The Dark Unwinding
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19 of 19 people found the following review helpful
on August 22, 2012
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.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
I must admit, I did not know anything about THE DARK UNWINDING before it fell into my lap one day in mysterious circumstances. Fifty pages into the book, I still had no idea what the book was about other than a girl dispatched from London to retrieve her uncle and send him to an insane asylum. This book almost lost me multiple times as it wandered from lingering descriptions of moors to confusing depictions of a pseudo-steampunk workshop. It took a lot of patience to stick with this one, a lot of patience that many readers don't have, but you know that?

Patience pays off.

THE DARK UNWINDING slowly unfolds, opening slowly before quickly unfurling into a dramatic, strange, and unique little story that is nothing like the first 50% convinced me. After almost giving up on this one several times, and taking several weeks to read thanks to reluctance, I finally found myself engrossed by the last 100 pages or so. The conclusion is twisting and engrossing, explosive and tense.

But maybe I should start with the things I didn't like.

For the first...I dunno, 100 pages... I had a rather big problem. I had no clue what the book was about. Was it a thriller? A family drama? A steampunk fantasy? Truth be told, it wasn't much of anything. It took a hodgepodge of ideas and flung them together awkwardly while being slow, plodding, and meandering. This book is not a steampunk, mind you - a few strange toys and steam-powered items do not make a book steampunk. Other than that, there was nothing steampunk about this novel. At all.

I didn't care for Katharine, our heroine, for about 300 pages of the story. There was nothing that stood out about her outside her flip-flopping that rivals Mitt Romney on healthcare. She was alternately strong and extremely naïve, bold and submissive. The characters around her were also rather bland, with the exception of Mary, the witty, strong secondary character that I loved from the moment she came onto the page.

Katharine's love interest(s)? Okay, I'll be honest. I didn't know Lane was even a possibility for like 150 pages. For some reason I thought he was some elderly angry manservant until he was described as being something close to a romantic interest. And Ben? Yeah, I thought he was Katharine's number one for almost the entire book. Way to throw a kink in my plans for swooning.

BUT.

I did like this one in the end! It's just that it took a lot to get to the parts that blew me away. The ending when everything not-so-conveniently fell into place was awesome. There were so many twists that I didn't expect, reveals that stunned me, developments that made me gasp and hunch closer to my book to disguise my delight from the people who watched me read. Luckily, I finished this one in the comfort of my bed. I finished and dropped the book to my chest and grinned.

This one has a big opening for a sequel, and although I didn't like the first 60% of THE DARK UNWINDING, I have to admit - I really want to read a second book. There was just something about the opening of THE DARK UNWINDING, and its middle, that I did not connect with, but once we find the reveals and twists, I was hooked and wanted more more MORE.

I have some advice. Go in with an open mind. Do not be held to the preconceived notions of this one, and don't be discouraged by a slow beginning that will appeal to fans of slow, description-heavy stories. This one is worth it in the end. But you have to get to the end first, don't you? Exactly.

VERDICT: Although the slow, tedious ending takes away significantly from the enjoyment of THE DARK UNWINDING, the epic conclusion makes up for a great deal of that. Check it out, but be ready for slow reading.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on October 17, 2012
From the first page, I knew I loved Sharon's prose. I just wanted to wallow around in it. Her descriptions of the Tulman estate, where most of the book is set (and which is based on Welbeck Abbey in England, during the time of the Fifth Duke of Portland - a fascinating study in and of itself) are lush and vivid, and she does an amazing job of conveying the feelings of creepiness and mystery, but also wonder and joy, that permeate the story.

Her characters are varied and intriguing. There is prim and proper Katharine, the narrator, who is forced to choose between protecting her own grim future or that of her Uncle and his 900 tenants. There is wonderfully eccentric and childlike Uncle Tully, who brightened every scene he was in while also contributing a note of sadness. Katharine's wretched Aunt Alice is the "villain" hanging over the entire story, concerned only with securing wealth for her son and making Katharine as miserable as possible, and every mention of her made me grit my teeth in frustration. Then we have the tenants of the estate, the dark and brooding Lane, with his eye for faces and unwavering loyalty to Mr. Tully; mute little Davy, who sees more than anyone realizes, and his constant companion, the rabbit Bertram; Mrs. Jefferies, who protects those she loves with a fiery fierceness; Ben Aldridge, whose fascination with Mr. Tully's automatons seemed to overshadow everything else; and Mary Brown, Katharine's maid, whose constant chatter filled many a silence.

