Monday, January 04, 2016

Bookish Thoughts: Worlds of Ink and Shadow by Lena Coakley

Charlotte Bronte dipped her pen into the inkwell and dabbed in on a blotter. ~ Opening of Worlds of Ink and Shadow



Worlds of Ink and Shadow by Lena Coakley
Amulet Books, 2016
Fantasy; 352 pgs
Source: NetGalley

From Goodreads: 
Charlotte, Branwell, Emily, and Anne. The Brontë siblings have always been inseparable. After all, nothing can bond four siblings quite like life in an isolated parsonage out on the moors. Their vivid imaginations lend them escape from their strict upbringing, actually transporting them into their created worlds: the glittering Verdopolis and the romantic and melancholy Gondal. But at what price? As Branwell begins to slip into madness and the sisters feel their real lives slipping away, they must weigh the cost of their powerful imaginations, even as their characters—the brooding Rogue and dashing Duke of Zamorna—refuse to let them go. 
Lena Coakley's Witchlanders was among my favorites the year I read it. I was blown away by the world building, the characters and the overall story. I have been anxiously awaiting another book by the author and so jumped at the chance to read Worlds of Ink and Shadow when it became available on NetGalley. I admit to being a little nervous about the subject matter. I do not generally gravitate towards fictionalized stories starring real-life people. But we are talking about the Brontë siblings, and a fantasy novel to boot. How could I resist?

Charlotte is the oldest of the four children, and very responsible and practical. Still, she is a romantic at heart. As the story progressed, I liked her more and more. And not just because she would go on to write one of my all-time favorite novels, Jane Eyre. The second oldest, Branwell, was more of a wild card, a definite risk taker. He was always trying to best his sister Charlotte. Both Branwell and Charlotte shared a friendly rivalry as siblings often do, but it was sometimes fraught with jealousy and pettiness.

I am surprised no one wanted to ring Emily's neck, given her rather dreamy and at times thoughtless behavior. This isn't to say I did not like Emily. She is such an interesting character, not to mention quite strong-willed and daring. I could not help but draw comparisons between her book, Wuthering Heights, and the Emily Lena Coakley has created. I was quite curious about Anne, the youngest. As much as I like outspoken heroines, the quiet ones often win me over the most. Anne was no exception. She was the voice of reason, and the one who tried to keep everyone grounded.

It is over the course of the novel, seeing the imaginary worlds or touches added by each sibling, that the reader gets a more complete view of just who the Brontës might have been in their younger years. It made the fictional characters the siblings created even more interesting in their own ways too.

The novel has a somewhat mythical quality about it, which reminded me a little of author Lisa Tuttle and her subtle style of weaving myth in with reality. Lena Coakley takes a similar approach, taking advantage of the setting and superstitions of the time and threading them into her story.

The novel is extremely slow in setting up; although I suppose the reader is given an opportunity to understand just the type of relationships the siblings shared as well as what their life was like while growing up. It really dragged for me though, and I seriously considered giving up several times early on. It wasn't until I hit page 97 or so that I knew I was in it for the long haul. The book picked up for me as details about the crossing over into the not-so-imaginary worlds created by the Brontë siblings began to solidify. I still have mixed feelings just the same. I was involved in the story and characters enough to want to know what happened, to see where Coakley would take me, the reader, but this isn't a book I came away loving, I am sad to say. I always felt like I was on the outside looking in. And I never quite got over the feeling of wishing it could be more than what it was--that something more would happen.

As a perpetual daydreamer, there was a part of me that wished I could do just what the Brontë siblings were able to do--create and step into the worlds my daydreams sometimes take me--become a part of the stories. Isn't that one of the reasons I enjoy reading and writing? It's probably best I stay on this side of the book and paper, however, especially given the experiences of the Brontës in this novel!  While this one did not quite live up to my expectations, I am curious what Lena Coakley will come up with next.

To learn more about Lena Coakley and her work, please visit the author's websiteShe can also be found on GoodreadsTwitterand Facebook.

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© 2016, Wendy Runyon of Musings of a Bookish Kitty. All Rights Reserved. If you're reading this on a site other than Musings of a Bookish Kitty or Wendy's feed, be aware that this post has been stolen and is used without permission.

12 comments:

  1. I've never fully finished a Brontë novel, but I have to say I love their style. The fantasy side of this book intrigues me- I love alternate universe/portal type reads. However, I was disappointed with a read that was somewhat similar to this one last year, so I'm still on the fence. If this is on sale as an ebook, I may snag it- it sounds interesting enough from your review.
    ~Litha Nelle

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    1. Litha Nelle - It was an interesting approach to take, and I liked some aspects of it, but it didn't completely work for me. Maybe it had more to do with the writing or the story itself, but I just didn't care for this one much.

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  2. That sounds like an awesome book *goes to see if it's still on NetGalley*

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    1. Eustacia - I hope you enjoy it more than I did! I thought the premise was quite interesting, it just didn't work well for me in this case.

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  3. The slow set up would probably drive me crazy. Not sure this is for me.

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    1. Kathy - Honestly, I don't think you would like this one. Not even just for the reason you mention, but because of the fantasy element.

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  4. I'm sorry this didn't live up to your expectations, but I may give it a try anyway. I'm a huge fan of the Brontes and just can't resist!

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    1. Melinda - I hope you will like it better than I did if you do read it.

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  5. The premise sounds interesting; bummer that it didn't live up to your expectations. I'll have to think about this one.

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    1. Melody - It has gotten some good reviews, and so maybe I am just one of the minority.

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  6. I have a hard time reading stories that have fictionalize accounts of real people too! This sounds like it had good potential so what a bummer that you couldn't get into it as much.

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    1. Iliana - I don't mind if the real people are side characters so much, but when they are the main character, I have more of a trouble with it. I wish I had liked this one better.

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