by Sharon Cameron
Plot Summary:When Katharine Tulman’s inheritance is called into question by the rumor that her eccentric uncle is squandering away the family fortune, she is sent to his estate to have him committed to an asylum. But instead of a lunatic, Katharine discovers a genius inventor with his own set of rules, who employs a village of nine hundred people rescued from the workhouses of London.
Katharine is now torn between protecting her own inheritance and preserving the peculiar community she grows to care for deeply. And her choices are made even more complicated by a handsome apprentice, a secretive student, and fears for her own sanity.
As the mysteries of the estate begin to unravel, it is clear that not only is her uncle’s world at stake, but also the state of England as Katharine knows it.
Review:This book has a great atmospheric quality to it that is heightened by the resolutely logical voice of the main character, Katharine. The Gothic and mysterious nature of the story is well balanced by the control that Katharine wishes to place on the estate and in her life, and I very much liked Katharine as a character and I was very sympathetic to her dilemma. After being under her Aunt's thumb for so long, she comes into her own at Stranwyne and has a great character arc.
While there is a steampunkish side to the story, I felt it was largely pushed to the side in favor of the Victorian mystery. But the mystery is weakened by the pace of the book, which deals so much with Katharine's exploration of the unfamiliar at Stranwyne. From the organization of the place to her Uncle's eccentricities and the steampunk contraptions, there was much to describe but it made the story very uneven at times. The romance between Katharine and Lane didn't help things either in my opinion. Katharine's attraction to Lane seemed rather too cliche and Lane is the strong, silent type and he almost annoyingly adheres to that which put me off his character. The misunderstandings and distrust between them in the beginning also felt too contrived especially when it was so obvious they were really into each other. But with the ending of this book, I do feel like I could get to like Lane better, the resolution has a nice set-up for the next book in the series.
The historic time period and details seemed well-researched and added a lot of life to the story. And even with the uneven pace, the story had a lot of suspense and disquieting moments, especially when it came to who was messing with Katharine's head. The little eccentric family that surrounded Katharine's Uncle in the story were all endearing in their own ways, and I think this book has a great engaging cast of secondary characters. With a mystery that was very difficult to figure out, and such interesting characters and world-building, this is an overall enjoyable book, and I'm definitely planning to continue with the series.