The Dark Unwinding
This Young Adult novel by Sharon Cameron caught me completely by surprise. I bought this flippantly from a Young Adult authors festival Wild Thing One and I went to a couple months back. I don't read much in this genre. I think most of the ones that get mega popular are a bit silly, and once one author hits on something that becomes celebrated it gets repeated so many times it becomes over done and dull. Plus, I like meat in my reading, and I find much of the Young Adult genre is vegetarian. I may almost be a vegetarian in my eating habits (pollotarian), but I am all carnivore where reading is concerned. Yet, while we were walking around the festival and perusing books this one, and another by her entitled "Rook", caught my eye. As I am working on my own book that may end up fitting into this category, I decided to try it. I am SO glad I did!
In June of 1852 Katharine Tulman is 17 and the ward of an aunt that hates her. She is forced to travel to the enormous and wealthy estate of her uncle, because her aunt thinks he is insane and squandering the family fortune. When Katharine arrives ready to have him committed to an asylum, she finds a genius that is employing a village of nine hundred people rescued from the workhouses of London. As she meets different inhabitants of the manor and village, and strange things start happening to her, she becomes more and more unsure about what she should do. Her future is entirely dependent on what happens to her Uncle Tully and Stranwyne Keep. She has big decisions to make that effect hundreds of people, but she can't seem to trust anyone, not even herself.
Besides being Young Adult, this novel was predominately historical gothic with elements of steam punk and psychological thriller. Once I got about halfway in I couldn't put it down, I had to know what was going to happen next. It was imaginative, believable, and unique. I liked the characters, especially Mr. Tully, and fell in love with Stranwyne. The writing was well thought out, and not corny, self indulgent, or over romanticized as I have found others of this type. It was on the lean side being a Young Adult, but that didn't stand out to me so much. I think the enjoyment I got out of the story gave it a meatier texture, so I was able to forget I was reading a vegetarian novel.
Although "The Dark Unwinding" could stand on it's own, there is a second book that continues the story of the characters at Stranwyne Keep entitled "A Spark Unseen". I have already ordered it! So, the moral of this review is: try things outside your favorite genres sometimes regardless of your prejudices, and don't be afraid to choose a book at random...it's lovely when you are rewarded with a page turner!!!