Sharon spends just the right amount of time dropping careful clues about what's going on that I was never lost, but not so many that I knew exactly what was going on. A huge part of the story is Katharine's inner battle to figure out if she's losing her mind, and I was right there with her, questioning things that had happened, wondering what was real, and clinging to logic and reason like a lifeline. Meanwhile, there's tiny questions and inconsistencies that she notices around the estate, and tries to investigate, but we're left always wondering if those things had really happened, or if they were imagined. It was extremely well done, and I felt very satisfied when the story wrapped up and answered all those questions.

Probably my favorite aspect of the story was Katharine's interactions with her Uncle Tully. As this story is set centuries ago, when people like him were simply classified as insane, the book never comes out and says what his exact condition is, but I'm guessing it's autism. He also has some extraordinary savant capabilities, including a penchant for mathematics and his ability to invent amazing clockwork automatons that seem to defy the laws of physics. There is nothing supernatural about what he does; it is simply the outcome of his wonderfully unique brain. Katharine herself seems to suffer from a bit of OCD, even though she doesn't appear to realize it, and watching the two of them together was beautiful. I could probably have read an entire book consisting solely of their conversations and still been satisfied.

But of course, there's more to the story than that. There's mystery and intrigue, a touch of adventure, and a hint of romance. I think a problem the book has is setting expectations accordingly (which is not the book or Sharon's fault); because it's different than most other books out there, it's being lumped in with other stories that are nothing like it. The book is being marketed as "steampunk adventure," which it's absolutely not, and some people are even saying there are supernatural elements, which there aren't. If I had to classify this book, I'd say it's kind of Victorian Gothic-Light. There's mystery and creepiness, but no horror, and there's romance, but nothing blatant. The stars of the book are the intensely atmospheric prose and the beautifully developed characters.

To avoid a 100% gushy review, I'll touch on my (very few and far between) criticisms of the book. It's a very contemplative story, so if you're looking for a fast-paced adventure, this is not the book for you. It picks up towards the end, but most of the book unfolds very slowly. I was never bored -- actually, the gradual pacing allowed me to do the wallowing I talked about -- but nor was I on the edge of my seat, on pins and needles to find out what happened next. And then the ending could leave you a bit unsatisfied, depending on what you're looking for in the book. It ties up the plot arc neatly, but leaves some emotional threads dangling. Also, without wanting to spoil anything, I'll just make the very vague statement that towards the end, something happened that broke my heart in a way I did not expect to have my heart broken in a YA book. So be warned. Sadness awaits.

But honestly, my criticisms aren't even really criticism. They're more "proceed with caution" signs, so you don't rush headlong into a book that is different than what you might be expecting. But if you go in prepared, I think you'll be in for a treat.

If you are looking for something with beautiful writing, excellent characterization, an intriguing setting, and a captivating plot that unwinds gradually and intricately, then I'd suggest you try The Dark Unwinding.
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14 of 18 people found the following review helpful
on September 2, 2012
~This review is based off an ARC received from NetGalley~

Never before have I read an ARC and needed to insert a disclaimer into the review.

I need to do so now.

This is not a knock against the fantastic folks who allowed me and others to read an ARC of this book. This is more of why there is such a caution about reviewing ARCs. ARCs are never edited as they will be when they are released. However, The Dark Unwinding's Kindle ARC version was one of the hardest ARCs I've ever tried to read. It lacked capital letters, formatting and a lot of punctuation. The reason I'm telling you this is so that you will PLEASE take my review with a grain of salt when I talk about places of confusion while reading the ARC. It is entirely possible they will not exist in the finished version.

Now, with that out of the way, let's talk about the STORY!

