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The Dark Unwinding

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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.

318 pages, Hardcover

First published September 1, 2012

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About the author

Sharon Cameron

12 books1,781 followers
Sharon Cameron was awarded the 2009 Sue Alexander Most Promising New Work Award by the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators for her debut novel, The Dark Unwinding. When not writing Sharon can be found thumbing dusty tomes, shooting her longbow, or indulging in her lifelong search for secret passages.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 1,050 reviews
Profile Image for Emily May.
1,992 reviews298k followers
October 28, 2012
What an exciting debut! However, I feel the need to point out immediately that fans of steampunk may be disappointed by The Dark Unwinding which to me belongs firmly in the historical fiction genre. I would define steampunk as a kind of Victorian science fiction and wouldn't count merely having an inventor who creates a few wacky machines - you're likely to believe this novel is steampunk if you believe Frankenstein is steampunk. But whatever, this was an incredibly enjoyable story that gets better and better as the book progresses so I would suggest you persist a little longer than usual if you are not gripped straight away. Upon finishing it, I was absolutely delighted to discover that there will be a sequel.

Frankenstein, by the way, is a terribly inappropriate comparison. I would say this book reminds me in many ways of The Wicked and the Just: historical setting, somewhat bratty protagonist (but not as much), large portion of the novel held up by the extremely charismatic set of characters, main plot line kicks off in the latter half of the book, etc. The story starts off fairly simplistic and the stakes seem relatively low to the reader. Katherine Tulson is sent by her inheritance-greedy aunt to have her uncle committed to a lunatic asylum and, by doing so, release the family fortune to her aunt. What she finds at her uncle's estate is not a lunatic, but a genius inventor who I believe - though it is never stated - to be autistic. Not only that, but her uncle also employs more than nine hundred people from workhouses who would have nowhere else to go otherwise. So, Katherine becomes torn between protecting her inheritance and protecting this strange community.

When the plot starts to really get going in the second half, it packs a punch. There is a mystery complete with twists and tension, perhaps more astute readers will fail to be fooled by this book but I was surprised numerous times. There is also a little romance going on but it comes second to the bigger issues and doesn't swamp the story - my favourite kind. The novel is not without faults; for example, some events were a little rough around the edges and perhaps could have been explained better, but the good most definitely outweighed the bad. For me, anyway.

But you might be thinking "if the plot doesn't really start to happen until the second half, then what keeps you reading during the first half?" And the answer is quite simply: the characters. I will use The Wicked and the Just as an example again because that book had me wildly entertained even when very little was happening. The Dark Unwinding is the same. You can't help but be charmed by all the different, weird, not always nice characters floating around in here and the way they interact with one another.

The best character has to be Uncle Tully, I'm straining my mind to think of a character in something else to compare him to but he's pretty unique. I imagine him as a kind of autistic Santa Claus, one of those sweet, harmless and brilliantly intelligent old men that you can't stand anything bad happening to. So, naturally, you hate Katherine's aunt for even daring to threaten this man's peaceful existence. Mary, Katherine's maid, is another delightful character and I like the way the friendship develops between her and Katherine with the latter being a "lady" of a higher social class but Mary frequently has to scold her for being tipsy and roller-skating with guys. Hehe.

And, of course, the friendly and cheerful Ben Aldridge. And the dark, brooding Lane Moreau. Smell a love triangle? I did too, but you have nothing to worry about.

I was really pleased with this book that I nearly almost didn't read! If you like young adult historical fiction then don't make that mistake, there's much to love here and Cameron seems like an author we need to watch out for. I only hope the sequel is as entertaining.

Profile Image for Nastassja.
423 reviews1,013 followers
August 15, 2016

Actual rating 3.5

Madness or benevolence?

If I had to describe this book in two words, it would be: hidden gem. This book is not what it seems on the first look or even on the second look. Only when you reach a certain moment of the story and only then you understand the difference between what I thought it would be and what it turned to be. And I liked it.

Let's clear some things. From my perspective this book sounded like a steam-punk fantasy (don't ask me why fantasy, it just felt this way in the beginning). I am ok with fantasy, but not so much with steam-punk. But I don't think this book is a steam-punk, though it's still negotiable and not decided for sure that it's not. But in my opinion for a book to be a steam-punk, there has to be at least one strange mechanical creature, maybe magical, which is absolutely mystical and belongs only on the pages of the book. Not in real life. And The dark unwinding does not has such creatures. Actually, it's a historical fiction book with solid mystery and takes place in our real world of England, 1852. And instead of mystical creatures we have other things - inventions - which are the result of a genius mind (I still am waiting for a decent movie about Nikola Tesla) These inventions are mostly mechanical toys, the ones that work when you turn the key in them, and they are very beautiful, brilliant mechanisms, but nothing impossible or supernatural.

Katharine Tulman has a task from her aunt (who is an old nasty woman) to go visit her uncle in the country and find prove that he is a lunatic and belongs in asylum, so the inheritance can be turned to aunt and her son as next in line to inherit. When Katharine arrives, she finds a different picture and grows closer to her uncle and his enigmatic apprentice Lane, and she finds a true family in this place. But her aunt is not the only danger and someone lurks in the shadows, waiting to strike, or is it not real and the danger is only in Katharine's imagination?

Needless to say that I also did not expect this book to be Gothic. There were sinister scenes when the line between reality and fantasy was murky, and there's no telling if strange laughing or light footsteps behind are real or our heroine is loosing her mind. I must say that some of the gothic moments were really creepy and at some point reading this book at night, I felt scared. Not helping that we have plenty of dolls with painted faces and moving limbs, and in the daylight it's all nice, but at night the only image I've got, was the face of the creepy doll from the movie Annabel (you can google it, if you want, because I don't want to put that scary face in my review). Brrr. This book definitely has a mood.

It was not a light read, and the first half was too slow for me or maybe I was too slow for it, anyway, I felt bored sometimes, and only creepy moments made my heart race, and Lane, of course. As in Rook we have another French man, only this one is serious and brooding, but nevertheless seductively sweet. The romance is slow-burning and not overwhelming. The last 30% of the book were full of action and a pleasant surprise: I didn't guess who the culprit in the book. It was unexpected and really surprised me, and it felt good for once not to guess the mystery. Refreshing. The ending is open; we have a sequel and judging by the annotation more action is in store.

Sharon Cameron created a solid, well-written historical fiction with complex, reasonable characters. This story unravels the human nature and asks the universal questions once again: What is madness and who defines the term of it? Can we judge people because their minds work differently from ours? What is good and bad? And what I found inside this book's pages was a satisfactory answer to these questions.

Profile Image for Giselle.
990 reviews6,355 followers
September 6, 2013
A decent dose of creepy, this was!

The Dark Unwinding started rough for me. For the first quarter of the book at least I had a very difficult time getting into it. My attention kept waning, my mind wandering. I think mostly caused by my own restlessness, though, but surely not helped by the ambiguousness of the plot by that point. It has a strong show rather than tell writing style; while it's not always easy to initially situate ourselves in a story told as such, it does remain my preferred way of storytelling. I find it works especially well for this type of book, the eerie, gothic style, as it leaves room for our own imagination to creep ourselves out. This is where this novel excels, followed closely by its characterization. One thing to note is that if you're expecting a steampunk you'll likely be disappointed. While it has a few steampunk-like trinkets, this book is a historical gothic fiction in its entirety. We've got weird going abouts in this creaky house that seems to have unending rooms and hidden passages. Then our main character has been having bizarre dreams, even memory losses where she wakes up at completely different places with accusation of being a drunk due to wild acts she can't even recall.

As most gothic novels, The Dark Unwinding does not have a high paced, action packed plot. It has tons of mystery, an extremely creepy mansion, and characters with wit that keeps the story interesting. The main plot doesn't even get going until the second half of the book. The first half is filled with personality, however. This is where we meet and grow to love the many characters that walk these pages. Our protagonist, Katharine, is intelligent, a little uptight, but very determined. It was easy to fall into play with her, even through my initial misgivings she's the one who kept me reading. You can also detect a great amount of character growth in her by the end of the book. Although our MC is great, the character I enjoyed the most was Uncle Tully. Autistic and fascinated by trinkets, Mr. Tully's character is superbly crafted. He's so lovable and sweet, making us sympathetic to his cause. It also brings to light how a now commonly diagnosed illness was once treated as if mentally unfit to be in society. But what stood out to me was how charismatic, how alive, Mr. Tully was despite the quirks brought on by his condition. He's also obviously highly intelligent.

