Title: Worlds of Ink and Shadow
Author: Lena Coakley
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.
Huge thank you to Harper Collins Canada for this ARC!
Back in the summer of 2015, I had the pleasure attending the Harper Collins’ Frenzy event. The event’s guest of honour was Lena Coakley, and she was there to promote and share Worlds of Ink and Shadow with all the bloggers in attendance.
I was smitten with the premise. While I am not the biggest Brontes fan (I am very team Anne though!), something about this story sounded really amazing and kind of crazy at the same time. After chatting with Lena a bit, she explained that she had done an intense amount of research for this novel, and after reading it, it truly shows.
This book is about imagination and the way in which the Brontes’ in a lot of ways, lived in their own minds while crafting some of their childhood characters. It does make for a weird, almost meta reading experience, but I found myself really enjoying this aspect of the novel. Sometimes the switch in perspective can make this book a tad difficult to read, but I enjoyed the creative license that Coakley took with the siblings and the worlds that they dreamed of.
I think part of why I also enjoyed this novel may be because I’m not a huge Brontes fan. I admittedly didn’t like Wuthering Heights or Jane Eyre, and I only knew snippets of their lives based on what I studied in my literature courses. I think because I’m not a fan of the Brontes core works, it made me appreciate them more as people when reading this novel.
The way in which the worlds and fantasy blend together in this book though, it’s truly magical. Coakley’s writing is lovely, and while the concepts feel challenging at times, I really enjoyed the way in which she made me character about this family and their characters. I loved Rogue, and Anne was such a Grumpy Gus at times in this story (yet she cares about her siblings. A lot.) Having the worlds bleeding together is such an interesting concept, and while it’s been done before, I liked that Coakley blurred the lines between reality and fantasy, making it difficult to distinguish.
I really enjoyed reading Worlds of Ink and Shadow. While I had the odd moment of having to reread bits to make sure I understood what was happening, I loved the ride. If you have any invested interest in the Brontes or you just want to read something where fact and fiction feel obscured, this is a book you may want to put on your radar.