Friday, October 11, 2013

Review: The Dark Unwinding by Sharon Cameron

Title: The Dark Unwinding (The Dark Unwinding, #1)

Author: Sharon Cameron

Rating: 4 Stars

I've waited almost a year to read The Dark Unwinding, but it was a worthwhile wait. It's always a pressing fear in the back of my mind that by holding off on an unfinished series, the hype will cause my expectations to escalate in such a manner that I will be left disappointed when I finally do get around to the book in question. Quite thankfully, however, The Dark Unwinding is the unusual exception to the rule, living up to its hype and more. While I hesitate to label this novel as steampunk - really, it's simply historical fiction with innovations - Cameron't debut is not one to be missed.

Katherine, an orphan since birth, has been saddled with the onerous task of visiting her Uncle Tully - said to be mad - and sending him off to an asylum. Ever since she was young, Katherine has lived with her widowed Aunt Alice - vicious, rude, and greedy - subject to a life of cruelty, injustice, and no love. Thus, Katherine's only plan is to evaluate her uncle's holdings for her fat cousin brother who will inherit it, send her uncle packing to a mad house, and return home to hopefully earn a small amount of living herself. When Katherine arrives at her uncle's home, though, she discovers a budding inventor and genius instead of a raging lunatic. Moreover, the warehouse her uncle has built to work in is a source of livelihood for hundreds of poor men, women, and children. Now, unwilling to give up the secret of this teeming community to her aunt, Katherine is torn between protecting her own interests or those of her uncles. Meanwhile, the insanity that her uncle has been charged with may run in the family after her.

The Dark Unwinding excels primarily because of its characters. Although its plot is sufficiently creepy - strange laughter, sleep-walking, and unseen twists to boot - it is a slow story. Its characters, however, will keep you riveted to the page, unwilling to look away even for a moment. Katherine isn't, at first, an easy character to like. Although we sympathize with her plight, her true nature is never revealed until the novel wears on. Nevertheless, I enjoyed Katherine's narration from the start: honest, conflicted, and emotional. I love a heroine who is able to admit to her own faults, no matter how foolish, and whose courage reveals itself in the unlikeliest of times. Moreover, Katherine's relationship with her Uncle Tully - brilliant, though autistic - is beautifully written. In England, shortly after the French Revolution, autism was thought to be a form of madness and Cameron captures this sentiment perfectly, never painting Uncle Tully to be a perfectly normal human, but firmly steering clear of the label of lunacy as well.

Nevertheless, this book would be lacking without its vibrant cast of secondary characters. Mrs. Jeffries, the cook; Davey, the mute boy; Mary, the lady's maid; Ben Alridge, the handsome man with an interest in Uncle Tully's workhouse; and Lane, Uncle Tully's apprentice. When Katherine first arrives, she isn't given a warm welcome, merely because the people of her uncle's estate know she's there with the intent to evict them. It is a slow and gradual climb, however, to build trust, but ultimately a journey that pays off. Katherine's budding romance with Lane, in particular, was butterfly-inducing. It's the sort of slow-burn romance I crave, filled with understanding and tender conversation. Although the plot of the novel truly only picks up the second-half, the first-half is more than a little entertaining, built with these superb character relationships.

I wasn't expecting such a strong debut, despite the hype surrounding this novel, and while I can't fully claim it's the perfect October-themed read, it's not one worth missing. Cameron's understanding of character arcs is already nuanced, so I cannot wait to see how these relationships continue to grow and develop in the sequel. (A historical fiction duology - YAY!) If you're a fan of historical settings, intrigue, or just a good dose of innovation, then The Dark Unwinding is the perfect addition to your shelves. Cameron's world is one you'll miss; I'm already counting down the hours until I can return.


  1. I'm not into the whole historical fiction genre, but I DO love some steampunk. This book to me sounds kind of quirky and awesome! I love when characters are driving forces in a novel, it's a relief that Katherine is such an honest heroine. Love that! Ooh and I can't wait for that romance. ;) I'll be sure to check this one, amazing review as always, Keertana!

