Set in England in 1852, the story focuses on teenage Katharine, who is sent to her uncle's estate to have him committed to a lunatic asylum so the rest of the family can have control of his finances. She finds her uncle is more eccentric than lunatic, and that by building his amazing clockwork inventions, he is giving jobs to hundreds of families that would be destitute without them. While struggling with the choice of protecting her own future or that of an entire community, Katharine starts seeing things that has her doubting her own sanity.
When I started the story, I had no doubts that the prim and proper heroine would come to care for her uncle and his community more than her own inheritance (And I'd even worked out why she was seemingly going crazy long before it was revealed -- though I didn't predict who was responsible), however the journey to get there was still full of fun, lovable characters and other surprises that make this book definitely worth reading.
I was most interested to learn that the fictional setting of the book, Stranwyne Keep, is based on the real Welbeck Abbey, located in Nottinghamshire, England. The massive building had miles of underground tunnels, iron and glass stable and marble-tiled cow sheds, an underground ballroom and more. Like Katherine's uncle, the Duke who built the keep also employed more than a thousand people to make his building projects possible.
Also historically accurate are the automatons that Katharine's uncle makes out of clockwork parts. In fact, Cameron says on her website that The Writer, an automaton made by Pierre Jacquet-Droz in the early 18th century, was able to be programed to write any message and is considered as some to be the world's first computer. (Check out the author's website for some interesting - and slightly creepy - videos of these lifelike humanoid machines in action.)
Fascinating historical facts and lovable characters combined to make this a fun, fast read. I'm excited to dive into the upcoming second book in the series, "A Spark Unseen" that furthers Katherine's adventures as she tries to figure out how to keep one of her uncle's inventions from becoming a weapon for Napoleon III, emperor of France, and Victoria, Queen of England.
If you haven't yet read "The Dark Unwinding," the paperback version releases later this month, and the sequel, "A Spark Unseen" releases Sept. 24. (I, for one, can't wait to read it!)
If you own a blog and would like to help spread the word about this great series, visit The Book Vortex to take part in hosting the A Spark Unseen Blog Hop. (And come back here Sept. 10, when the author will reveal some behind-the-scenes information about the setting of her second book!)
For a chance at winning one of five advanced reader copies of "A Spark Unseen," enter with the Rafflecopter below!