressively intricate. A beautifully written, solidly plotted historical novel that you should not miss!