  2. Keertana seriously where do find all these brilliant reads? I know exactly what you mean, about waiting on a book that has so much initial hype, that you end up disappointed when you give it a go. This has happened with me so much recently, that I try to go into a book with no expectations at all. I also enjoy a book more when it's made up with solid characters, I'm glad that so many were able to leave such a great impression with you in The Dark Unwinding. Thanks again for putting another brilliant book on my radar and for a lovely review as always! :)

  3. I'm so glad you reviewed this, Keertana. I had been meaning to read this since its release last year but I went on a reading and blogging hiatus then and by the time I got back, I've already forgotten about it. But up it goes on my TBR again! Also, I dislike insta-love so good to know about the slow-burn romance!

  4. If I'm unsure about a series I like to hold off on picking it up, too, Keertana. The initial reviews of any book are usually high ratings and then you start to see more realistic ones come through which helps take away unrealistic expectations. Plus, you don't have near the long wait for the next book. Win! This sounds like the wait was worth is for you and I love a slow burning romance as well. Lovely review! :)

  5. I have seen this cover around and I wanted the book just because of it. I'm so glad that the story was great. I can enjoy slow books if there is something to keep me reading, like characters here. And not to mention slow burning romance. It's always a win. Amazing review as always Keertana :)

  6. I just love it when mystery and steampunk come together. Just seems to work. I've been curious about this one and now I know I really need to read it. It sounds like I would enjoy it.

  7. I've had this on my TBR for so long.. but now that it has your seal of approval I might just have to get around to it sooner! Lovely review, Keertana.

  8. Strange laughter? Something that creeps me out so damn much O.O But I love the sound of Katherine- typical gothic name, much? ;) so I will give this series a go soon.

    Fab review, hun! <33

  9. I saw this book at the Indie bookstore I was at yesterday! I love the cover of it. It's so beautiful. I didn't know that this was a series until you mentioned it Keertana, but it sounds so fascinating. I didn't know that autism was considered to be a form of madness in England after the French Revolution. I'm tempted to pick this one up now! It sounds like it would be a great Halloween read :).

    Great Review!

  10. Ever since I read In the Shadow of Blackbirds, I've been craving more of those creepy, atmospheric historical fiction reads. I'm a VERY pick historical reader, and it's not often I'll pick one up, let alone enjoy one. But you've really gotten me convinced with this one Keertana!

    I'm loving the sound of these characters. Even though there is a slow beginning, I doubt that I'd mind much, especially with these really rich and deep characters. The romance also sounds equally as wonderful. The relationship between the MC and her uncle also has me intrigued, since it's not often you find these kinds of relationships, especially with the uncle having autism. It's sounds so interesting, and I'm looking forward to seeing how things play out between the characters.

    Lovely review, Keertana dear! <3

  11. I checked this one out from my library early on during the summer, but I think I got about 70 pages in before I set the book down. I want to say I was in the wrong mindset for this when I first started reading, because I was intrigued by the concepts, but I think the pacing was a little slow for me at the time. I remember being bored. :/ I don't know if I put the book down too soon, because from your review, Keertana, it seems I really missed out. From your experience, does the pacing of the story pick up? I may just have to give it another shot if it does. :)

  12. This is one that I've actually seen around a lot, especially in bookstores, but I've read almost no reviews of it so I sort of pushed it to the side. I'm really happy to see your thoughts on it. But now I'm sad that I passed it by so easily! Historical, creepy and great characters all are concepts that intrigue me, as does the idea of her uncle having a real diagnosable medical problem that wasn't understood at that time. I always love when an author places that dose of reality and madness into a story. Plus a slow building romance gets me every time! I'll be sure to pick this one up next time I see it.

  13. 4 stars, eh? I am eyeing my ARC from a year ago very guiltily, though I AM excited to see that you enjoyed it!

    Wendy @ The Midnight Garden


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