ARC Review: The Dark Unwinding by Sharon Cameron

TITLE: The Dark Unwinding
AUTHOR: Sharon Cameron
PAGES: 336
FORMAT: Kindle (Netgalley ARC)
ISBN: 978-0545327862
BUY IT: Amazon
RATING: 5/5 [in the genre] or 9/10 [all books I’ve ever read].
FOR: People looking for a new Jane Austen. People who love the Victorian age, steampunk, ghost stories, or intrigue. People who are always living 200 years in the past. People looking for a good read with a clever, admirable heroine and a realistic romance. Anyone who can read or be read to.
GET IT:  September 1st, 2012 

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.

the basics
I will tentatively say that this is my favorite young adult book of the entire year! It’s definitely up with Pretty Amy by Lisa Burstein and Everneath by Brodi Ashton. The Dark Unwinding combines so many of my favorite things: action, hints of the supernatural, psychology, pretty Victorian dialogue, a capable heroine you don’t want to punch, and a romance that builds slowly instead of sparking from first glance. Add some eerie children, evil aunts, and magical clockwork figures and you have one thrilling steampunk adventure. Cameron’s writing is beautiful. She takes the Victorian style and gives it a modern flavor that teens can enjoy.

plot . 4.5/5
The only notch I took off here was for the ending. I wasn’t quite sure if I was satisfied with the final reveal. To me, it made it a bit too real-world and I’d been enjoying the sort of magical isolation of Stranwyne. However, it’s a small notch. The rest of the plot was fabulous, from the first (darkly funny) line. You never get a chance to be bored. Every time things begin to settle down, a new wrench is thrown into the mix. By the end, you realize that all those little details you discounted earlier fit together in a huge intrigue. It all makes sense, but you’d never see it coming. The twist during Katherine’s party was my favorite moment. The romance was a close second; I don’t like romance novels, but I love a good romance embedded in a thrilling plot. This was one where I was rooting for the pairing from the beginning and felt so satisfied at how long it took to develop.  I was also expecting something supernatural to happen the whole time; Cameron plays a good game, keeping you guessing how much is real.

concept . 5/5
The cover blurb delivers everything it promises, and more. Beyond the problem of her uncle’s madness and saving the estate workers, there are so many more layers: Katherine’s own mental struggles, the mystery of Davy’s silence, the intrigue with Mrs. Jeffries, Lane’s particular devotion to Mr. Tully. The clockwork workshop. The old house all in pink. Everything felt whimsical and dark at the same time. I had a hard time picking up another book after finishing this, because I wanted so badly for it not to be over.

characters . 5/5
I loved them all. Deeply. They were all multifaceted and not what you expected at first. Mr. Tully was my favorite. Cameron nailed his brand of madness, a childlike innocence mixed with a brilliant mind. His dialogue made me laugh. I wanted to hug him from the very first moment he appeared, and have him for my own uncle. Katherine was a close second. You watch her grow through the book, which is always exciting. She doesn’t always make the right choices. She doesn’t always know what’s going on. But she learns, and becomes richer for it. Lane is more subtle, as he’s quiet, but he says so much in his body language that I knew him well too. Mary—just hysterical. I could gush about every character. Just take my word: they’re all lovely.

style . 5/5
I love Victorian writing. It’s decorative. It’s beautiful. They paid so much attention to the way things were worded back then. Like Oscar Wilde alluded to, writing was a kind of painting. Many people find it tedious because it was so dense. Cameron captures all that is good about Victorian style while updating it to do away with that tedium. She paints beautiful pictures with every word. Her dialogue is spot-on. Her language makes the book feel even more magical. But it’s nothing your average teen wouldn’t understand.

mechanics . 5/5
Nothing I noticed was off. It was just brilliant, all around.

take home message
One of the best YA books of 2012! An exciting mystery with a heroine you want to root for.

Note: I received this ARC for free through Netgalley from Scholastic INC. The price of the book and its origin in no way affected my stated opinions.

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