These are not the only bright personalities, there's Davy, the sweet, innocent mute who's going to steal all your hearts. Mary, our bubbly, eccentric maid who forms a delightful friendship with our MC. Mrs Jefferies who's sort of their foundation in all the unruliness. There's also Ben and Lane, our main male secondary roles. No hint of a love triangle, however. *everyone exhales* Although the romance does leave a little to be desired, especially in the creation of Lane's character who has yet to open up to Katharine, but this is more of a longing for more details (which I hope will be in the sequel) than a complaint on the character development.

Very character oriented, highly atmospheric, with a plot that doesn't disappoint - definitely one worth the wait. It has twists I never saw coming, and motives that were impressively intricate. A beautifully written, solidly plotted historical novel that you should not miss!

A copy was provided by the publisher for review.

For more of my reviews, visit my blog at Xpresso Reads
Profile Image for Tamora Pierce.
Author 106 books83.5k followers
October 9, 2012
Katherine has been sent by her grasping aunt to put her uncle in an asylum, clearing the way for her cousin to inherit his property. On her very odd arrival at her uncle's peculiar house, Katherine discovers that her uncle has hired more than a hundred people and their families out of London's workhouses, that her uncle is definitely insane to the common eye, and that everyone knows she is there to throw them into the street.

And yet.

Her uncle invents things, useful things and deadly ones. Two of his assistants help him to make them into things that people want, and both of them are charming Katherine into taking her time in reporting to her aunt. There are noises and bumps behind the walls, hints of secrets, and horrible dreams. Katherine wakes up in rooms where she did not fall asleep. And she can talk to the frightened, mad genius that is her uncle.

If you love steampunk, jobs for the poor, mystery, and miraculous tiny things with gears and keys, this is the book to read!
Profile Image for TheBookSmugglers.
669 reviews2,006 followers
August 29, 2012
Originally reviewed on The Book Smugglers

Ana's Take:

Katherine Tulman has been given a simple task by her horrible Aunt Alice: she must go to her eccentric uncle’s estate in order to determine whether he should be committed to an asylum or not. They fear he has been squandering the family’s fortune – to be inherited by Aunt Alice’s young son one day. Although Katherine has no reason to be loyal to her loathsome Aunt, she also has no other option as she is Alice’s ward and as such is wholly dependent on her for survival. Katherine is determined, for her own sake, to do what is necessary to ensure her cousin’s inheritance.

When she arrives at the estate she realises that her uncle is a genius inventor but definitely someone who is unfit to run the state. He has been so for as long as anyone can remember but his mother (Katherine’s grandmother) has put a system in place to help things along; not to mention that Uncle Tully has friends and caretakers who deeply care for him.

Then weird, inexplicable events around the estate make Katherine question her own sanity and as the mysteries unfold, and the clock ticks down, Katherine must make a decision and soon.

At its core The Dark Unwinding is a simple Gothic tale and it has mystery elements which unfold well (if a bit predictably). The setting of Uncle Tully’s estate, the surrounding countryside all work well to provide a great sense of atmosphere. One of the best aspects of this story is how Katherine is taken by surprise several times by weird events and the narrative mirrors this by following her point of view and her point of view alone - and as such, the reader is left feeling as lost as Katherine. That could have been a confusing mess but the author avoids this with aplomb.

Despite the apparent simplicity of the story and the predictability of the plot (I knew exactly how the story would end), I enjoyed The Dark Unwinding to a great extent and this enjoyment can be explained by the prose (which I loved) and the characters, especially Katherine. I loved her pragmatism and her matter-of-fact way of addressing her problems and her situation. I loved that it took her quite a long time to decide what she would do. I loved her struggle between having to fend for herself (was always foremost in her thoughts) and finding herself falling for the people at her Uncle Tully’s estate. I also enjoyed the secondary romantic storyline – the romance develops slowly and subtly, just the way I like.

Just one small nitpicky note. It made me flinch every time Katherine thought about her young cousin as Fat Robert – which she did several times over the course of the book (there was a lot of flinching).

And last but least: the blurb promises a “tale of Steampunk”. I just wanted to say, once more WITH FEELING: there is absolutely nothing AT ALL that could possibly classify this book as Steampunk. It doesn’t even feature the bare minimum: it is not alternate history; it does not have advanced technologies for the time. Repeat after me: ONE inventor does not Steampunk make, people. This is not hard.

There is a lot going for The Dark Unwinding and although I can’t really say I am super enthused about it, I still thought it was a solid, enjoyable read.

Thea's Take:

I am somewhat more enthused than Ana. I loved The Dark Unwinding for the straightforward gothic novel that it is - the mystery of an estate that guards a precious secret, and a pragmatic girl's coming of age story.

From a storytelling perspective, I was predisposed to like The Dark Unwinding from its opening sentence: "Warm sun and robin's-egg skies were inappropriate conditions for sending one's uncle to a lunatic asylum." Sharon Cameron has a gift for worthsmithing and storytelling, and this novel's prose is far and away superior to the many YA Victorian/Gothic titles out there today. Not once does Katherine's narration slip into modern anachronisms, and her voice overall is convincing not only to the time, but to her character. There's also a refreshing polished quality to the writing, and a sense of slow, careful pacing that I admire - though this book probably will be too slow for some, I liked the long burn approach to simmering tensions.

The plot itself may have a degree of familiarity, but I personally felt that this familiarity was more of an homage - there's a lot of Jane Eyre in The Dark Unwinding, in the character of Katherine (orphaned with no inheritance, living with a cruel Aunt), to the windblown isolated setting of her Uncle Tully's estate. And while one might guess the reason for Katherine's odd behavior before the reveal in the novel, there are a few twists that came unseen - at least, unseen to me! I love the way the the story plays out, when our duplicitous villain is revealed and motives unmasked. I also loved the particular expression of Uncle Tully's "lunacy" (which of course isn't lunacy at all, but a form of autism/savant syndrome), and his many clockwork creations and inventions.*

Of course, the other great boon to The Dark Unwinding is the character of Katherine herself. I have to fully agree with Ana in that I loved Katherine's character - I love that she is pragmatic and doesn't rush to any conclusions regarding her Uncle's estate and her next course of action. I like that when she finally discovers just how deep Uncle Tully's expenditures reach into her cousin Robert's inheritance, she forms her own strategy. There's great tension between gothic horror/haunting and Katherine's fear for her own sanity explored in her character arc, just as there's a strong coming of age arc. The most compelling thing about Katherine's story, to me, is her strength in finding control and power in situations where she seemingly has none. She begins the book as a girl of seventeen with schemes to one day siphon enough money away from her cousin's books (as she is in charge of the finances, at her aunt's insistence) to gain some measure of freedom - but never really having the sand to actually put that plan into motion. When she discovers her uncle's state and his creation of an industry entirely his own, Katherine part runs-away from her looming responsibility and terrible choice of putting a thousand men, women and children out of work by ignoring her Aunt. Finally, as events come to a climax in the novel, Katherine finally chooses to take action, completely of her own volition. That, to me, is an awesome thing.

Finally, I should mention that The Dark Unwinding features a strong romantic subplot that is wonderfully, skillfully executed, refreshingly free of the predictable romantic formulae that characterizes many other YA novels in this category. I love that the romance builds slowly, and ends unpredictably - as I said to Ana in an email: "I really love the way things ended though and the restraint with the love story. *LOVE* IT IS THE BEST. MORE YA. DO THIS. THIS."

I truly loved The Dark Unwinding - it's one of those books that get better upon reflection (and a sleeper for my best of/most notable reads of 2012 list). Absolutely recommended.

*Though, it must be repeated: the inclusion of clockwork machines in a story does NOT mean a book is steampunk. Marketing copy FAIL.
August 30, 2012
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.
Profile Image for gio.
1,036 reviews385 followers
May 1, 2016
"Whooptidoo, first disappointment of the year!" Said no one ever.

I can't believe it. The Rook by Sharon Cameron was one of the most surprising reads of 2015. I loved that book...and what actually surprises me the most is that all the things I loved of that book were missing in The Dark Unwinding. I mean, where are the spunky, sassy characters? Where's my badass, sarcastic female protagonist? W-H-E-R-E???

But here's the most important thing: how in holy hell this supposed to be a Steampunk book? *snorts*
Steampunk my ass, guys. Leviathan is steampunk, The Parasol Protectorate series is steampunk, this is not steampunk. Clocks and mechanical animals don't make a book steampunk pft. YES, I'm pft-ing at you, poor excuse of a steampunk book.

Okay okay, I can do this.
My biggest problem were the characters I think. The flat, boring characters. Katherine is...boring? Really, I can't even describe her. She's clueless and spineless: a lovely combination. It's easy to predict who the bad guy is but she's just rolling around, clueless AF. The semi-not-sure-if-it-was-actually-there love triangle didn't even make me angry, because there was no chemistry with neither of the so called love interests.