This book intrigued me right from the get-go, and the world did not disappoint. I've really never read much steampunk, so I soaked in each and every description about Uncle Tully's creations. The description in this book, whether it be for the inventions or just the setting, was really fantastic, and I could always see each scene right in my head. What I really liked was that there wasn't too much emphasis placed on the "fantastical" elements of the book. Sometimes, people writing in fantasy, scifi, etc, have a tendency to hit the reader over the head with how new and exciting their setting is, but Cameron just let it roll like it was an everyday thing that needed only the slightest explanation. Infodumping was never a problem here.

The characterization of this book was interesting. I never really connected with the main character of Katharine, and in fact for a majority of the first part of the book never even liked her. I don't think you were actually supposed to, so you could see the change in her attitude later on, but I never think that's a wise choice to start off with. We should always be able to at least understand the main character straight off. Some of the other minor characters were eh, but my favorites were Uncle Tully and Davy, the mute little boy with a rabbit and many secrets. Despite being two of the most intriguing characters, they weren't particularly given much screen time until the end.

The plot of the story was really where I had my problems. Again, I don't know if it's because I was struggling with just reading the words on the page or what, but I was in a state of "WHAT is going ON?" for most of the book. Sure, conversations and everything I could follow and I got the general gist, but some of the segways in between scenes were very abrupt and gave the reader no idea they were about to change. The best example is when the story shot from a normal paragraph to an event wherein Katharine may or may not be losing her own mind. Every time this happened, there was no warning and no preamble. All of the sudden she's just dangling off the chapel roof or something. The almost supernatural hallucinations she was having were excellently written, yes, but every time they occurred I got jarred.

The ending is really where it all got convoluted. Characters and actions started making little sense, honestly. Personally, I thought the romance between Lane and Katharine was nonexistent until it abruptly appeared at the end. (That is actually a highlight for me, but this may not be for you.) The character of Mrs. Jefferies, Lane's aunt and the cook, especially befuddled me, because her character kept morphing between someone who seemed truly evil and someone who seemed truly nice. I guess this was part of the suspense of the book, but-again-everything was happening far too abruptly to read smoothly and make sense. I'm all for mysteries, but like every other plot they should flow and never jar the reader out of the story.

A couple more really big elements were added at the end that I think should have been mentioned earlier, but perhaps that's just my preference. The ending action was certainly-and literally-explosive, which was again wonderfully written. After all the twists and turns with the characters, I found the eventually ending rather expected, but overall I was very pleased. Goodreads doesn't suggest that there is a second book, but there HAS to be. Right? RIGHT? I mean, that wasn't a cliffhanger by any means but there is certainly more stuff to go down.

I truly hope there is a next book, and I really want to get my hands on a finished copy of this book. When the editing gets cleaned up, I think this book is going to read a lot smoother and be a fantastic ride for you guys. The writing is great, the characters are interesting and the plot really does wring you around. If you like steampunk and you like mysteries, I really recommend you pick this one up.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
In this stunningly atmospheric and well crafted Gothic debut Cameron takes us to the brink of insanity and back. This book surprised me in the best possible way! Although marketed as Steampunk and Intrigue...it was really a superb Gothic mystery with a tinge of romance. I haven't read a good Gothic tale in ages and this one delivered in spades.

Sharon Cameron's use of language is beyond beautiful in the novel...she winds a tale that is both gorgeous and frightening with her wonderful use of imagery and language. I was captured from the first line and didn't want to put this one down until I got the the end. Some might find the prose a bit dense but I would consider it lush and perfect...just what one wants from a "Victorian Gothic." The setting of Stranwyne Keep and the surrounding villages comes to life for the reader.

The mystery develops and we are left wondering what exactly is going on, who can be trusted and who (if anyone) really belongs in an asylum. (My take on Uncle Tully is Autism and it is clear that Katharine herself actually has a bit in common with him considering her OCD tendencies) The plot details may be slightly predictable (though I admit that I kicked myself several times for being so wrapped up in the tale that I didn't figure things out that seemed quite apparent after the fact) but no less enjoyable for it. I chalk that up to Cameron being an amazing wordsmith and storyteller.

