Friday, October 12, 2012

The Dark Unwinding, by Sharon Cameron: You sort of got (steam)Punked!

Excuse me miss.
Is that Downton Abbey you are posing
in front of?The Dark Unwinding
The Dark Unwinding by Sharon Cameron
Scholastic Press: New York, 2012
ARC copy via NetGalley


Left to the mercy and care of her aunt in high-society Victorian England, Katherine Tulman has had the sense to make herself invaluable as a right-hand woman and bookkeeper.  When her aunt orders her to visit her reculsive uncle on the Tulman family estate in the country, 17-year-old Katherina has no choice but to go.  Stanwyth Keep, as she find it, is horribly unkempt, gothic, and terrifying.  Her Uncle Tully, as she finds him, is a raving lunatic, with a talent for inventing mechanical and earily life-like gadgets, and to make matters worse, the estate is inhabited by nearly 2000 villagers it employs to run it, all rescued from the workhouse.  If Aunt Tulman discovers this, she will shut the operation down and send Uncle Tully to the lunatic home.  Though she makes a poor first impression, Katherine finds the people and the estate growing on her, and agrees, against her better judgment, to the plea for more time to save the estate made by her uncles handsome apprentice.  However, as she struggles to find a way to save the estate, she begins to wonder if the estate is robbing her of her own sanity too.  Bits of steampunk and historical fiction give this title appeal to fans of the genres, though the plot is a bit overwrought at times.  It is recommended to readers aged 12-15.  

I’m a bit...so-so on this title.  I wanted to like it a lot more than I found myself actually liking it, and wonder if that disappointment has colored my whole perception and reading experience.  I’m not usually able to put down a book and come back to it a few weeks later if I like it a lot - and I did exactly that with this one.  That said, many other people have loved this book, so maybe you ought to listen to them!  Katherine rubbed me the wrong way, and aspects of the plot made me roll my eyes.  While I appreciated that Uncle Tully’s mental illness wasn’t totally vilified as it very well may have been in Victorian England, I did find it a bit cartoonish at times, and that cheapened it for me.  The whole thing was at times a little too fast-paced in a way that may leave others gasping and ripping through the pages, but really just had me feeling confused, and then annoyed with predictable plot twists.  I was also kind of bummed that this is a sequel.  Come on, YA.  PLEASE.  Give me more stand-alones!  I think some of you will love this, especially if you like costume dramas (which I do), and others will not.  It’s worth a try though!  Check it out at your local public library, and enjoy it with a cup of tea (sugar free, after you read this!).  

Finally, I have to ask.  On page 13, when Cousin Robert is in the potting shed, is this a straight up Cold Comfort Farm shout out?   If so, well played.  

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