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Early Review: Worlds of Ink and Shadow by Lena Coakley

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Worlds of Ink and Shadow by Lena Coakley // VBCWorlds of Ink and Shadow
Lena Coakley
Published: Jan. 5, 2016 (Amulet Books)
Purchase: Book Depository or Amazon
Review source: copy provided by publisher in exchange for an honest review

Reviewed by: Amy

Rating (out of 5): 3.5 stars

Arguably one of literature’s most famous families get a paranormal twist in Worlds of Ink and Shadow. Lena Coakley takes the siblings’ actual writings from when they were young (their juvenilia as they are referred) and literally brought them to life. What started out as a creation of all four Brontës: Charlotte, Branwell, Emily, and Anne, later became mainly focused on Charlotte’s character the Duke of Zamorna and his arch nemesis Alexander Rogue (Branwell’s creation) and the thwarting of many a scheme between the two.

Somewhere along the way they were actually able to cross over into their fictionalized world of Verdopolis and become part of the story as it were. But like many things, this ability comes with a price that’s becoming ever increasingly difficult to pay. Then there’s the fact that Charlotte and Branwell’s characters are starting to develop minds of their own, and they’re not necessarily content with being a pawn in the Brontës’ game.

I think anyone with just the most rudimentary knowledge of the Brontës could pick up Worlds of Ink and Shadow and enjoy it immensely. Where things could get a bit dicey is for anyone with far more immeasurable knowledge. I believe myself to fall somewhere in the middle and in that case I often found the correlations in the story between reality and fiction seem clever and like a treat—such as Emily being drawn to Branwell’s fictitious Alexander Rogue character (guess what classic broody hero he brings to mind). And other times it seems forced—such as Branwell’s angry words to Charlotte early on “you can’t stand the fact that if future generations remember you for anything at all, it will be for being Branwell Brontë’s sister.” There were times I felt like Lean Coakley made a checklist of things to be sure to include and reference which kind of made those moments feel stiff.

The point is, when the story is clever, it is really good. I loved the connection Lena Coakley forms between the way the Brontës are writing in their Verdopolis stories and how it links and influences their future writings. I almost felt like I could actually believe events proceeded the mystical and magical way they did in the story, that these were true events, because I felt like it got to the root of their early writings and how they later produced some of the most classic and highly regarded novels in literature.

While Charlotte and Branwell certainly take center stage, it was Emily and Anne I was really interested in. Anne, simply because she’s the most soft-spoken of the group and in reality the lesser-known sister. Yet in the story, I felt because she was more removed from Verdopolis, she could look at the situations that arise with clear eyes and while her input could boarder on dull (to the brother and sisters who want adventure), she was the wisest of the group. Emily, by far, was the most intriguing. With Wuthering Heights being one of my all-time favorites, I loved the glimpses Lena Coakley creates of what are most certainly to be taken as early inspirations for that book.

Overall, I found Worlds of Ink and Shadow to bring some interesting, if fictional, depth to the Brontë family.

Sexual Content: kissing

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