Worlds of Ink and Shadow – Lena Coakley

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Genre: Historical Fiction, Fantasy, Young Adult

Publication Date: January 5th 2016 by Amulet Books

Format: eARC from Amulet Books via Netgalley

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

(from goodreads.com)


This book combines so many different things I don’t know where to begin. First of all, I really enjoyed it. I adore Wuthering Heights and Jane Eyre (the latter being one of my all-time favourite books) but knew very little about the Brontës themselves. This book, though not a biography, incorporates many facts about their lives and it really taught me a lot about the siblings.

The plot was really intriguing as there were so many new discoveries as the story progressed. There were things that weren’t disclosed until nearly the end, but it worked (normally when things are held back I get really frustrated with the book) and because so much was happening elsewhere it didn’t really matter that some things were mentioned later on.

I feel that it’s difficult to talk about the characters in this book as after all, they were real people. However, they were exactly how I’d imagine them to be, especially Emily. I feel that the author did a great job of bringing the characters to life I feel like I understand the Brontë siblings and their lives a lot better than I did before. For example, I never knew that Lowood in Jane Eyre was based on a school that Charlotte and her sisters actually went to.

I loved the descriptions of the settings that were included in this book and they made the places seem real, even the completely fictional locations. I can imagine the moors fairly well – I’ve seen them on TV and I’ve read Wuthering Heights – but this added to the image that I have in my head of them being bleak and mysterious and strangely beautiful.

The magic included in this book was not over the top or unrealistic because the author used characters / stories that seem (I don’t know whether they actually are or not) local to the area and thus the character ‘Old Tom’ seems as though he is just a part of the local folklore. In other words, she hasn’t given the Brontës supernatural powers that they didn’t really have, instead their power came from another source that works perfectly with the setting and the context of the story.

My one problem with this book was that, at times, I got confused with the characters. There are a lot of them in this book, and whilst that makes it interesting, it was slightly confusing at times as well. It was especially a problem earlier on before I’d worked out which characters were fictional (i.e. made up by the Brontës) and which were ‘real’. A lot of the time the book just flitted between worlds and thus it took some time to register which world the Brontës were in, but after a while it was easy to tell as the world they created (Verdopolis) was extremely extravagant and different compared to the Yorkshire Moors.

I really enjoyed the combination of the real world and the fantasy world and I think that it allowed for a lot more to happen, with different characters being able to cross into the other world that they don’t live in. I like having the two worlds contrasting as sometimes I find that books set in a completely different world can be too confusing (I don’t read a huge amount of fantasy – that is changing though) and therefore with this book it was good because I was able to compare the real and the fake and work out what was going on when they came back to their normal world.

As I said, I really liked this book and I would definitely recommend it to anyone who loves the work of the Brontê siblings and anyone who perhaps wants to learn more about them, without reading a non-fiction article or book explaining every detail of their lives. Obviously this isn’t solid fact and it is a fictional novel (I mean there’s a fantasy world involved, realistically it’s not going to be all fact) but if, like me, you just want an idea of some of the main events of their early lives, with a fantasy twist and a good story, then this book is for you.

Rating 4 / 5.

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