Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Book Review Repost: The Dark Unwinding by Sharon Cameron

The Dark Unwinding by Sharon Cameron
Release Date: September 1, 2012
Publisher: Scholastic
Pages: 318
Received: ARC from publisher
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Goodreads Page


From Goodreads:

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.


I never would have read this book

I don't like steampunk. I feel like it's cool to like steampunk and I should pretend that I do, but I really don't like the genre. So I had zero interest in reading The Dark Unwinding and I never would have picked it up if it hadn't been sent to me for review.

But, oh my gosh, I am SO glad Scholastic decided to send me this book because I loved it!

First off, The Dark Unwinding is so not a steampunk book. Or, at least not how *I* think of the genre. There are gadgets and inventions one of the characters creates, but they're not particularly anachronistic and they aren't presented in the "WOW Gadgets!" way that I tend to associate with steampunk. Also, no one wears goggles.

I'd put The Dark Unwinding more firmly into the historical fiction/Gothic fiction categories, which are two genres I DO like very much.

Katharine gets a sleepover party invite!

I feel like it's been forever since I've handed out one of those! From page one I knew I liked Katharine and she only grew on me as the story progressed.

Katharine is living out a pretty terrible life serving as the Cinderella for her money-grubbing aunt (MGA) and her useless cousin. MGA catches wind that Katharine's eccentric uncle (MGA's dead husband's brother, follow me?) is squandering his millions on wacky endeavors.

Of course, this cannot happen because that money is rightfully MGA's dullard son's inheritance! So MGA sends Katharine to Eccentric Uncle's house to check out his activities and get him declared insane so he can be locked up in an insitution and all his money will go to her son. Cue cackling evil laughter!

See, totally Gothic fiction (aka historical soap operas).

So Katherine goes (a month away from MGA? Yes please!) and fully intends to do what she's told because she knows where her bread is buttered (even if it's the equivalent to a barely-there margarine smear). Crazy things ensue and Katharine takes it all in stride. She's brave, steadfast, and refreshingly practical.

I always love a practical main character because otherwise I spend half the book yelling at them for doing stupid things. I never once had to yell at Katharine. Even when I feel in love with the other characters and really wanted to save them from MGA's evil plans, I had to grudgingly admit that Katharine's reasoning was sound. This helped make the situation seem especially dire and I couldn't flip the pages fast enough to find out how Katharine could possibly make things right.

She's not all seriousness though. I loved the little glimpses I got into Katharine's heart. After years of being on the receiving end of MGA's evil step-mother schtick, Katharine has learned to keep her thoughts to herself and just do what needed to be done. But she DOES have thoughts and feelings, and I loved seeing them peek out and explore her new, nicer environment. There were definitely some Warm Happy Family moments that made my heart break into a million awwws.

This is the book I wanted Amber House to be

Not only is Katharine made of awesome, but so is pretty much everyone else. The good guys are charming and heartwarming and even if some of them are a little prickly and hard to like at first, their motivationsa are totally understandable and I think I loved them even more for it in the end.

Also, the hot guy is pretty darn hot. He definitely has his moods, but, hey, I can understand him being a little standoffish to the girl who he thinks is trying to destroy his home. I liked that he didn't fall all head over heels in love with her right away because, I mean, yeah, the girl was trying to destory his home. For once, a guy had priorities ahead of the girl! That was a fantastically refreshing surprise.

But of course he does fall for her, and she falls for him and watching their awkward but geniuine romance unfold was worth about a million aws.

And of course not all the characters are nice. This IS a Gothic book, afterall, and so there must be Gothic villains. I've already mentioned the evil Money Grubbing Aunt (and, oh my gosh, she's like Miss Minchin level evil awesomeness!), but there's another villain and they're awesomely evil, too (but stealth-evil, and so I'm not going to spoil things by revealing their identity). I had so much fun hating these characters!

There's also an autistic character, but unlike Amber House this character is actually realistically autistic (though never overtly identified as such). Normally I don't like "special characters" for the sake of specialness. I wasn't expecting this character's presence at all and I was fully prepared to start my eye-rolling, but instead I was sucked into a full on literary hugfest because I loved them and their role in the story. This character was written in such a way that the autism wasn't at all gimmicky or overdone. The character was just another character. The autism wasn't A THING.