I loved our heroine Katherine...she is pragmatic and brave with a tough exterior that hides a sensitive soul. Lane is protective and reliable...and all the more fun for not being a "gentleman." The romance that slowly develops is sweet and simple, and provides just enough to add a nice touch to the main plot without taking over.

The relationships between the characters is perhaps the key to everything working. Lane and his obvious devotion to Uncle Tully who he has been in charge of since he himself was a child. Mrs Jeffries and Davy and her uncanny ability to read his words through his eyes. Davy and Bertram ...sweet little Bertram and his love of cucumbers:( And most especially Katherine and Uncle Tully...she knows just how to interact with him and the love, affection, and trust between the two shines like a beacon through the gloom. Is there really any question what she must do?

If you are looking for Steampunk--the novel doesn't deliver (very poor marketing) but The Dark Unwinding more than compensates with an amazing tale of love and responsibility, intrigue and mystery that transcends familial obligations and socio-economic status.

The penniless and dependent orphan, a carriage ride to a dark, rundown and secluded estate, the reticent servants with dubious motivations, the hidden passages and howling wind, and the genius yet childlike uncle who is the center of it all. The Dark Unwinding is a captivating tale with all the mystery and spookiness one could desire and a great cast of characters though which Cameron's writing shines.

Note: I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on May 5, 2013
TO UNCOVER OR BE COVERED:
While not my favorite cover on this good earth, it still somehow works. The cover for The Dark Unwinding by Sharon Cameron meshes really well with the overall feel of the book.

WHAT HAD HAPPENED WAS:
Katherine Tulman has a raging jerkface of an aunt, who has her greedy eyeballs pinned on a fortuitous opportunity in the form of Katherine's uncle's rather large estate. Our poor girl is forced to do a most dreaded task: spy on her unsuspecting uncle, who is believed to be as cray as they come, and deliver proof of his lack of capability to maintain said estate. Only when Katherine gets there, fully intending to do just that not only for her mean ol' aunt but for her own freedom, she's not so sure she can bring down someone she comes to love so much, or someones. Lots of unexpected someones.

WHERE WE GO:
Ah, to be in a gorgeously English estate, a large property with a Gothic mansion and a whole village to boot. Katherine's uncle has a lot of playroom and abundant space for many many guests but more on that later. It's such a treat to have Katherine wandering through and staying in a potentially haunted home, with many rooms, hidden passages, and locked closets. It's such a fabulous trimming to the plot that ties in well with the story line and its movement. And, boy, every time that wind howled or the closet was left unlocked I had to glance around and make sure I was really alone.

More than that, though, there's this shadow of France looming over everything. All this political intrigue is meshed in with the story, and links with the antagonist's true motives. Cameron really has a lot to work with and to build a solid story arc on.

WHO WE ARE WITH:
This is the fun part, and definitely my favorite aspect of The Dark Unwinding by Sharon Cameron. You know that feeling of home and warmth when you're among a bunch of people who enjoy and like each other, real or not? You want to be part of that familiarity, that happiness, and that's what the cast in this book make you feel. Ready with banter and laughter and suspicion, ready to protect each other against all darkness heading their way. They're truly a family in every sense and even though they're reluctant at first, the initial warmth grows into a blaze when they accept Katherine into their fold, despite or perhaps because of their uncertainty of her loyalty.

THE LITTLE THINGS:

Lane and Katherine's Hate Turned Love
A lady's maid who won't shut up... ever
A funny bunny and sweet little mute child
Uncle Tully's astounding inventions
All that room for more...

I had every intention of loathing the ending, though, because MAN, ya'll know how I hate vague endings but then I found the bright light in the tunnel, A Spark Unseen until now. I loved this book, and I'm so stoked for the sequel even as I try not to be pissed at myself for WAITING SO LONG to read this book and missing out. Don't make my mistake, ladies and bros.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on April 9, 2013
The Dark Unwinding had a slow beginning, and was therefore hard to get into at first. After the story picks up, however, it quickly becomes impossible to put down. While I really enjoyed the characters (especially Lane), they aren't interesting enough to make the first half of the novel truly enjoyable--that is until the romance is introduced. Since it's a forbidden love of sorts, we get to see Katherine and her suitor of choice dance around each other in a semi-innocent and entirely unsure manner. The plot, however, is what really makes the novel shine. It is intense enough to keep the reader up all night turning pages just to see what will happen next. Even though the plot doesn't really get moving until the second half of the novel, it is well worth the wait.

