Love clockwork and steam punk stories of Victorian England? This, dear reader, is a book for you. Sharon Cameron's first novel is a great adventure full of quirky characters, first love, a detestable villain and a young woman coming into her own.
A 17-year-old orphan entirely dependent upon her entitled aunt's charity, Katherine Tulman is sent from London to her uncle's rural Stranwyne Keep one summer. The occasion, however, is no holiday. Katherine has been charged by her aunt with testifying to her uncle's insanity so that Katherine's useless lump of a cousin can inherit the estate, after a lengthy stewardship by her aunt, of course. But when Katherine arrives at Stranwyne, instead of the Bedlam she expects, she finds a thriving community that wouldn't exist without her uncle's harmless, if unorthodox, way of life. Katherine must make the decision to risk her own position in her aunt's household or betray Stranwyne Keep's inhabitants in a setup that feels familiar but not old.
The writing style is easy to read and Katherine's plight creates a real connection to the reader, especially when you get the feeling that some characters know more about the truth than either Katherine or the reader does. This ties closely into the time period (namely in regards to strained relations between England and post-Napoleon France) and gives rise to the emergence of a good old mystery in the midst of the other plot lines, blended and intertwined to perfection. I'll be the first to admit that I thought the culprit was someone different than I expected, and I've read a number of clockwork mysteries in my time.
The only gripe I have about the story's outcome is that Davy's implication isn't entirely clear to me regarding motivation. Passing details, though, that could have poked holes in the plot were tied up quite neatly, leaving a large sense of unfinished business to imply an intended sequel, which I for one hope will be forthcoming sooner rather than later.
Ask your independently-owned local bookseller for a copy of Sharon Cameron's "The Dark Unwinding" now.