Books for Younguns, Young Adults and the Young-at-Heart

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Review: The Dark Unwinding

For the holidays, I'll be reviewing a book or series a day from December 1st through the 24th.

Today's book is The Dark Unwinding by Sharon Cameron, one of our holiday picks for teens.

In Victorian England, Katharine lives as a ward of her aunt, whose primary goal is to see her spoiled son inherit the family fortune.  However, it looks like that plan might be in jeopardy when the current patriarch is suspected of mental incompetence causing him to squander his money on the family estate.  Katharine is sent to have him committed, but instead of finding a feeble old man wasting his fortune, she discovers an artistic savant housing and employing 900 people in the pursuit of his clockwork contraptions.  She must decide whether she can trade the small measure of independence that comes from managing her aunt's books for the long-term benefit of dozens of families who would otherwise be sent to the London workhouses.

Cameron has written a richly detailed story that often feels like a fantasy, although everything in it is realistic.  It would be a shame to tell you the best aspects of her writing in a review since a large part of the enjoyment is in realizing how they've been unfolding around you without you even noticing.  There is a little bit of something for everyone here, from quiet pastoral scenes and smoldering star-crossed love to heart-pounding chase scenes and conniving villains.

This book is recommended for grown-up fans of The Secret Garden, those who love a strong, determined heroine, devotees of the Victorian Gothic novel, and anyone looking for careful depictions of the autism spectrum.

The Dark Unwinding is published by Scholastic Press and retails for $17.99 (hardcover).  I read a complimentary copy from the publisher.  You can get yours at Left Bank Books today!


  1. Your review did the trick, Sarah! I just put the book on hold at my local library. Thanks!

  2. Yay! Please let me know what you think of it! I've been trying to get various people to read this for a while now so that I'd have someone to talk about it with, but no success yet. Something about having their own reading lists?

  3. Silly people and their reading lists! They should read what we tell them! :)

    Keep the recommendations coming! I'm planning to squeeze in as much reading as I can over my holiday break!


  4. I loved it! Great suspense and quite a few red herrings that for a wonderful read. I also liked the friendship between Katharine and Uncle Tully.


    1. Spoilers ahead:

      My favorite reading moment of the book was when Katharine was painting dragon scales after being warned that if the paint has lines in it, Uncle Tully will have to count them and ends the section by saying "There were sixteen lines in my paint." That was the aha moment that made me realize she had been subconsciously counting things for the whole book and is probably on the autism spectrum or has OCD herself. It's just such a wonderfully subtle technique that you can be perfectly fine never realizing, but it adds a really cool extra layer.