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The Dark Unwinding Hardcover – September 2, 2012

4.3 out of 5 stars 102 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Gr 7-10-Katherine Tulman, 17, faces an impossible decision when she arrives at Stranwyne Keep, in 1852. Her avaricious aunt wishes to seize the profitable estate and orders Katherine's visit so that she may declare her husband insane. Upon her arrival, however, Katherine learns that her eccentric uncle's clockwork factory employs hundreds of individuals plucked from workhouses. Doing her aunt's bidding would undoubtedly send them back into poverty. Katherine receives a warm welcome from her likely autistic uncle and a quirky village girl, Mary Brown. Her uncle's brooding assistant and his aunt treat her with greater suspicion. Katherine wonders if she, like her Uncle Tully, is losing her grip on reality as she struggles with nighttime visions. She must decide between her self-interest and her uncle's well-being even as more sinister characters begin to emerge. Cameron's debut novel reads like a steampunk fantasy. Detailed descriptions of the keep and grounds make for admirable world-building. Secret passages, canals, and Victorian furnishings drip from every page. Tully's clockwork creations seem wondrous, even eerily animated, adding to the story's chilling sense of dread. The villain's identity will be obvious to readers, and Katherine wavers overlong in her deliberations, but teens are not likely to mind as they experience Katherine's romantic and moral dilemma. Hand this to fans of Kenneth Oppel or Libba Bray, and readers who pursue history, invention, or romance. They will find Cameron's scientific fable to their taste.-Caitlin Augusta, Stratford Library Association, CTα(c) Copyright 2011. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

From Booklist

Seventeen-year-old Katharine Tullman is faced with an onerous task: her mean-spirited and acerbic Aunt Alice is sending her to Stranwyne to commit her Uncle Tully to an asylum, thus saving the family fortune that he is rumored to be depleting. While he is admittedly strange—he would probably be labeled autistic today—his estate and fantastical creations are providing the means to rescue families from the poorhouse, allowing them to live together as they care for him and the property. First-time novelist Cameron has based this delightful tale on the fifth Duke of Portland’s Victorian estate, Welbeck Abbey, which provided work for poor families in a similar manner during the 1850s. A Sue Alexander Award winner, Cameron has created characters worthy of this larger-than-life estate and a plot that is as convoluted and surprising as the house itself. With villains morphing into friends and friends morphing into foes, the novel, while perhaps not an easy sell, will reward those readers who enjoy historical fiction served up with a dash of the strange, the mysterious, and the romantic. Grades 7-12. --Frances Bradburn

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Product Details

  • Age Range: 12 - 17 years
  • Grade Level: 7 - 12
  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Scholastic Press; First Edition edition (September 2, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0545327865
  • ISBN-13: 978-0545327862
  • Product Dimensions: 1.2 x 5.8 x 8.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (102 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #671,388 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
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.
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Format: Hardcover
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.
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Format: Hardcover
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.
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