Saturday, August 25, 2012

The Dark Unwinding by Sharon Cameron

Title: The Dark Unwinding
Author: Sharon Cameron
Publisher: Scholastic Press
Release Date: September 1, 2012
Pages: 336 pages (hardcover)
How I Got the Book: ARC given to me by a friend.
Purchase/Pre-order: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository
Promotional Materials and More: author website

The Dark UnwindingA 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.


Based on Welbeck Abbey, the fifth Duke of Portland, and the building projects that took place at the abbey, The Dark Unwinding comes with a tantalizing premise based largely in truth that seems hard to believe. Cameron constructs a well-written story about a girl's conflict between preserving her own interests and doing what's best for nearly a thousand people, though it's not without its flaws. Misleading advertising, for one.

Katharine makes for a great heroine even if she isn't the best person at the beginning. She's only looking out for herself to start with and wants to make sure she can give herself some sort of freedom--even if gaining that freedom means sending nine-hundred people away to workhouses and worse. Her character development kicks in quickly, thank goodness, and she comes to love the estate just as much as everyone living there loves it. Her dilemma was strongly written and I wanted to find out her ultimate decision so badly.

The further I read into the novel, the more baffled I became that it was being advertised as steampunk. The only steampunk elements to be found are small clockwork figurines that Uncle Tully makes, and that is definitely not enough to create a steampunk novel. Rather than that, The Dark Unwinding is a Gothic novel flavored by mysterious happenings, a dark atmosphere, and careful prose. The genre was misclassified, methinks.

Speaking of the prose... It's well-written and contributes to the novel's atmosphere very well, but there was something about it that failed to captivate me the way I believe it was supposed to. 336 pages isn't a terrible long book by my standards, but it felt like I was reading so many more pages than that. Inconsistent characterization made characters like Mrs. Jeffries and Lane suddenly do something outside their character because the plot (or in the latter's case, the requisite romance) demands it and the plot drags for much of the book.

Katharine also has strange visions/dreams/hallucinations, one of which nearly kills her when she almost falls down a large flight of stairs, and then they're almost completely forgotten. Yanking on these plot threads and then hiding them away again started to irritate me after the third or fourth instance. Long before she started paying attention to what was happening to her, I had a good idea of what was going on.

The story arc concludes itself well and leaves off in a comfortable place, but this is not the end. The Dark Unwinding will have a sequel, though there's no information available at press time on what it will be called or when it will be released. Its plot is introduced at the very end of The Dark Unwinding and its promise of espionage during the time of Napoleon III definitely has me interested. Recommended for fellow fans of Gothic novels!

3 stars!

What am I reading next?: The Assassin's Curse by Cassandra Rose Clarke


  1. It's hard to find a YA novel that's truly steampunk these days. Still, it seems interesting enough. I'll probably read this just for research, but do you know any other good steampunk novels?

  2. I loved this book, Paige. I agree with all of your complaints though. It's definitely NOT steampunk and I think I pointed that out in my review too. I agree with you about some of the characterizations and the writing. But even so, I loved it. I gave it a 4, so I liked it a little more than you, but part of that is because of Uncle Tully and just because it is such a memorable book to me.

  3. Definitely not steampunk. I mention that it my review too.


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