Yeah, skip this book. Read The Rook though, cause that one was good.
Profile Image for Emily Akelaitis.
43 reviews
October 30, 2014
I did not finish reading this book. I was barely at page 100 when I said to myself,"This is the most boring book I have ever read." I tend to enjoy every book so if I didn't like this one, it had to have been pretty bad. I apologize to the author, but I am a pretty impatient person. The whole mystery,for me, was not worth reading through to the end for.
Profile Image for Rhiannon Ryder.
298 reviews21 followers
September 16, 2012
There was much to love in The Dark Unwinding, historical lavishness, steampunk curiosities, mysteries around every corner and an enchanting cast of characters. I was hard pressed to believe this rich world, and beautifully written plot were the creation of a debut writer.

Sold originally as Clockwise Turning, The Dark Unwinding and it's untitled sequel were sold pre-emtivly to scholastic back in 2010. And after looking at some of the extras on Sharon Cameron's site about the estate which inspired Stranwyne Keep, automatons, and her list of beloved books (Yay! Rebbecca!), it seemed considerably less surprising Cameron wrote such a strong debut.

Besides a captivating writing style, which sucked me in from the first few paragraphs, Cameron anchors her gothic/fantasy world with a social commentary that ended up being the heart of the matter for me. She talks extensively about poverty and disability from a historical point in time which had little respect for either. Katharine's relationship with her uncle and Davy was so winsome I can't imagine a reader not loving her for it. How she handles both of them is easily a lesson to all of us in how patience and kindness can make such a difference in everyones relationships.

Quiet, intense Lane was a perfect counterpoint to Katherine, and I liked how Cameron didn't muddie the waters with a love triangle when these two were so perfectly matched to one another. I especially appreciated that it was Katherine's abilities with Davy and her uncle which first seems to attract Lane to her, and not some silly pretty dress moment. So much of Lane and Katherine's relationship is about their personalities, and Cameron stays away from the usual electric tension/lust fueled scenes so prevalent in YA romance.

Cameron's characters all have such strength and tenacity. They're brave, tough and willing to fight for a good cause, with nary a fainter in the bunch. Katherine is her own knight in shining armour, and the only characters needing protection are Davy and Tulman, who everyone bands together to look after- while still respecting them as people.

An enchanting debut, I guarantee will sweep you off your feet. It will undoubtedly be and excellent start to your fall reading.
Profile Image for Angigames.
1,269 reviews
January 28, 2016
2 stelle e mezzo
Certe volte non esiste una maniera carina per dirlo…
Bisogna per forza andare al sodo e in questo caso, ci vado subito…
Questo libro non mi ha fatto impazzire!
È di una lentezza infinita!
È stato un calvario portare a termine questa lettura!
E me ne dispiaccio infinitamente, perché la storia mi ispirava parecchio, e desideravo che mi toccasse davvero, ma non sempre i desideri si avverano (purtroppo).
Ho fatto una fatica enorme ad entrare nella storia, la narrazione è lenta, troppo descrittiva e un po’ insipida. Si, insomma non è che una pagina tira l’altra e la storia che si va (molto lentamente) a costruire è a tratti già sentita, a tratti banale, non fa nascere e crescere la voglia di sapere, affatica la mente piuttosto che liberarla. Eppure non ho ceduto, non sono una tipa che abbandona i libri, perciò ho portato avanti la lettura. Devo dire che poco prima della metà, FINALMENTE, qualcosa si muove. Le decisioni narrative prese dall’autrice mi sono piaciucchiate ma, arrivata a quel punto ci voleva una svolta MOLTO decisiva. Il fatto è che non ho trovato connessione con nessuno dei principali protagonisti di questo romanzo.
Katharine e Lane sono dei personaggi che rimangono fermi e freddi, lì, stampati tra le pagine del libro, senza animare lo spirito del lettore, sono personaggi ben caratterizzati ma che si dimenticano in fretta. Se in un primo momento la figura di Lane è avvolta nel mistero, come del resto la cittadina di Stranweyne e la casa padronale, continuando a leggere questo mistero si perde e annoia a non finire! È ora di finirla con gli espedienti dei meccanismi di orologi che girano, creano, distruggono, perché oramai sono un vero e proprio cliché del genere e, personalmente, hanno stufato! In più, non so per quale arcana ragione, il mio cervello ha deciso di classificare la povera Katharine nella sezione protagoniste acide… non chiedetemi perché non lo so neanche io, visto che, obiettivamente, alla fine della storia Kath si dimostra essere una ragazza normale e con una bella mente!
Bah… le antipatie letterarie!
Insomma una delusione, unico personaggio degno di nota lo Zio Tulman, la sua genialità e quella vena di follia lo hanno reso un personaggio gradevole, forse l’unico!
Profile Image for Alyssa.
1,069 reviews843 followers
August 4, 2014
***Review posted on The Eater of Books! blog***

The Dark Unwinding by Sharon Cameron
Book One of the The Dark Unwinding series
Publisher: Scholastic
Publication Date: August 27, 2012
Rating: 4 stars
Source: ARC sent by the author

Official Summary:

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.

What I Liked:

Once upon a time, a girl won an ARC of this book from the author. She hadn't been blogging and reviewing books, so she didn't really feel the need to read the book immediately. She read bits of it, skimming the book, and the ending, and was so confused. She hated the ending so much, she waited an entire year to pick this book up again. Of course, her reason for picking it up again was because of this tour. It was an excellent excuse to FORCE herself to read it.

Anyway. That's my sad story with this book. I am seriously KICKING myself for doing all of that - skimming, reading the end, not actually reading the entire book - because this book was AMAZING. I love historical fiction books, and this one is a really great historical fiction book. It's got a bit of steampunk in it, which I loved.

Katharine (love how Cameron spells her name!) is charged by her aunt to go inspect the mental health and state of mind of Katharine's uncle. Uncle Tully is the heir of the family fortune, and greedy Aunt Alice wants to make sure that HER son, the next in line to receive the fortune, gets the fortune.

When Katharine arrives, she finds a slightly crazy old man with a child-like but genius mind. Eventually she grows to really care for her uncle. She comes to realize that she cannot let Aunt Alice take Uncle Tully away from his home, from building his machines and gadgets.

But, of course, something sinister lurks in London... or someone. Someone is poisoning Katharine, yet she doesn't know it. Time is running out to save Uncle Tully, save the estate, and save herself. Sounds exciting, yes?

I love the cadence of this book. You know how some books jump right into the whole you-are-the-chosen-one, go-save-the-world thing? This book doesn't go there. Instead, Cameron walks us through life in the Lower and Upper Villages. She lets Katharine get close to Uncle Tully and Mary and Lane and Davy. Cameron slips in clues and hints and the occasional strange happenstance, but the majority of the book is spent getting to know the world of Uncle Tully.

Thisi is absolutely necessary, in order for Katharine to understand Uncle Tully, and Lane's over-protectiveness of him, and for her to understand that she cannot make Uncle Tully go to an asylum. Everything that Cameron does, or places, in this book, is perfect. Nothing is out of place in the plot.

The character development in Katharine is huge. She goes from not sure of herself and her decisions, to running around like a crazy person, willing to do things despite the consequences. There is one decision that she might have made, that Lane would have hated... I couldn't believe that she might have done that! It was a super selfless decision, and I'm glad that she didn't have to do it.

The historical aspect of this novel is fantastic! Cameron did an excellent job with her research. Everything, down to the par about property entailment, given names, and etiquette were perfectly constructed in this book! I love historical fiction, and one of the reasons being that authors recreate a time once present. Cameron did a fine job of this!

Romance... there is a romance aspect in this book. It's not a large or overwhelming part of the book, which is really nice. The plot and action of the story is more important than the romance. And then, this book is set in the Victorian era (I believe it's the Victorian era), so the romance can't be overpowering. Unless we're talking adult historical romance. Different story!

The ending of this book is very bittersweet! When I first "read" this book, that was what I hated about this book - the ending. I thought that this book was a standalone. Of course, hearing about A Spark Unseen made me change my mind! So, it's a bittersweet ending, but it's not the end... yet.

What I Did Not Like:

Like I said before, the ending. I don't think it was completely necessary to end this book like that. Maybe begin the next book with that departure... but whatever, because I have the second book, and I've read it, and YAY for A Spark Unseen!

Would I Recommend It:

DEFINITELY! Especially to all historical fiction lovers. I can see why this book got nominated for so many awards and honors... it's great! An amazing book!


