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.
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.