The Dark Unwinding by Sharon Cameron
Fancy gown, pretty girl whose face we can’t see well, fancy castle in the background: pretty typical teen fiction cover nowadays. It really could be about anything. Except! Gears! Does that mean steampunk? Well, we’ll get to that.
A 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.
Goodreads doesn’t know, and I don’t care enough to do further research.
Meh. It was pretty predictable and not at all “spine-tingling.” I didn’t throw it across the room, though.
This Is NOT Steampunk! I know this is probably not the author’s fault, so Scholastic, I’m talking to you. Just because you have an inventor who makes automatons with mechanics and gears and things does NOT make your novel steampunk. It just makes it historical fiction. Steampunk requires a society based on such such inventions, and is pretty much always an alt history. False advertising may get you more readers, but they will probably be annoyed when they finish (if they do).
Autistic Character: I will give Cameron props for writing an autistic character, and making him feature prominently in the book. He’s quite lovable, and may be the best character in the book.
The Position of Victorian Women: Katharine plans to go along with her aunt, not because she wants to, but because she doesn’t really have a choice, being without parents or money of her own. It may not be cheerful, but it’s realistic.
Cameron obviously did her research, historically and scientifically, so those parts were quite interesting. However, although I was intellectually curious about the answer to some of the minor mysteries, the answers to the major mysteries (who is the bad guy, which guy will she choose, how will the estate stay open) were so easily guessed as to be completely boring and emotionally uninvolving. There’s a lot of meandering around the estate/village that really didn’t need to be included, and a few details that are not explained very well, even by the end. The romance is a complete yawn. And it’s not steampunk!