4 stars. Definitely one of my favorite Young Adult historical fiction novels of all time! I'm sorry I waited so long to read the entire book.
Profile Image for Sarah.
237 reviews1,114 followers
January 4, 2018
Katharine Tulman is a sixteen-year-old orphan, the ward of her cruel Aunt Alice. As the average female in Victorian England, Katharine is shut out of her family’s inheritance.

Speaking of the inheritance, Aunt Alice worries that her brother-in-law, Frederic “Tully” Tulman, is squandering it on the remote ancestral estate, and she sends Katharine to investigate.

Katharine is spooked by the moors, the thunderous weather, and the dark, labyrinthine house of Stranwyne itself. She’s also suspicious of the servants, particularly Mrs. Jefferies, the grouchy cook, and Lane Moreau, her uncle’s moody young manservant.

But she warms almost at once to her sweet, childlike, and slightly “mad” Uncle Tully. Today, we would probably call him developmentally delayed. He’s brilliant at math, effortlessly designs lifelike windup toys, and yet he cries and panics like a toddler when his routine is forced to change.

Katharine knows that, even if her aunt throws her out on the street, she can’t send this helpless man into the hellhole of a nineteenth-century insane asylum. Knowing Uncle Tully, she realizes that Mrs. Jefferies and Lane have only appeared hostile in their zeal to protect him.

As Lane and Katharine realize they’re on the same side, a nascent attraction and tenderness develop between them, in spite of his low social rank and French ancestry.

But between protecting Uncle Tully from those who would incarcerate him, and investigating suspicious activities on the estate, there’s precious little time for courtship. And as Katharine suffers from increasingly dark nightmares and sleepwalking episodes, she fears that she’ll wind up in an asylum herself.

Content Advisory for Schools, Libraries, and Discerning Readers

Violence: A man, who pretended to befriend Katharine, imprisons her in the basement of his house. Later that same man kidnaps a child for ransom. A ship explodes with two people on it—one is certainly killed, the other might have survived. Katharine discovers she’s slowly being poisoned; luckily, the damage to her system is not irreversible. A man shoots an animal that he falsely believes is rabid.

Sex: Lane and Katharine kiss a few times, and once when she’s sick in bed, he sits at the foot of the bed and holds her hand.

Language: Nothing to worry about.

Substance Abuse: Some of the servants conclude from Katharine’s sleepwalking that she has a drinking problem, much to her embarrassment. They’re wrong.


This is a high-quality, highly underrated period piece with a light touch of steampunk and a great deal of mystery. Sharon Cameron writes convincingly as a proper young lady of mid nineteenth century England; her situations are familiar but inventive, and her characters are lovable.

Even the pseudo-Byronic Lane turns out to be neither mad, bad, nor dangerous once you get to know him—just a fierce young man with a strong sense of justice and self-sacrifice. He and Katharine have a chaste relationship with wonderful chemistry.

The intrigue, romance and adventure continue in A Spark Unseen , which is up next on my to re-read list.

You may also like:
The Perilous Gard by Elizabeth Marie Pope
A Curse Dark as Gold by Elizabeth C. Bunce
East by Edith Pattou
Wildwood Dancing by Juliette Marillier
Profile Image for Beth.
783 reviews319 followers
August 5, 2015
I'm glad I decided to check out the audiobook from my library's online program on a whim - it definitely paid off! Full of mystery, memorable characters and just a touch of romance, The Dark Unwinding tells the story of Katherine Tulman, sent to her uncle's estate to have him committed to an asylum. Far from needing to by committed, her Uncle Tully is a genius, with inventions and a whole village in his employee.

What ensues once she arrives there is part spooky, part mysterious, with bits of humor in the mix. I thoroughly enjoyed it. I do highly recommend the audio if you're looking for something compelling to listen to. The author has created some really distinct characters, and the narrator does a great job at capturing their differences.

The plot took a while to get going, in my opinion, but once it did, I was hooked until the end. Since I listening, and only do that at slower times during work, it took me a while to finish, but I think had I been reading it, I would have read through it pretty fast.
Profile Image for Courtney Stevens.
Author 6 books875 followers
June 12, 2012
I've read it four times. Need I say more? Just in case the answer is yes, buy this one today. The couplings in this book are awesome. Romance. Family. Villains. Great twists on a historical stage. And folks, there's a castle. Now I know I don't need to say more.
Profile Image for Madly Jane.
621 reviews130 followers
April 5, 2023
Firstly, if I had to recommend one book to wannabe YA authors from this year (2012), I would recommend this book. If I had a writer's group and we all were to use one book as a critique on what's right with writing, I'd choose this book. I say this because I am a writer and I read all books like a writer. This is a wonderfully written novel. A very solid read. With lots to recommend.

When I began reading this book, I knew that it contained no paranornmal elements, that it was a straight YA book with some mystery elements and themes. I also knew immediately when Katherine's coach entered the gaslit tunnel (with room for two coaches) that the author was going to use one of Victoriana's greatest eccentrics, William Cavendish-Scott-Bentinck, 5th Duke of Portland as a character, although I did not know how. I was so excited to see what the author would do with it. I was very impressed. As for the steampunk, this is the real thing from Victorian England. And that is why you see the illustration of the mechanical fish at the beginning of the book. And one should pay attention. It's not there for "nothing." But there is little fantasy to the steampunk elements, and this is not what one expects from steampunk, but I knew that, too, so I had no expectations of reading the sort of steampunk that is on the shelves now.

The plot is about a girl of seventeen, sent on a mission by a cruel aunt, to visit her mysterious uncle in a gothic estate, to see if the uncle needs to be sent to an asylum. The heroine is very likable and not the typical YA heroine of today. She's pragmatic and ordinary, no super powers, no big emotional scars. She is sort of the everyman character (but with a lot of heart) who is placed in extraordinary circumstances. You don't see enough of these kinds of characters today. Why? They are (actually) harder to write, to make interesting in a market full of vampires, werewolves, and angels.

Katherine is a remarkable character to study. I liked her a lot. Her journey is not on the road, but in a big house full of tunnels, clocks, dark and dusty rooms, mirrors, and strange sounds. That's harder to write, too. And the author does a splendid job. SPLENDID. (Laughing) Because that is one of words often used in this book.

Now for the other characters.

Uncle Tully--Uncle Tully is based on the eccentric real-life Duke. I cannot express on Goodreads all the things I loved about Uncle Tully, from his creation, to his own creations, to his wonderful dialogue, to his actions, and so forth. He is perfect. And he creates a change in the lives of all who know him, even Katherine, and it is because of Uncle Tully that Katherine becomes a round and heroic character. I write this because Uncle Tully is sort of the sphere on which all the other characters spin around. His madness is genius and what we today would probably call autism. The author did such a great job with this, down to the smallest detail.

Lane--the dark mysterious young man whom Katherine slowly (Thank goodness) falls in love with. This relationship is so unlike all the other YA bad boy relationships that I almost wept for joy. He is a great character. If I had to change one thing in the whole book, it would be to give his character a viewpoint. That would be a risk technically, but I would have done it. I think it would have added a complexity to the storyline and took this book out of the claustrophobic first person narrative found in so many YA books. It would have offered a relief from that narrow focus of the main character without taking away from Katherine's character. Lane really had nothing to keep secret.

All the other characters are charming, even the villains.

At one moment in the book, the climax, I felt the story a little rushed. I would have lingered on the explosion and added a chapter or so with Lane and the recovery elements before finishing up with the aunt's cause and so forth. But all and all, the ending was perfect and this is how a book should end. I literally screamed for joy because the story arcs were concluded, and one tiny arc remained, to be finished in another book or by the reader's imagination. That is how to write a BOOK!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Ms Cameron is an excellent writer, and her story was vivid in detail without overwriting. Her language is clear and concise and beautiful. It's imaginative in its creation and in the control the author used to keep the story tight and focused. I might have liked the story bigger and more complex and darker, but that did not deter my interests.

I know a good book when I read it. This is one of them. I can't wait to see what the author does next. Highly recommended.

NOTE: I do believe this book was marketed toward 12-16 year old girls. There is a certain expectation in the lower YA years. Some YA books are really 16 and older. The story fulfills this genre requirement.

