Worlds of Ink and Shadow initially attracted me because it was about the Brontës and their early writings. Ever since I first studied the Brontë’s writings, I’ve always been interested in the fantasy worlds they created before their famous literary works. If there’s anything that Worlds of Ink and Shadow has done, its been to rekindle that desire to read those early works. I only wish that they were accessible in their entirety, because I believe some were destroyed by the Brontës themselves. In Worlds of Ink and Shadow, the four Brontë siblings, Charlotte, Branwell, Emily, and Anne, are able to escape the desolate moors of their world to a world of their own creation. Their imaginations have always been a way they can escape, but physically visiting Gondal and Verdopolis may come at a come at a cost they find difficult to pay. The Brontë siblings must decide what is more important: the characters and the worlds they have created, or the lives that are passing them by with each jot of their pens.
I loved that the Brontës were able to visit the worlds they created. As authors and readers, I think we all wish that we could actually visit places like Hogwarts, Narnia, and other literary worlds. It’s what most everyone dreams of at some point while they’re reading. These were easily the best and most interesting parts for me. Frankly, I grew bored with reading about the walks on the moors, the lessons, and the preparations for dinner whenever they returned to the real world. Half of the time in the real world was spent moping about for the fictional worlds, so I didn’t feel that there was much growth in either character or setting. It was a very slow start to the book because of this. The fictional world of Verdopolis was where the real story happened. There was more time spent in the creation of this world. I started being more interested in the story when they finally went to Verdopolis. It was fun watching them create the worlds around them while participating as well.
Most of the character building happened while they were in Verdopolis, but unfortunately, I didn’t feel there was much. This is historical fiction, so the author had her hands tied a little bit by that. She couldn’t throw all of the facts about the Brontës away, but she did twist them to her own agenda. I enjoyed that quite a bit. It was nice seeing how authors I know became characters in a novel, even if it didn’t leave room for many surprising developments. I’m familiar with the history of the Brontë siblings, so I had an inkling of where the characters were going to end up at the conclusion of the novel. As each chapter was focused on a different sibling, I was able to see their different personalities very clearly. There were characters that I enjoyed more than others. Because Charlotte and Branwell were the main creators of Verdopolis, their parts were a bit more interesting than the chapters in Emily and Anne’s point of views. Emily read as a melancholic teenager (which actually fit quite well, considering she wrote Wuthering Heights) and Anne was the complete opposite of them all, reading as too much of a rule follower.
As a whole, this book was interesting. I enjoyed reading it, but it wasn’t a compulsive read. There was action, but it was slow and steady throughout. I didn’t feel as though the action really picked up at any point. To me, there wasn’t that point in the novel where you reach a peak in the action and then hurtle on to the ending, where there is a satisfying conclusion. The conclusion was a little lackluster and too tidy. Perhaps the author relied on the facts of the Brontë siblings and their created worlds too much. Again, I feel that when you write historical fiction specifically about real people, you’re limited to what you can work with, so I’m trying to keep that in mind. I think much of my enjoyment of this novel came from my love of the Brontës and their writings. I read it because an author wrote a story about something that I care about. I’m not sure I would have read the novel if it had not been about the Brontës. I’m a little disappointed that I didn’t enjoy this as much as I though I would, especially when I remember how ecstatic I was when I first heard about this novel.
I received a very early copy of Worlds of Ink and Shadow from NetGalley months ago but couldn’t review it until now. The format was a little wonky, but I imagine it will be quite stunning when it comes out! Worlds of Ink and Shadow will be available January 5th, 2016. I recommend it to readers who have an interest in the Brontës and their fictional worlds, or any reader who likes a little bit of historical-fantasy fiction.
I received a copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.