Monday, January 4, 2016

ARC Review: Worlds of Ink and Shadows by Lena Coakley

Title: Worlds of Ink and Shadows
Written by: Lena Coakley
Published: January 5, 2016 by Amulet Books
(Amazon / Goodreads)

Synopsis: 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. 

Gorgeously written and based on the Brontës’ juvenilia, Worlds of Ink & Shadow brings to life one of history’s most celebrated literary families.

*** I received an advance copy of this book from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This fact has not changed my opinion. ***

I am a fan of Gothic literature and therefore the Bronte sisters (well mostly Emily but you get the idea) so when I saw on Netgalley a historical fantasy about the Brontes in their teens travelling to their own imaginary worlds I knew I needed to read it. And this books definitely did not disappoint. It was a fantastic dark fantasy with subtle historical elements.

There was even more interesting elements of the plot that bookish people will appreciate. I went into this book expecting more on the historical elements but that's not what the focus of the book was, it was much more about the fantastical and supernatural elements which perfectly suited me. The book switched back and forth between the real world and the fictional worlds with spill over into both, but a lot of the plot was the goings on in the fantasy worlds that the Brontes created. I loved being able to explore the worlds, both Verdopolis and Gondal, despite only briefly seeing the latter. They were such different worlds and you could see which Bronte had created them based on their appearance. Verdopolis was a group effort and it had many different elements of Regency and Gothic literature including lots of romance and mystery. But both worlds had dark elements just like you would expect from these authors. I usually enjoy dark fantasies that have a basis in real history so I enjoyed that about this book as well.

It also probably comes as no surprise that this is the kind of book for bookish people, it is about three (well four) authors after all. I'm not very familiar with the juvenalia of the Brontes, nor any of their works beyond theier most well-known but this book made me want to read more of their books. The stories they created here were truly imaginative and if their actual books are anything like these then I'm sure they are fantastic. And I'm sure they are because you can see the progression of their work. You can see the characters who influenced Charlotte's Mr. Rochester and Emily's Heathcliff and Cathy. As a fan of Wuthering Heights (it's one of my all-time favorite books) I loved seeing the precursors to these characters and these books. Fans of the Brontes will also enjoy seeing that and appreciate this book for that reason.

This of course meant that there many interesting characters within both the real world and fictional worlds. Within the fictional world we had the heroes and heroines that the Brontes created. Zamorna who was Charlotte's main protagonist was this great hero but with his own weaknesses, for one thing he was a bit of a womanizer. Branwell's main hero who then became Emily's was more of a villainous type. He is the aptly named Rogue and while we are told about his kidnapping attempts and swashbuckling past you can't help but like and root for him. The most interesting character to me was probably the mysterious S'Death just because he seemed to be in the middle of everything and you knew so little about him, just that he was Rogue's partner in crime.

Then you had the Brontes. The book took you through the minds and lives of all four surviving Brontes including the lesser known Anne and Branwell. I know very little about Branwell, I have to admit that I didn't even know he existed until now, so it was great to see him be a big part of the story. Anne was a smaller part of the book but still a really interesting contrast. She was the more grounded of the group and was a good foil for the others. Then there was Charlotte who was basically the main character. It was her who spurred a lot of the writing and imagination within the group. She did however fall a little flat for me but that may have been because I never really liked Jane Eyre as much. I was always more of an Emily Bronte kind of reader and that reflected in my enjoyment of the characters too. I loved Emily. She was a little rash and reckless but a hopeless romantic at heart. The book switched perspectives a lot and while I enjoyed seeing the different sides it did kind of make things muddled sometimes.

On the whole this was a good read that bookish people, especially fans of the Brontes will probably enjoy. It did start a little slow for my taste but when the mystery and darker elements kicked in, it was really interesting and enjoyable.

I give Worlds of Ink and Shadows by Lena Coakley 9 out of 10 stars

Buy/Borrow/Bypass: Buy/Borrow. This is a book for bookish people, especially fans of the Brontes and/or Gothic literature. It's got great characters and interesting dark fantasy worlds that fans of supernatural or fantasy books will enjoy. It was a really creative book and I would definitely recommend it.

Have you read Worlds of Ink and Shadows? What did you think? Leave me a comment with your thoughts. Thanks for stopping by and HAPPY READING!


  1. I was a huge Bronte Bread in junior high, so I would loive this book.

  2. Omg I'm so glad you liked this one! I just saw this on Goodreads the other day and I really want to read it. Definitely going on my wish list!

  3. I never liked Jane Eyre either. :P I always preferred Emily. Great review! I think you've convinced me to give this a chance. I'm always wary of fiction about real historical figures, but as I was reading your review, I recalled something I'd read in an Emily Bronte biography, that she and her sisters used to make up fictional worlds. So now it's like, okay, that's actually pretty cool and I kind of want to see how it works.

    Sarcasm & Lemons

  4. This is not my usual read, but it sounds great. I've only read some Bronte retellings and I know how good they can be.
    Great review!