Finally it so nice to read a book that is just so unexpected in a genre that is overcrowded with the same story told over and over. The love triangle, the bad boy, the supernatural elements. Yes, I love supernatural elements and I might have enjoyed them in this story, but that's okay. I loved this book. I did not put a mark in it, but used a notebook for my remarks. I wanted to save it for a shelf devoted to my two-year old grandchild. It's a Keeper.
Profile Image for Keertana.
1,127 reviews2,172 followers
October 16, 2013
I've waited almost a year to read The Dark Unwinding, but it was a worthwhile wait. It's always a pressing fear in the back of my mind that by holding off on an unfinished series, the hype will cause my expectations to escalate in such a manner that I will be left disappointed when I finally do get around to the book in question. Quite thankfully, however, The Dark Unwinding is the unusual exception to the rule, living up to its hype and more. While I hesitate to label this novel as steampunk - really, it's simply historical fiction with innovations - Cameron't debut is not one to be missed.

Katherine, an orphan since birth, has been saddled with the onerous task of visiting her Uncle Tully - said to be mad - and sending him off to an asylum. Ever since she was young, Katherine has lived with her widowed Aunt Alice - vicious, rude, and greedy - subject to a life of cruelty, injustice, and no love. Thus, Katherine's only plan is to evaluate her uncle's holdings for her fat cousin brother who will inherit it, send her uncle packing to a mad house, and return home to hopefully earn a small amount of living herself. When Katherine arrives at her uncle's home, though, she discovers a budding inventor and genius instead of a raging lunatic. Moreover, the warehouse her uncle has built to work in is a source of livelihood for hundreds of poor men, women, and children. Now, unwilling to give up the secret of this teeming community to her aunt, Katherine is torn between protecting her own interests or those of her uncles. Meanwhile, the insanity that her uncle has been charged with may run in the family after all...in her.

The Dark Unwinding excels primarily because of its characters. Although its plot is sufficiently creepy - strange laughter, sleep-walking, and unseen twists to boot - it is a slow story. Its characters, however, will keep you riveted to the page, unwilling to look away even for a moment. Katherine isn't, at first, an easy character to like. Although we sympathize with her plight, her true nature is never revealed until the novel wears on. Nevertheless, I enjoyed Katherine's narration from the start: honest, conflicted, and emotional. I love a heroine who is able to admit to her own faults, no matter how foolish, and whose courage reveals itself in the unlikeliest of times. Moreover, Katherine's relationship with her Uncle Tully - brilliant, though autistic - is beautifully written. In England, shortly after the French Revolution, autism was thought to be a form of madness and Cameron captures this sentiment perfectly, never painting Uncle Tully to be a perfectly normal human, but firmly steering clear of the label of lunacy as well.

Nevertheless, this book would be lacking without its vibrant cast of secondary characters. Mrs. Jeffries, the cook; Davey, the mute boy; Mary, the lady's maid; Ben Alridge, the handsome man with an interest in Uncle Tully's workhouse; and Lane, Uncle Tully's apprentice. When Katherine first arrives, she isn't given a warm welcome, merely because the people of her uncle's estate know she's there with the intent to evict them. It is a slow and gradual climb, however, to build trust, but ultimately a journey that pays off. Katherine's budding romance with Lane, in particular, was butterfly-inducing. It's the sort of slow-burn romance I crave, filled with understanding and tender conversation. Although the plot of the novel truly only picks up the second-half, the first-half is more than a little entertaining, built with these superb character relationships.

I wasn't expecting such a strong debut, despite the hype surrounding this novel, and while I can't fully claim it's the perfect October-themed read, it's not one worth missing. Cameron's understanding of character arcs is already nuanced, so I cannot wait to see how these relationships continue to grow and develop in the sequel. (A historical fiction duology - YAY!) If you're a fan of historical settings, intrigue, or just a good dose of innovation, then The Dark Unwinding is the perfect addition to your shelves. Cameron's world is one you'll miss; I'm already counting down the hours until I can return.

You can read this review and more on my blog, Ivy Book Bindings.
Profile Image for Jenny Jo Weir.
1,549 reviews79 followers
February 9, 2022
NICE! I read this one on a whim because I've enjoyed other works by this author and although this one is nothing like the others, it was stupendous nonetheless. Think Clockwork Prince, Night Circus, or something along those lines, but no magic...everything has an explanation, and yet, its all still gripping. I truly enjoyed it. Looking forward to the sequel.
Profile Image for rachel, x.
1,727 reviews867 followers
April 20, 2016
Deciding to "read" an audibook for the first time was a pretty big decision on my part. It's been a long time coming, I know. But I couldn't have hoped for a greater introduction to the format than I got with The Dark Unwinding. It took me a long, long time to finish it - who knew that audiobooks took so damn long? - and there were times where I forgot who was who because it was so drawn out, but that is everything negative I have to say about the experience. I certainly didn't expect anything so engaging or well-written.

• Can we just talk about Katherine Tullman for a second? The author deserves more than just the proverbial tip of the hat for the character development she reached with Katherine. I'm pretty much powerless against loving such a head-strong, feminist female protagonist from the 1800s in the first place, but one that went on such a journey of self-discovery and improvement had me positively tipsy with joy! There's nothing better than getting such a raw MC become such a fleshed-out, well-rounded character. Honestly.

• I loved Mary. She was hilarious, and the perfect companion for Katherine - even if she annoyed her to no end at times.

• I did expect a steampunk story when I started this (it has cogs on the front cover - what else was I expected to think?) but I'm actually pleased that those elements weren't bought into the story. Maybe it's just that I'm in such a historical mood, but I think that the character-driven storyline with the mysterious subplots suited the story so much more. I loved the simpleness of the storyline and how it allowed for equal exploration of the characters, time period and mystery to occur all at once.

• Speaking of plot, there were so many unexpected moments in this story... and I loved it! I actually gasped out loud at least one. It always had me on my toes, and I didn't know what to expect. The story kept changing directions (not in a bad way, at all) and the foreshadowing was so subtle, I was just clueless until they were revealed.

• I, surprisingly, didn't cry at all at this story but the ending certainly shocked me. I thought it was apt though, and will definitely be reading the sequel immediately.

• The side story of how mental illness (I'm not sure what else to call it - their term 'lunacy' seems much too harsh) was particularly interesting. Obviously, I knew how "unfavorable" it was to have such a family member and the the scandals their conditions could cause, but the fact that "lunacy" was a punishable crime astonished me! I literally had no idea - whether that's just sheer ignorance on my part or not, I found it absolutely fascinating to see how the characters dealt with Mr/Uncle Tully.

• The very subtle touch of romance - it's not really there, I don't think they even kissed - was nice. It wasn't too much but it was enough, and I cannot wait to see how it develops in the sequel.

• I love the time period, and the way the writing and dialogue captured the era perfectly.

• The narration was well-done, or I think it was. I don't exactly have anything to compare it to so I cannot be sure, but I loved how the narrator used different voices to distinguish who was speaking, and slight accents. The entire book was spoken in a British accent too which I loved more than I can say. This story is set in England so it was most apt and just fantastic - it really helped capture the time and mood of the story.

Overall this was so much more than I expected. I loved Katherine as a protagonist, and the story was engaging and exactly what I needed. The sequel is waiting for me on my iPad and I'll definitely be listening to it straight away.
Profile Image for Merin.
667 reviews58 followers
December 28, 2012
Going in to The Dark Unwinding, I was unsure what to expect. The gears on the front made me think steampunk, while the image of the manor behind the girl made me think gothic historical. It is the latter that is actually the truth: for a book being marketed as steampunk, there is very little of that actually taking place, unless you consider clocks to be steampunk. What you get instead is a page-turning mystery, fantastic portrait of mental illness, the societal constraints placed on women of the 1800s, and the search to find oneself.

Katharine was a fascinating main character. She's grown up under the thumb of her horrible aunt, whose only concern is her son's inheritance. Knowing that she has no prospects of her own, Katharine is determined to do what she can to keep herself safe and protected, which means finding the necessary information for her aunt regarding her uncle's insanity. However, upon meeting her uncle, and coming to care for those who call his estate their home, her path is no longer as clear and easy as she was hoping. I really loved how well her personal struggle was written; not only does she feel torn apart by what she's supposed to do and what she wants to do, but she's struggling with the uncertainty of her own mind, as she seems to struggle with her own mental illness. I felt like her despair and sadness were fantastically written; I was very connected to Katharine throughout the story, and kept hoping that everything would turn out okay.

I also want to give major props for the way Katharine's Uncle Tully was portrayed. He very clearly has some sort of mental illness, but his mind is nonetheless absolutely brilliant, and I loved the way his genius was written, and very much enjoyed watching Katharine slowly get him to step out of his normal routines. There was also the steadfast devotion and loyalty shown to him by Lane - who may be one of my favorite male characters ever - and the way everyone who knew Uncle Tully was willing to do whatever was necessary to keep him safe.

