Friday, September 06, 2013

Review: The Dark Unwinding by Sharon Cameron

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I received this book for free from Scholastic in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: The Dark Unwinding by Sharon CameronThe Dark Unwinding by Sharon Cameron
Published by Scholastic on August 27th 2012
Genres: Gothic, Historical, YA
Source: Scholastic
Buy on Amazon

When Katharine Tulmanโ€™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 uncleโ€™s world at stake, but also the state of England as Katharine knows it.

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!


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Canadian blogger, wife, mother, coffee lover, and sarcastic at heart! She has had a love for all things bookish since before Amazon and eReaders existed *le gasp*. You can also find her organizing tours and other fun things at Xpresso Book Tours.

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27 Responses to “Review: The Dark Unwinding by Sharon Cameron”

  1. Melanie (YA Midnight Reads)

    While I like plots happening early on in the novel, but it’s great that the author took time to introduce and make readers love the MC! Added to the TBR ๐Ÿ˜€

    (Is hoping that this is the first comment on your post, if it’s not- no lauging, lol)

    Great review, chick! <33

  2. Laureen

    I always have a hard time with books where the plot doesn’t start right away, but if it’s made up for by giving us some fantastic characters that we can love when it can still be a good book. I have to check this one out, I guess. Thanks for sharing your review!

  3. Molli

    I have a copy of this one I got for review and it keeps getting pushed back in my pile. I MUST fix this SOON. I love that you described it as a true Gothic – I was wondering if it was more Gothic or more steampunk. (I’d love either, honestly.) Uncle Tully sounds like such a fantastic character, as do some of the others! Great review, love!

  4. Eileen @ Singing and Reading in the Rain

    Ahh I’m glad that this one got a lot better after the first quarter. I can definitely see how it would be hard to get into at first, but I’m glad that it turned up for you, especially since the character development was done so well. I don’t know how I would feel about all of the characters, but if they’re all developed really well, then I’m good to go. I definitely will be checking this one out soon ๐Ÿ™‚

    Fantastic review, Giselle! <33

  5. Christianna

    This book is one that I need to put on my need to read soon list! It sounds perfect! It sounds creepy and it sounds like the characters are wonderful. All those things are the things that I love most in books! Great review!

  6. Sarah J

    Your review convinced me to add this book to my TBR! I love gothic novels. I’m not a huge fan of slow pace, but gothic novels are the only time I enjoy them. Thanks for such a great review!:)

  7. Chel

    Oh that is bad. I prefer my books to have eventful beginnings. I usually ditch those books if I still can’t get into them after 50 pages. But anyway, since I’ve been warned and it seems like the book gets so much better towards the end and because it’s creepy, I should be upping this to my tbr list. Thanks for the review, Giselle!

  8. Candace

    I agree this wasn’t really very steampunky, but it was definitely gothic! I really enjoyed it too! It’s been ages now since I read it, but I still remember it fairly well which speaks volumes, really.

  9. Jen

    I want to read this one! It sounds right up my alley, actually, with the vivid atmosphere and strong characterization. Although the plot isn’t strong in the beginning, at least Cameron wove in lots of chances for us readers to learn and love the characters. I need to pick up my own copy! Fantastic review, Giselle. ๐Ÿ™‚

  10. Mel@thedailyprophecy

    No love-triangle, yeay! ๐Ÿ™‚ It looks like it could become one, so I’m happy the author stayed away from it. I sometimes like character-driven books and the mystery in the plot sounds good.

  11. Pili

    I wasn’t completely sure about this one, but your review has convinced me I need to read it! Another one added to the TBR list!

  12. Vivian

    You know what, I think that’s my prob. I keep thinking I’ll like gothic novels bc of the “dark, thriller” appeal, but then I always get disappointed bc it’s slow, there’s a bunch of crap that means nothing to me, very little action, and the amount of horror/thriller isn’t what I want. Even though you ended up liking this one a lot, Idk if I could get past the 1st half where things are all over the place. My mind just doesn’t have to focus for that lately, lol.