Rummanah Aasi
 I am a Brontes fan. Wuthering Heights is one of my favorite books and I have reread it several times. So when I saw the description for Worlds of Ink and Shadow by Lena Coakely which mixes both fantasy and literary history, I was definitely interested. Unfortunately, the book didn't meet my expectations.

Description: Charlotte, Branwell, Emily, and Anne. The Brontë siblings have always been close. After all, nothing can unite four siblings quite like life in an isolated parsonage on the moors. Their vivid imaginations lend them escape from their strict, spartan 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.

Review: Worlds of Ink and Shadow has a very intriguing premise, blurring the lines of reality and fiction. The book focuses on the four remaining Bronte children: Charolette, Branwell, Emily, and Anne. Though sequestered by their father in a house and looked over by their help, the Brontes escape their drudgery in writing and creating their own fantasy worlds, which to their amazement, fantastically come alive. One such world is Verdopolis in which is manifested through their strong imaginations, words, desires, and an an uneven bargain with an untrustworthy spirit.
  Verdopolis is an intruging place in which Coakley drew inspiration from the various settings, atmosphere, and even characters of the Brontes' popular works. Unlike the original works, however, Verdopolis and its inhabitants are pretty to look at and a nice nod to the Brontes, but they lacked depth to stand on their own. The plot constantly shifts between the real and the fantastical worlds is jarring and there is no smooth transition. I was confused at times while reading the book and I had to reorient myself several times.
  Although the world building is weak, what really disappointed me is the underdeveloped fictional Brontes. Though the characters have close ties to their real counterparts, I didn't learn anything new about them. Readers of the Brontes will clearly see a plain Charlotte's whose worse fears is becoming a governess, a wild Emily who loves the moors, the arrogant Branwell who fears obscurity, and the prim and proper Anne. I would have loved for the author to take a chance on her characters, perhaps tackle their psyche and fears, and really explore the themes such as class and guilt that is so commonly seen in the Brontes' works. Maybe this book would work better for readers who haven't exposed themselves to the world of the Brontes, but for me I grew bored quickly with this book and I probably should not have finished it.

Rating: 2 stars

Words of Caution: Alcohol, infidelity, and cuckolding are mentioned in Verdopolis. Recommended for Grades 8 and up.

If you like this book try: The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde for fantasy elements featuring literature, to learn more about the Bronte sisters check out Charlotte and Emily by Jude Morgan (historical fiction), and for nonfiction titles: The Brontës by Juliet Barker Charlotte Brontë and her Family by Rebecca Fraser, and The Brontës at Haworth by Ann Dinsdale.
5 Responses
  1. Ugh. Weak world building always ruins a read for me.

  2. Aylee Says:

    Oh, that is quite an intriguing premise! And that's all the more reason why it's such a disappointment because it has so much potential as an idea. I'm sorry this was such a letdown for you!

  3. Kindlemom Says:

    It is hard to work with terrible world building. So sorry this wasn't a better read. I had high hopes for this too darn it.

  4. What a disappointment. I agree with you, I would have wanted to see more into the Bronte sisters, weak characters would have killed it for me. I haven't read all of their works but enough to know that I wouldn't care for this book. The premise is so great but I think would take so much research into the Brontes. I wish this had been better.

  5. Aw, it's too bad the worldbuilding in this one is so weak. I had a feeling that I wouldn't enjoy this one and it looks as if I was right.

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