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Worlds of Ink and Shadows: A Novel of the Brontës

Review

Worlds of Ink and Shadows: A Novel of the Brontës

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to dive into the worlds you have created or read? If it was possible, what price would you pay to travel to these worlds? Would you bargain away your life?

WORLDS OF INK AND SHADOW by acclaimed author Lena Coakley (author of WITCHLANDERS) explores the real lives of theBrontë siblings --- Charlotte, Emily, Anne and Branwell. History knows Charlotte as the author of JANE EYRE and Emily as the author of WUTHERING HEIGHTS, but we do not know much about the siblings themselves and their untimely deaths. In WORLDS OF INK AND SHADOW, Coakley explores the possibility that the siblings could enter the worlds they created --- and were driven mad by it.

In the novel, the Brontësiblings are living out a meager existence at their parsonage in Yorkshire, England. They are normal --- save for their fantastic ability to cross over the fictional worlds they have created. Charlotte and Branwell do most of the writing, separately, but their characters exist in the same worlds: Verdopolis and Gondal. Charlotte has created the dashing Duke of Zamorna and Branwell the mysterious Alexander Rogue. Zamorna and Rogue are arch-enemies, and Charlotte and Branwell enjoy pitting the two characters up against each other. It is all fun and games...until they realize a character has appeared that neither of them has created.

Suddenly, the worlds they thought they had such a tight grip on begin to spiral out of their control. Their characters that they spent so much time perfecting no longer bend to their will. Plus, their real lives begin to be plagued by their late sisters Maria and Elizabeth, and the siblings begin to believe they are going insane.

How many books can you think of that could be filed under historical fiction, biographical fiction, European fiction, Young Adult fiction, paranormal fiction, fantasy, horror, romance...the list goes on and on?

But as they try to leave their corrupted world behind, the characters and city will not let them leave, and the price they paid for passage into their once fictional world becomes far, far too high.

WORLDS OF INK AND SHADOW is unlike any book I have ever read. How many books can you think of that could be filed under historical fiction, biographical fiction, European fiction, Young Adult fiction, paranormal fiction, fantasy, horror, romance...the list goes on and on? Perhaps Ransom Riggs’s MISS PEREGRINE’S HOME FOR PECULIAR CHILDREN comes close, but it cannot be filed under biographical fiction. Unfortunately, the originality of this novel --- and the wonderful writing --- are probably the only aspects I liked.

This novel started out strong and clinched my attention within the first few chapters. But by the end, some characters that I enjoyed reading about were completely omitted from the novel. I wish this book had 100 more pages because the plot and characters could have been fleshed out so much more. There was not a lot of consistency with the plot and characters, either. All in all, what started out as a clean, tight and interesting story quickly became a story with a messy plot, many mood and tone changes, and a rushed and confusing ending.

Still, I cannot ignore the obvious extensive research about the siblings and the fictional worlds they created. It is clear that Coakley is very passionate about the Brontës and their stories and I commend her for that. In the case of WORLDS OF INK AND SHADOW, I can ignore the problems with the execution of the story in favor of passion for what is being written and the ingenuity. Overall, WORLDS OF INK AND SHADOW is a largely enjoyable read about reality and finding your place in the --- real --- world.

Highly recommended for fans of Libba Bray --- especially her Diviners series --- and, obviously, fans of Ransom Riggs’s Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children series. 

Reviewed by Bryn D., Teen Board member on January 4, 2016

Worlds of Ink and Shadows: A Novel of the Brontës
by Lena Coakley

  • Publication Date: March 6, 2018
  • Genres: Fantasy, Historical Fiction
  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Amulet Paperbacks
  • ISBN-10: 1419721429
  • ISBN-13: 9781419721427