It seems that Uncle is squandering away the family fortune, so it falls to Katharine to quietly visit the old man and gather enough evidence to have him declared insane. As “the poor relative”, the young lady has no choice but to make the long carriage journey to Stranwyne Keep, and a mysteriously strange place she finds it indeed.
A drowsy housekeeper, a mute young boy, a belligerent apprentice named Lane – that’s the entire staff for this huge manor house? Mrs. Jeffries recognizes Katharine as Mr. Simon’s orphan daughter and avers that cousin Robert’s scheming mother must have sent her here to uproot Mr. Tully.
Where is all the money going if Uncle doesn’t throw lavish parties or buy fine horses? In his workshop across the moors, childlike genius Uncle Tully creates precise inventions in miniature with Lane’s assistance and keeps an unvarying personal timetable. Automatons, clockwork creations, part science, part magic, all Uncle Tully.
The family solicitor enlightens Katharine about how this estate is run – and how an entire village supports Uncle Tully’s projects as the estate supports its hundreds of workers rescued from London’s poorhouses! No wonder there is less money in the accounts than before… yet Mr. Babcock assures her that these projects will rebuild the fortune soon.
Katharine becomes convinced that some of her uncle’s entertaining inventions are very practical (others quite dangerous and alarming) as her fondness for this very special person grows, so she decides to support him in defiance of her aunt’s wishes, endangering her own chances of a safer financial future.
But all is not well in this idyllic setting, as strange noises taunt Katharine in the manor, Lane warns her about upsetting her uncle, a visiting student of mechanics begins to court her, people disappear from one location and reappear far away, and the villagers turn against her in defense of their dear Mr. Tully.
Who can she trust now - Lane? Mr. Babcock? Her maid and friend from the village?
What’s causing those eerie noises and her new nightmares?
Is someone really planning to steal inventions from Uncle Tully’s workshop?
A mystery and a Victorian family drama rolled into one, this Dark Unwinding twists and turns as Uncle Tully’s inventions tick-tock along, and a villain seeks to use them for nefarious purposes.
Recommended by: Katy Manck, Librarian-at-Large (retired academic/corporate/school librarian), Gilmer, Texas, USA – blogging young adult books beyond the bestsellers at http://BooksYALove.blogspot.com
Gothic, gorgeous, glooming and grand, The Dark Unwinding will captivate teen readers with its spunky heroine Katharine Tulman and her deep and dark family secrets. Katharine slaves over keeping the books for her witchy Aunt Alice until Aunt sends her to the countryside to her uncle’s estate on the windswept and lonely moors. Katharine is to find proof that Uncle Tully is batty, so that he can be sent away to an asylum and Aunt Alice and her greedy, gluttonous son Robert (Katharine’s cousin) can inherit the family fortune. Katharine feels she has no choice, since she is reliant on Robert and Alice to provide her with room and board. She has no money of her own and no other family.
Upon arriving at Stranwyne Keep, Katharine takes in the monstrous, looming Victorian palace and its grounds. Mrs. Jeffries, the cook, is dismissive and rude; Uncle Tully is nowhere to be found and Davy, a little waif of a boy, is a silent enigma. Katharine spends a restless night in a spooky red room, and vows to meet her uncle in the morning.
Uncle Tully’s workshop is a fantastical, whimsical place where creativity and invention thrive. He has created amazing puppets, steam powered machines, and inventions that no one has ever seen before. Katharine finds that Tully is not demented; he is a genius! He does have quirky habits that may seem strange to some people: he only winds his clocks on specific days, playtime is on a regimented schedule, and Tully can do the most difficult math problems in his head in less than a second. When Katharine discovers that her uncle employs over 900 men to work in his village and keep the workshop running, she vows that she will shut it down. This is Fat Robert’s inheritance, after all.
A strange turn of events finds Katharine torn between her family—she has come to love eccentric Uncle Tully and even mean Mrs. Jeffries, she feels protective of Mary, her constant companion, and she is attracted to Lane, her uncle’s helper. Can she offer the proof that will put her uncle in the loony bin? What will happen to Stranwyne Keep and all the people?
This luscious novel has all the elements that romance readers could want. Think Jane Eyre with a bit of steampunk thrown in. A spooky, creaky mansion, deserted moors, howling winds at night, crazy machines and inventions, a mean housekeeper, a silent orphan, a poisoning, a plot to send Katharine to the asylum, a childlike, genius inventor, a handsome helper, a wolf in sheep’s clothing (a villain), a plot to destroy England, and a wee bit of romance.
Highly, highly recommended for fans of steampunk and romance. This is a remarkable read that is not to be missed. Grades 7-up. 336 pages
Recommended by: Pamela Thompson, Librarian, Texas USA
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