Katherine grows a lot in the novel. She is a very Cinderella-esque character as she is an orphan who is being cared for by a wealthy aunt, who treats her as a servant. Katherine is very intelligent, however, and has plans to break free of her Aunt's suffocating grip. The only problem with her plan is her heart. In order to one day become independent of her Aunt, she will have to destroy the lives of thousands of people by shutting down Stranwyne--her Uncle's potentially mis-managed estate.

As Katherine decides between doing what's best for her and what's best for the people of Stranwyne, she meets a lot of interesting people. Lane was by far the most interesting with his dark, brooding personality. Lane and Katherine just fit together really well, and it's impossible not to hope that their relationship will progress to the next level. Then there is Ben Aldridge. He is likable on the surface and clearly interested in Katherine, but he is a hard character to root for.

Once we get into the second half of the novel, it is just packed with intrigue. There is so much mystery and action, my head was almost spinning! I staid up very late to finish this novel and I honestly can't remember the last time I had a book so good that I decided reading it was far more important than sleeping. There is just so much that happens in the second part of the book and it was so incredibly well done. The second I closed the book, I wanted to pick up the sequel, A Spark Unseen. Unfortunately, A Spark Unseen won't be available until the Fall of 2013, so it will be a bit of a wait.

The Dark Unwinding is a phenomenal debut! Filled with interesting characters, a good romance, and a fantastic plot, readers just won't want to put this one down. Even though the beginning was a bit slow, the book was so amazing that it is worth reading until the very end. At the half-way point the book just takes off and the reader is completely immersed in Cameron's world.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on April 8, 2015
Katherine is sent to Stranwyne to declare her uncle insane, making her aunt and cousin very rich. She meets adversity from the staff and residents, finally agreeing to stay one month's time before returning to London and telling her aunt anything. Katharine Tulman is a sensible, frugal young woman who is well aware her financial security and future rest upon the tenuous good will of her greedy aunt and cousin. I don't have any major problems with her. She is curious without being reckless, assured without being a snobbish know-it-all and generally levelheaded. The supporting cast is interesting in a sometimes slightly off kilter manner that adds to the overall strangeness of the setting and circumstances.

The plot progresses smoothly at a decent pace. My one great unhappiness with the story is that Katherine's analytical, logical mind has a certain large, not quite believable blind spot regarding a certain matter. It lessened the scary factor for me. The romance develops somewhat slowly (though it's only a one month acquaintance) and isn't horrendously in your face. Throughout, Katherine remains sensible of her position, his, and the unchanged bleak future awaiting her. And there's no love triangle. :)

If you're looking for a clean, gothic tome of suspense, somewhat reminiscent of Jane Austen or the Brontes, this may be the book for you. I enjoyed it for the most part and would recommend it to YA readers looking for suspense with a touch of steampunk and limited sappiness.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on September 3, 2012
First Sentence: Warm sun and robin's-egg skies were inappropriate conditions for sending one's uncle to a lunatic asylum.

A Quick Synopsis: Katharine Tulman traveled to her uncle's estate expecting to find a madman who deserved to be committed to a lunatic asylum. Instead, she finds a genius inventor who lives in his own world and has his own society on his estate--nine hundred people that he rescued from the workhouses of London. Soon Katharine is faced with the hardest choice of her life--does she turn her uncle in to an asylum, as she was originally sent there to do so, or does she live a lie for the people there she's grown to care so dearly about?

The Review: When I read the premise for The Dark Unwinding, I instantly knew I /had/ to read it. And not to mention, that gorgeous cover! Add in the fact that my library didn't have a copy of this book, and you can pretty much figure out I bought this book for myself. If there is one thing you should know about my reading habits, it is that I RARELY buy books.

