Friday, August 31, 2012

Book Review: The Dark Unwinding, by Sharon Cameron


Cameron, Sharon. The Dark Unwinding. 318 p. 2012. Scholastic. Hardcover $17.99. ISBN 9780545327862.

I was introduced to this book at the Scholastic brunch at this year's ALA Annual Conference, in which Sharon Cameron and other authors performed an excerpt, readers' theater style, to give the audience a taste of the story. She was fabulously funny and the scene piqued my interest, so I knew I had to read this one! And it did not disappoint.

This is a wonderful debut novel, filled with lush prose and a plot that stands out from the rest of the YA shelves these days. Young, orphaned Katharine finds herself saddled with the daunting task of checking up on an uncle to verify that he is insane, and have him committed to an asylum so he will stop frittering away the family fortune. Only, when she arrives at his countryside manor house, she discovers something quite unexpected: a workshop of wondrous clockwork creations and a community of people who desperately need her uncle to continue with his inventions.

The story is full of mystery, self-discovery, and romance set against a sometimes-cozy, sometimes-eerie English manor backdrop. It's an absolutely delicious setting, and I loved the book's period feel. The language is straightforward enough for a contemporary reader, but Cameron employs turns of phrase that ring true to the mid-1800s setting. Also, it's important to note that there's lots of gorgeous costume description. (I don't know about you, but when I read historical fiction, I want to read about the clothes!)

With the steampunk genre on the rise, Scholastic is really playing up the clockwork machinery aspects of this book in their marketing, but it's not actually a steampunk-heavy novel. On the whole, it's more like an Austen or Bronte novel that just happens to have some mechanical goodies in it. I would recommend this book for any fan of historical fiction who doesn't mind a dash of fantasy.

The story wraps up nicely, but a few hanging threads deliberately leave the door open for a sequel. It was so lovely I didn't want it to end, and I look forward to reading more from this promising new author.  

The Dark Unwinding hits bookstore shelves on September 1st. ARC for review received from Scholastic.

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