Lane and Katharine's relationship was also fabulously done. While Katharine was perhaps a bit slow in realizing just how Lane felt about her, their interactions and banter were spot-on and perfect. I loved Lane's backstory, and the way that was weaved into the plot. He treated Katharine with such gentleness that I couldn't help but swoon over him a bit. (And the rolling scenes! ♥) I loved how he was made up of many layers, and how throughout the course of the book Katharine became familiar with his ticks and habits, to the point where she just seemed to understand him so well, and him her. The romance was definitely done extremely well in this book, without it becoming overwhelming to the point where it was all that mattered. Combine their relationship with more twists and turns than you can count OR figure out, and this book pretty much hit me in all the right places.

If you're looking for a strong historical with some different sorts of elements, and a plot that keeps you guessing from start to finish, then The Dark Unwinding is your book. It's definitely one of my favorite reads of 2012!

An ARC of this title was received via the publisher in exchange for an honest review.


To see more of my reviews, please visit me @ Read and Reviewed!
Profile Image for oliviasbooks.
778 reviews519 followers
January 2, 2015
The writing struck at once a chord. It's quite beautiful, really.

Plus, the comprehensive gothic manor-house-package including grinning porcelain dolls, chambers full of one-of-a-kind clocks, hidden rooms, cobwebby nurseries, draughty chapels, squeaking trapdoors, ambivalent housekeepers and mute little servant boys has really been polished to a shining perfection.

On top of that, I had already warmed up to the reluctant, but bright and sassy, Cinderella-style heroine, Katherine Tulman, with her astute views on her money-hunting aunt and her toffee-addicted cousin by page six.

Unfortunately all that brilliant brightness seems to have deserted the seeingly sharp girl's head like warmth deserts a cottage through a cracked window by the time she drinks her first cup of sugared tea in her dusty room: How could she not investigate the matter, when staff members accused her of having been drunk or tipsy on evenings she had no recollections of? Soon I started skimming Katherine's strange dreams and almost everything that happened after lights-out, because those parts appeared to be pointless and avoidable. The second unforgivable piece of the plot was part of the climax.

Those little - but in the large context important - details were more or less responsible for my spoiled enjoyment of the cliffhanger-adorned gentry thriller.

I did not choose to read the book for its romantic parts of the plot - I swapped it on a sudden whim without having heard anything about it before - but I cannot complain about them: The love interest is prickly and moody most of the time, but he has certainly every reason to hold back: Katherine has come to the estate to declare his employer insane and thus to turn him out of work and on the street.
Profile Image for snowplum.
161 reviews28 followers
August 31, 2016
There are some really neat ideas and strong world building in The Dark Unwinding, but fairly weak relationship building keeps it from being a great book. Every time two characters (especially the two romantic leads) had a scene together, it felt as though Cameron knew intellectually that she needed to have them spend more time together in order to make their relationship plausible, but the actual content of their interaction was virtually irrelevant, as long as it could fit the criterion of +1 or -1 diplomacy point. While it's a rather cute surprise that two characters can roller skate together in 1862, for example, they don't actually end up saying anything to each other that develops the reader's relationship with them or their relationship with each other. Sure, in the real world two attractive young people can go on a skating date and talk about nothing in particular and come out of it liking/wanting each other more than they did before; but when you have the limited scope and constraints of a book, I think effective scenes need to have a bit more specificity than that. The supporting characters seem more real than the leads because they were each given one or two unique quirks or thoughts or priorities. They are then defined by those singular attributes, which makes them a bit flat -- but they are still more unique than the main characters, which is a major flaw. I liked this story more than a little, but felt as though the main characters were little more than paper dolls holding the place of the real people who never showed up.
Profile Image for Renee.
1,095 reviews175 followers
April 8, 2022
An enjoyable YA adventure/romance novel! The courageous, charming main character reminded me of some old favorites from stories I read in high school--like Moonraker's Bride by Madeleine Brent (Peter O'Donnell) or The Rising of the Lark by Ann Moray.
Profile Image for Tania.
392 reviews18 followers
February 27, 2015
Nel leggere questo romanzo si entra davvero in una fabbrica di meraviglie. Mi sono emozionata come un bambino quando scopre nuovi giocattoli. O come la protagonista Katharine quando ammira per la prima volta il fantastico laboratorio dello zio Tully. Lo steampunk è un genere che adoro (guarda, dalla grafica del blog non si capiva :P) ed è anche piuttosto complesso da scrivere perchè oltre che le conoscenze storiche, devi avere anche quelle scientifiche e meccaniche.
La Cameron è riuscita a creare tutto ciò studiando anche le strutture tecnologiche dell'epoca vittoriana, sopratutto quelle delle centrali a gas. Le sue descrizioni mi hanno fatto avere una chiara visione di tutto ciò che circondava la protagonista. Quattro cose mi hanno fatto innamorare di questo romanzo. Uno: la cover originale. Non è male nemmeno quella della Mondadori ma l'originale è la migliore. Due: il fatto che cita uno dei miei classici preferiti, Jane Eyre. L'autrice si è ispirata proprio a lei e un pochino a sè stessa per creare il personaggio di Katharine. Tre: una storia d'amore che non risulta nè smielata nè strappalacrime. Un amore appena sbocciato che è nato gradualmente nel corso della storia. Quattro: il caro signor Tully. E' un tenero e pazzo vecchietto che mi piacerebbe moltissimo avere come zio.

Tenni gli occhi sul pennello. Il giorno prima, dopo aver lasciato quel cavolo per Davy, mi ero soffermata a lungo a pensare ai ventotto giorni che mi restavano, con la brezza che mi sospingeva di qua e di là, prima di raccogliere le gonne e correre in casa verso la stanza degli orologi. Lì mi ero fermata di nuovo, davanti alla porta, a guardare mio zio. Parlava da solo mentre caricava, felice e perso nel suo mondo di ticchettii, finché non si era voltato, con la barba allargata, e il suo grido: «La bimba di Simon!» aveva coperto il frastuono degli orologi. Poi caricammo gli orologi a turno, contando i giri delle chiavette, con mio zio che batteva le mani quando indovinavo. Ma solo quando mi misi in punta di piedi su uno sgabello, allungandomi per caricare l’orologio a gabbietta, mi accorsi che mio zio aveva smesso di contare. Era in attesa, con gli occhi chiusi. L’uccellino fischiò e l’orologio accanto a noi batté il primo rintocco di mezzogiorno, un colpo in una cacofonia di suoni che mi fece cadere di mano la chiave per coprirmi le orecchie. Zio Tully si mise a saltare, ridendo e agitando le braccia come se il baccano fosse stato qualcosa in cui nuotare. «Ascolta, nipotina!» aveva gridato. «Ci stanno dicendo quando! Ascolta gli orologi che ci dicono quando!»

Non scherzo quando dico di volerlo per zio. Le sue espressioni, i suoi gesti, il suo carattere... tutto di lui mi ha suscitato tenerezza e stupore. E' un pazzo ma anche un genio che ha creato cose incredibili. Poi al suo fianco, abbiamo Lane, il suo sapiente e attraente assistente. Tra quest'ultimo e Katharine non sarà certo amore a prima vista, anzi. Ci sarà una guerra tra loro. La ragazza si farà nemica di tutti lì nella proprietà dello zio poichè potrebbe esserne la rovina. Insomma, Katharine e Lane sono partiti col piede sbagliato ma poi tra loro cambierà. Quello che poteva essere finzione, alla fine, era reale.

«Ecco» disse lui. Sollevò il braccio. E vidi che in mano aveva un pacchetto avvolto nella carta. Mi avvicinai e lo presi, tirando i nodi dello spago, e quando la carta cadde vidi lo scintillio dell’argento al fuoco del camino. Era un cigno, con le piume che brillavano sul palmo della mia mano. Le ali erano sollevate, aperte per un volo improvviso, e immaginai di vedere un movimento sull’acqua di uno stagno, un’onda liscia e silenziosa che si allargava verso la riva.
«Non dovrebbe darlo a me» dissi, con gli occhi fissi sul cigno.
«Perché è troppo bello per andare sprecato.»
«Sprecato?» Si era accigliato di nuovo. Non lo vedevo, riuscivo a percepirlo.
«Sprecato per… niente.»
Per un po’ restammo in silenzio, poi la voce profonda disse: «Davvero per te è stato niente, Katharine?»
Già una volta l’avevo sentito pronunciare il mio nome, nel salone da ballo, e anche allora quel suono era stato come una pugnalata. E proprio come l’ultima volta, sollevai lo sguardo quasi contro la mia volontà. Guardai gli occhi grigi e ne fui circondata. E con la stessa certezza con cui avevo capito, neanche cinque minuti prima, che il nostro gioco era finito, seppi con altrettanta certezza che Lane non aveva mai giocato. Lui non aveva finto e, Dio mi aiuti, nemmeno io. La stanza era perfettamente silenziosa, gli unici rumori quello del fuoco e del respiro, mentre il mio intero mondo mi scivolava sotto i piedi. Poi lui si voltò e se ne andò.