And, oh, how glad I am that I bought The Dark Unwinding! First of all, the main character, Katharine, has everything that I like in a heroine. She's feisty, strong, and absolutely independent. Katharine also reminded me of Gemma Doyle, from Libba Bray's A Great and Terrible Beauty (The Gemma Doyle Trilogy). Both are the best heroines you could hope for from the time period that the books take place in. The supporting characters are just as great. Uncle Tulman is an enigmatic character, and Lane, his apprentice is so much more than just another romantic interest. I could go on and on and on, as each character is so well-developed...but I think you get the point.

Now, in regards to the plot, let me make this clear: The Dark Unwinding is not a steampunk action thriller. It has a slower start than some of the other books I've read lately, but don't let that drive you away. There is a good amount of suspense, and the plot's pace is exactly what the title suggests it is: the events in this book start slow at first, then the plot threads begin to unravel and unwind. As the book moves along, the plot unwinds more and more until it reaches an awe-inspiring climax.

Sharon Cameron's vivid descriptions of the estate also deserve a brief mention here. Since The Dark Unwinding is set against the backdrop of 1852 England, I really wondered what the imagery would be like. Ms. Cameron did not disappoint. Here's a snippet of the imagery: "The room was huge, even by the standards of Stranwyne. The lower walls were plastered, dotted round with bright-glowing gas globes, the upper spaces open brick and crisscrossed by pipes and ladders of iron, crawling upward to a ceiling too far in shadow to see."

The Dark Unwinding did much more than not disappoint--it completely blew me away. Katharine and her story will delight middle grade and young adult readers alike. This is, without a doubt, one of my favorite books of 2012, and the ending leaves plenty of room for a sequel. But sequel or no sequel, I can't wait to see what Sharon Cameron comes up with next!

Memorable Quote: "I know it," he replied. "We've all known it, one way or another. The relatives will come, the law will come, Mr. Tully will die. It cannot last, unless..." The gray eyes met mine. his face expressionless. "But you could buy us time. Maybe years, even. You might come to think that worth the lie."
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on August 15, 2013
The Story-
Katharine Tulman lives under the care of her Aunt Alice, an old biddy who makes Katharine's life difficult. When Alice finds out that her late husband's brother is squandering away the family fortune, she sends Katharine to the old family estate to declare him insane and send him to an asylum.

When Katharine arrives at Stranwyne Keep she finds a puzzle. Hundreds of people live in a little village within Stranwyne, a village that is employed by her Uncle Tulman. If Katharine has her uncle Tully decalared a lunatic, then all the villagers will be out of work.

She also is face with the strangeness of her Uncle. He is rather peculiar, in today's time I'd believe him to be Autistic and have OCD. He is obsessed with clockworks and builds life-like inventions that move and talk. The villagers are against Katharine, knowing what she's come to do, and she feels unsafe. When she begins having nightmares and delusions, there is no one for her to turn to, not even her uncle's handsome assistant Lane.

My Thoughts-
A very interesting steampunkish novel with a deep mystery. The scene when Katharine first arrives at Stranwyne Keep is chilling and dark. It sets up the whole rest of the novel. There are always little bits of unease and mystery that pop-up. Katharine believes herself to be going insane, and the author does a great job of ramping up the tension. I did find it odd that Katharine doesn't confess her problems to anyone. Even Mary's mother makes the connection that if Katharine isn't really a drunk, then something nefarious is happening. Why is Katharine so blind to the fact that someone might be hurting her?

I have to say that the author does such a good job hiding the real bad person, that I didn't guess who it was. The reader knows there is a villain, but the clues often are red herrings and I fell for the trick! There is also the well developed character of Katharine. From the very beginning of the story the reader knows that Katharine will do what it takes to keep herself safe and eventually get out of Aunt Alice's grasp. Katharine is conflicted with the fate of the villagers, but she knows that if Aunt Alice doesn't take control of things, that she herself will be left without a future. Katharine's problems are realistic and she goes through visible growth as the story cycles.

The romance between Katharine and Lane is a bit disappointing. I didn't feel a deep connection between the two, and because of the time period, nothing beyond a kiss is manifest. Not that they needed to go further, just that there needed to be some sense of unrequited feelings.

Overall a fun read. 3 stars.
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