Oh and things also happen

In true Gothic fashion, the plot is twisty with a lot of soap-opera-y surprises. I definitely got a chance to gasp theatrically as each new development was revealed.

Admittedly, though, a lot of the book was kind of slower. It wasn't all shock and awe and a lot of time is spent on Katharine getting to know the various characters and peek out of her shell. Usually I'd get impatient about this, but I was totally absorbed. I loved Katharine and these characters and I loved living in their world.

Bottom line

I am so adding Sharon Cameron to my Authors To Watch list! Sadly this is her first book and so I have no backlog I can dive into while I wait for her next book to come out. I am for sure ordering a copy for my library (once it's rebuilt! *sob*) and handing it to all my Gothic and historical fic-loving teens.

I'm not sure if a sequel is planned or not, but I would definitely read it if Sharon Cameron wrote one. The ending is totally complete and satisfying (in an achingly romantic way), but a small part is left open for more adventures. I want to follow that character as they do what they've set out to do, especially considering the BEYOND AWESOME nature of their mission.

Vague? I know, I'm sorry (I can't spoil the ending of all things!). Suffice it to say, I'm already busy imagining what that character might be up to and crossing my fingers that I get the chance to read all about it.

Explanation of rating system: Star Rating Key 

Do you have any questions about The Dark Unwinding that I haven't addressed? 
Feel free to ask in the comments!

Looking for another book like this? 
You might like: 

Click on the covers to go to my reviews.


  1. See I love steampunk so I was super bummed that this was billed as such when it most definitely wasn't. If it has been advertised as more of a Gothic mystery, I would have been better prepared and enjoyed it more.

    1. I remember your review! Actually, it was your review that made me move it up my review pile because you said it wasn't really a steampunk book. So thank you :)

    2. I was looking at this and thinking it sounded familiar-hadn't noticed the "repost" part :) Does this mean you're reviewing the sequel soon?

    3. Yep! I'm reading the sequel now. I'll have a guest post from the author coming up soon too.

  2. The Dark Unwinding sounds wonderful! I love Gothic fiction. Great review Smalls (:

    1. Thank you! This is definitely one to check out if you love Gothic fiction.

  3. Great review. I'd been curious about this one, kinda of sitting on the fence, wondering if it was something I might like. I've read and enjoyed steampunk and gothic fiction in the past. In fact the last one I read was The Peculiar. So, I'm glad you enjoyed this and now I'm excited to read it too.

    1. Hm, I can see you liking it. I think you would find Katharine intriguing at the very least. I'd love to hear the discussion questions you'd come up with for this one!

  4. Yes, Smallsie, you're absolutely right, if the characters don't wear gogles - or at least have them perched on top of their head for no apparent good reason, this is definitely NOT steampunk.

    That being said, the book sounds pretty darn good! :D I'm glad you enjoyed it.

    1. ROFL!! Oh my gosh, you almost made me spit out my drink all over my computer! :D <3

  5. Yay for another Gothic book done right! Really looking forward to reading this one. I do like steampunk but I don't like it with a capital "S" because all those do-dads make my head spin. :)

    1. hehe me too. I don't like all the gadgets in steampunk. I can definitely see you enjoying this book though.

  6. I can't agree more...I am not into steampunk but adored this novel! I love an atmospheric gothic and Katharine was a great protagonist!

    1. Yes!! I really liked Katharine a lot. "Atmospheric" is such a good word to describe it. I had such a vivid picture of everything.

  7. I LOVE your reviews. <3 And I'm definitely thinking of picking this up!

  8. I'm so glad you loved this one because this was an impulse buy for me because it looked like steampunk (and I'm doing an independent study on steampunk this spring). I'm actually pleasantly surprised that you found this to be more gothic than steampunk because I think I can use that as market research for my own novel-in-progress. I adore a good gothic novel!

    And I loved your abbreviation for MGA :)

    Lauren @ Hughes Reviews


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