Personaggi fantastici e ben caratterizzati, storia e ambientazioni da favola, tutto questo è "La fabbrica delle Meraviglie". Un romanzo che saprà catturare non solo i ragazzi adolescenti ma anche i più adulti come me (23 anni, gente, e non sto barando). Sharon Cameron vi ammalierà e grazie a lei entrerete in un mondo incredibile. Se non lo avete ancora fatto, leggetelo al più presto, io già non vedo l'ora di leggere il secondo volume.

Dopo averlo letto, se volete qualche approfondimento e sapete abbastanza l'inglese, potete dare un occhiata al sito dell'autrice QUI.In più, ne approfitto per ricordarvi che se volete divertirvi con me e altre blogger con la lettura di questo fantastico libro, potete partecipare al nostro READ ALONG. Divertimento e scambio di opinioni a più non posso. E poi l'autrice è stata molto gentile nel concedermi un intervista che vi farò leggere nella prima tappa di questa iniziativa. Che aspettate? Venite a iscrivervi ;)
Profile Image for Heidi.
1,395 reviews158 followers
October 26, 2012

Three and a half stars: A book full of twists and turns that keeps you on your toes!

Katharine hates living under her Aunt Alice's thumb, but as a seventeen year old orphan, she is forced to accept the charity of her aunt and do her bidding rather than risk living in poverty. As a young woman in 1852 options are limited. Katharine currently keeps the books for her aunt and it is her job to protect the inheritance of her cousin, Fat Robert. When her aunt informs her that she is to visit her uncle and deem him a lunatic so he can be locked up in an asylum, all in order to ensure that Robert will inherit more money. Katharine dreads her duty, but she is willing to do what she can to save the inheritance in hopes that she might be able to hatch a plan to secure her own future. But once she arrives at Stranwyne and meets her Uncle Tully, her resolve begins to falter. The longer she spends in the mysterious old house amongst the villagers the more she questions her aunt's orders. Will Katharine obey her aunt or choose to save her uncle?
What I Liked:
*I liked that I was taken by surprise by this book. I was expecting a steampunk, paranormal read and what I got was something entirely different. I would classify this more of a mystery type book that is a bit Gothic. If you tend to steer away from steampunk books, I would say that this book has very little steampunk. It is a book with a lot of mystery and some big twists and turns that will keep you guessing until the final pages. I like books that catch me off guard and keep me calculating my hypothesis until the end, and then I am still wrong with my conjectures!

*I enjoyed the diverse characters in this one. Katharine's Uncle Tully is indeed a bit different. He is someone who is childish and lacks proper socialization but he possesses a brilliant mind and he invents the most spectacular clock work toys. He is perhaps best described as an autistic savant, but since this book takes place in the mid 1800s his exact condition is unknown. It doesn't matter because he is whimsical and fun and he stole my heart. I also enjoyed Davy the mute boy, although he is mute, he is intelligent and sweet. Finally, Katharine is a girl caught in a stick situationand I like how she is tortured by her decision to do the right thing, and in the end *I was so pleased with how she grew and stood on her own two feet.

* I enjoyed Ms. Cameron's writing style, it is different and complex and full of detailed descriptions. I thought her tone fit perfectly with the story.

And The Not So Much:

*This book is billed as a romance, but the romantic relationship is quiet and movesslowly. I kept expecting something to manifest but it really doesn't until the end. There are looks and little flutters, and at times I thought a love triangle might form, but in the end there are some sparks and a bond. If you are expecting a breath taking romance that fuels the plot this will be a disappointment, but if you like subtle and slow this will work for you.

*I wanted a bit more on Katharine's history with her aunt. Was her life completely miserable with her aunt? Did her aunt treat her horribly always? The reader conjectures that Katharine was caught in her aunt's clutches but it isn't clear what her life was like under her aunt's roof.

*The pacing in this one is slow. The story plods along dropping clues along the way. Leaving the reader wondering what is going on, and to be honest, at times, it's even a bit confusing. I pressed on, though and once I entered the final third the book took on a new life. All the clues starting dropping into place and I was able to get a clearer picture. The pace picks up dramatically and there are so many big surprises and reveals that will have you anxiously turning the pages until the end. Be patient with this one, it does pay off! I really enjoyed that the ending was unexpected.

*I was a bit disappointed that this book does not have a paranormal aspect. In the beginning, I thought that the house was haunted and there would be ghosts, but alas, everything is explained and there is nothing supernatural in this one.
The Dark Unwinding was a book full of mystery and surprises. It has a suspenseful, haunting atmosphere and memorable characters. This book is different and unexpected and it refrains from cliffhanger endings and love triangles, a nice refreshing find in this genre. Step outside your normal reading zone and give this one a try.

Favorite Quotations:
"Warm sun and robin's egg skies were inappropriate conditions for sending one's uncle to a lunatic asylum."
"And you are very silent. I do not like silence. It leaves room for thoughts that are not nice."
"Seconds are very good to count, but never years. There is too much waiting for the next one."
"If today were only one tick in a room full of clocks, unchanging and unhurried, would he let me make him laugh, put my hands in his hair, take away that lingering melancholy that I could see it ring the edge of his thoughts?"
"Little things become big things."

A big thanks to Scholastic Publishing for the review copy in exchange for an honest review. I was not compensated for this review and all opinions expressed are my own.
Posted @ Rainy Day Ramblings.
Profile Image for Nafiza.
Author 6 books1,237 followers
December 25, 2012
Once upon a not very long time ago, there was a girl. She was, as are all good heroines, an orphan. There was also present in the excellent cast an evil aunt who had no redeeming qualities whatsoever and many evil qualities such as superficiality, horrible-mom-ality, greediness and horribleness to the niece she took on as a ward not out of the goodness of her heart because the jury’s still out on whether she has a heart but for some reason. Or other. Which is hinted at later in the novel. This girl was a shrewd sort who knew that to survive in the big bad world, one needs to be less sentimental and more badass. So when her aunt sent her off to the eccentric uncle’s estate to have him declared insane, she decided to go and do so. Not because declaring people insane gave her any sort of pleasure but because not doing so would mean a rather poor future or rather poorer than it was at the moment.

That is the premise of the novel and while I make light of it, I loved every single sentence in the novel. The writing has such grace and such strength that it is a pleasure to read. The characters are vibrant and well delineated, individualized and have dynamic relationships of their own. The novel is moody, atmospheric and poignant. It is more gothic than steampunk in my opinion because though machines are present, it doesn’t have that essence of steampunkery…like the dresses, the tone and the feel. There is a house that is as much a character in the novel as anyone else. There are servants who do not know their places and a love interest who is just complicated in all the right ways.

I enjoyed the complexity brought about by the positioning of the protagonist as an usurper. While having her uncle declared insane is not her idea, she is complicit with it from the very beginning and there are moments when the reader is unsure whether she will do as she should or will she choose for safety. The uncle is a unique character – autistic, I believe though no official term is given to whatever his condition is but I found his portrayal and the depiction of all his foibles to be extraordinary. There are no judgments though there are some frustrations and I liked that there were. It made things a lot more realistic than Katherine’s immediate acceptance.

I was a big fan of Davy and his rabbit and I found their particular arc, that particular culmination to be all sorts of heartbreaking. The pacing is splendid and though it was very obvious who the villain of the piece was, I felt that the way the villain’s story was situated and inserted into the narrative was masterful. What I did have a quibble with was the ending. If this is a standalone and not the first of a series, I will be unhappy because we leave the story with too many questions unanswered – at least in one aspect of Katherine’s life. I’m not saying I like neat endings necessarily but that the story feels like it hasn’t been fully told yet.

Other than that, I totally recommend this novel to you. The writing, characterizing, plotting and pacing are all superb. I had fun reading this and will be sure to check out the author’s other books whenever I have a chance to do so.
June 19, 2021
It's really hard for me to review this.

I guess I didn't like it. The writing was okay, the villain was very predictable, and the MC was a bit conflicted. (She has to choose between losing her own income or dooming nearly a thousand people to poverty. But she still has an obvious place she could live. I don't know why this took so long to be resolved on her part.) But I didn't hate this; I did kind of like some characters. And I am a bit interested in the sequel, but only a bit. Katharine and Lane were sort of cute.

