Friday, September 14, 2012

The Dark Unwinding

The Dark Unwinding
Sharon Cameron
318 pages
Release date: September 1, 2012
Publisher: Scholastic
Source: the publisher

You can read the Goodreads summary here.

I was excited to read The Dark Unwinding for two main reasons - first, it was being compared left and right to Jane Eyre, my all time most favorite classic.  Second, it was also classified as steampunk.  I was only let down on one account.

When Katharine's aunt suspects her uncle of squandering away the family fortune, she sends Katharine to check up on him, fully anticipating to send him off to an asylum.  But when Katharine arrives at the estate, she discovers an an eccentric uncle, but not a person who belongs in an asylum.  She spends a month hoping to find a way to convince her aunt to let the estate be, all the while falling in love with the house and it community of people.  But mysterious things are occurring and she soon begins to wonder if it's she who belongs in the asylum...

There are obvious parallels that can be made between The Dark Unwinding and Jane Eyre.  I won't go into them all now, but I will say I absolutely fell in love with the gothic setting, the big house and its moors.  Sharon Cameron did a fantastic job as describing the house and its eccentric inhabitants.  Even though the big house is practically desolate, that doesn't mean The Dark Unwinding was lacking for great characters.  Katharine was a strong heroine in her own right and her uncle was interesting to read about.  I can see why some might want him in an asylum since people didn't know as much about mental health in the mid-nineteenth century, but it seemed to me he was sane, just maybe a little autistic and/or OCD.

I found the plot to be rather interesting.  It was obvious something was up when Katharine (affectionately called Simon's Baby by her uncle) began hearing noises, noticing things in different spots than they should be, being accused of being drunk by her maid but not remembering what happened... I wondered right along with Katharine if she was the crazy one, but I knew she couldn't be.  Indeed something bigger was going on and as story came together in the last few chapters I was surprised at the turn of events, but it all made sense in the end.

But where was the steampunk?  Much like the romance in the novel, it was lacking.  The only steampunk element in the novel were the toys and inventions Katharine's uncle makes, which admittedly use a lot of gears, but there were no multi-use parasols or dirigibles or any other steampunk elements.  I was disappointed in that.

Four stars - I loved the gothic setting, but the book was seriously lacking in steampunk.  If you're a fan of Jane Eyre (or any such classic novel) I think you'll enjoy The Dark Unwinding.

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