Great Illustrated Books

The Dark Unwinding

By Sharon Cameron

Scholastic Press, 2012
Pages : 318
Suggested Ages: 12 and Up
ISBN: 9780545327862

The Dark Unwinding will wind readers up in deliciously complicated knots.  Nothing is quite as it seems … until all is explained at the end with total satisfaction.  This “dark and stormy night” sort of gothic tale is made even more captivating with its totally original premise.

Katherine Tulman’s wicked, money-grubbing aunt sends her to inspect her uncle’s estate and have him officially declared a lunatic.  Katherine’s aunt stands to gain a substantial inheritance once Uncle Tulman is tucked safely away in an asylum.  Unless her aunt acquires this inheritance, Katherine’s future is grim.

The more Katherine learns about her uncle and his estate, the more she respects the man and his enterprise.  Her uncle is eccentric to be sure. (In today’s world he would probably be somewhere on the autism spectrum.)   Although he is child-like and requires care for everyday functioning, he is definitely not a lunatic.   He is an inventor with enormous creativity and genius.

Uncle Tulman’s estate employ’s 900 people that he has rescued from workhouses.
Ingenuity is everywhere in the set-up and maintenance of the huge property.  If Katherine reports that her uncle is insane, all this will be closed down.

Forces unknown to Katherine are confusing and confounding her.  She has to tie herself to her bed at night so that she won’t wander the estate and do strange things that make her seem crazy.  Allies and enemies, enemies and allies are impossible to distinguish as Katherine gradually pieces together the situation. 

The plot thickens and twists.  A drug is employed to nefarious effect.  A flood engulfs a large part of the estate.  Against all odds, good (Katherine and her uncle) triumphs over evil (the monstrous aunt).

What makes this story outstanding is the heart and soul of the heroine, as well as the people who appreciate and care for her uncle.  The added bonus is the background of Great Britain during the reign of Queen Victoria, the place of eccentrics, and a glimpse of the laws governing inheritance in that era.

Reviewed by : FH

Themes : England, Eccentrics and Eccentricities, Inventors and Inventions, Mysteries

If you love this book, then try:

Redwine, C. J. Defiance. Balzer + Bray, 2012.

Stiefvater, Maggie. The Raven Boys. Scholastic Press, 2012.

Trent, Tiffany. The Unnaturalists. Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2012.

Critics have said

"Cameron's debut creates a fascinating world within a world and features a unique and memorable cast... This novel is utterly original, romantic and spellbindingly imaginative... I for one will be looking forward to the next bit of magic that falls from Sharon Cameron's pen."

"Inspired by the life of an eccentric real-life duke, Cameron's eerie and suspenseful first novel offers gripping twists, rich language, and an evocative landscape. Readers should find it easy to become fully absorbed in this gothic coming-of-age story about finding unexpected freedom."

"Cameron has produced a ripping good read with all the drama, intrigue, and romance of a Victorian pot-boiler with mystery, suspense, and hints of the supernatural thrown in for good measure."

"Wuthering Heights meets steampunk, this story is satisfying to the last page and is sure to leave teen readers eager for a sequel. Highly recommended for both teens and adults, Cameron's book is a real treat for anyone interested in Victorian England, mysteries, romance, gothic stories, oddities, subterfuge, steampunk, or just an all around excellent read."