2/5 stars. I didn't hate this, but it was just okay.
Profile Image for Mara.
661 reviews102 followers
October 21, 2014
Cover Blurb: Love it. You can’t see Katharine’s face - I’m okay with side profiles - so it works. I love the gears and the title’s font and the background; love it all. It definitely caught my interest when I first saw it.

What I Liked: This is one of those stories where it takes a little bit of time for the characters to grow on you. I loved the book doubly for that, because while I started out not especially attached to any of them, by the end of the book, I loved them. Katharine is a good, strong protagonist, and I didn’t particularly like her at first because she came across as kind of pushy, and she was so willing to obey her Aunt Alice about Stranwyne. And while Katharine was kind of in a hard place - disobeying her Aunt would see her thrown on the streets, - part of me was like, “But that’s a selfish reason to put your uncle in an asylum and ruin everyone’s livelihood on Stranwyne!” But as the story progressed, and when Katharine is finally forced to make a decision, I understood her pain and I loved her strong will and devotion. I went through the same process with Lane. I understood why he didn’t like Katharine at first - she was there to throw Uncle Tully in an asylum, - but his moodiness just drove me up a wall. After a while, though, I came to know him right along with Katharine, and he became yet another strong, honorable, and kind character. Uncle Tully was an immediate hit with me. I don’t normally like characters who aren’t entirely right in the head, because they’re just kind of there, and don’t usually add much to the plot. I couldn’t help but like Uncle Tully, though, with all of his eccentricities and brilliant mind and his kindness to Katharine. Mary Brown was also an immediate hit - the chatterbox village girl who speaks her mind, - as was Davy, the quiet, gentle boy who sees and notices everything. I also loved that I became attached to Ben Aldridge, and then later in the story began to distrust him; it shows depth in the character’s personality.

What I Disliked: Nothing.

Believability: Katharine’s attitude was very much in keeping with the era. She’s not afraid to do what needs to be done, but she’s always very much aware of social protocol, and it’s with some effort that she pushes past it when the need arises. The story’s twist was also very believable, and that’s all I can say about it without giving something away.

Writing Style: It’s good. The dialogue is in keeping with the era, and I loved the story’s tone: bleak, isolated, foreboding. Every single character in this story has a lot of depth and personality, even the ones who appear only for a very short time, and even more importantly - everyone behaves the way they do for a reason. But where the Author really succeeded was the mystery itself. She reveals clues at a really good pace, all the while keeping the Reader guessing about everything. It almost drove me up a wall, trying to figure out what was going on, but I was also tickled pink that I had finally found a mystery that wasn’t unbelievably easy to solve. Halfway through the book, the villain becomes rather apparent, but what exactly the person is up to isn’t, so you keep reading. I could feel the Author smiling knowingly at me through the pages, like she was saying, "I know you have no idea how this is going to work out, but trust me - you'll love it!"

Content: None.

Conclusion: Very satisfying. The Author explains everything in a way that left me feeling pleased, and also congratulating the Author on a clever solution. There’s going to be a sequel, which I hope will be every bit as good. I’m so glad that this book turned out to be as good as it was. When I first picked it up, I wasn’t expecting anything terribly grand. An entertaining enough mystery, but one that would be pretty easy to solve. Sharon Cameron surprised me, and I really, really look forward to seeing what she writes next. This is an Author to keep your eye on.

Recommended Audience: Historical fiction fans, mystery fans, girl-read (though some guys might enjoy it), any age.
Profile Image for Kara.
63 reviews2 followers
November 7, 2012
Full Disclosure: When I started reading The Dark Unwinding, I had no intention of writing a review. I wanted to read a book without having to stop every few pages to make notes; to read without having to worry about what I was going to write for its corresponding review. In a sense, I wanted to enjoy the book with no strings attached. As you've probably guessed by now, that plan never came to fruition. The Dark Unwinding, Sharon Cameron's début novel for teens, is a book that deserves a review - and a glowing one at that. This novel sucked me in from the very first page. Cameron's writing is so beautiful and lyrical that the story could have been about zombie dolphins on the attack and it wouldn't have mattered. Luckily for the reader, Cameron's spellbinding writing is matched by an equally fascinating and compelling story, one that is mercifully zombie dolphin free.

The Story: Katharine Tulman has lived under her aunt's care since her father passed away years ago. The word "care" is to be taken lightly here, since the year is 1852 and a financially-dependent Katharine must do her Aunt Alice's bidding, else live in poverty. Aunt Alice is a nasty sort, and she sends Katharine to her uncle's estate with strict instructions to declare her Uncle Tully insane and send him straight to the madhouse, all so Aunt Alice can have control over his money. When Katharine arrives at the estate, however, things aren't what they seem, and the events that transpire cause Katharine to question not her uncle's sanity, but her own.

Bonus Factors: I'm a total sucker for stories rooted in history, and this one has its roots firmly planted in the historical happenings of earlier centuries. The estate in The Dark Unwinding, Stranwyne Keep, is modelled after Welbeck Abbey in Nottinghamshire, England, complete with its underground tunnels and ballroom, gasworks, affinity for the colour pink, and it being home to over 1000 people who, without the estate, would most likely have lived in poverty. Also, popular in the 18th and 19th centuries were automatons, self-operating machines made of clockwork parts that performed specified tasks, and Uncle Tully, though incapable of taking care of himself, is a genius when it comes to designing and building these figures.

Ex-Bonus Factors: Not really an ex-bonus factor, per say, but rather a small, I-need-to-complain-about-something complaint. The romance in The Dark Unwinding is subtle, and, though I'm often the first to scoff at those angsty lust-fuelled does-not-make-any-sense love scenes that we see so much of in YA lit, I have to admit I missed that feeling of urgency and wanting that usually go hand in hand with such displays. The blossoming love in Unwinding is beautiful and unfolds naturally and is fitting for the time period, but I certainly don't think it's wrong to want a little more sugar with my tea. Especially if said tea is a swoon-worthy character with thunderstorms for eyes.

Final Thoughts: Sharon Cameron is an author to watch. Fans of historical fiction who appreciate a tinge of steampunk and Gothic will enjoy this one. I loved The Dark Unwinding and can't wait to read the sequel.
Profile Image for Hazel West.
Author 25 books132 followers
November 7, 2012
Thoughts on the Overall Book: I must say that I am very impressed by the number of really good YA books that have come out this year. For a while I almost dreaded going into the YA section because I just hated everything that was new and popular, but it's books like these that gives me hope for the genre. I think this book had a wonderful new story line, a nice steampunk feel, good characters, and an overall classic appeal to it. The mystery was also intriguing and definitely not simple because I had little to no clue what it was all about.

Cover--Yae or Nay: I really liked the cover for this book, it tells you everything you need to know. I am always attracted to books with mansions on the front and I love the stormy colors of it. I also always like back profiles of the characters, then you don't have to worry about their faces not matching how you picture them. The gears behind the title are cool as well since it gives a promise of a steampunk novel. I also liked the title and how you find out where it fits into the story line. I'm quite partial to enigmatic titles.

Characters: I really like Katherine as a protagonist because I think she grows very well during the story. She might not seem like a greatest person and even a little snobbish in the beginning, but she definitely turns out to be a very sympathetic character. I also liked the supporting cast. Uncle Tully is just one of those endearing characters you can't help but love. Lane and Davy were two of my favorite characters though. I can't resist those dark brooding types, so, of course, Lane would be on my favorites list, and Davy was just such a sweet little boy, quiet but yet seeing everything. And Mrs. Jefferies as well, was the typical slightly bad tempered housekeeper who you can't help but like anyway. And then, of course, you had Aunt Alice who was so fun to hate. Overall a wonderful cast, fitting for the kind of story.

Writing Style: The style was very good, and descriptive which I love in these kinds of stories. As mysteries often are, it was in first person. The language was very accurate to the time period and I think the author did her research well into everything she wrote about, and I know how much research must have gone into this novel, or any mystery novel, so my hat is off to Sharon Cameron.

Problems/What bothered me: Truthfully, there was nothing that bothered me in this story. Even the romance was spot on to my tastes, so I can't complain there either.

Conclusion: 5 stars, Loved it! Sharon Cameron has given us a wonderful debut novel here, and I think she will continue to do so as she carries on with the proposed sequel of this book, that I am awaiting with the utmost anticipation!

Recommended Audience: I think readers of the classics such as Jane Eyre and Sherlock Holmes would find this book to their tastes. Also people who enjoy light steampunk (more like Gaslight Romance) would like it. I'd say it's probably more of a girl read than a guy read, but it's still a wonderful story and mystery.
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