Worlds of Ink and Shadow by Lena Coakley

Received from NetGalley for review.

Worlds of Ink and Shadow explores the world of the Brontës – Charlotte, Branwell, Emily, and Anne – when they were teenagers and writing their imagined worlds of Verdopolis and Gondal; worlds they continued writing about well into adulthood and that ultimately lead to the creation of some of the most well-known and loved fiction of all time.

When I was thirteen I remember watching a programme about the Brontës and the worlds they had created when they were younger; it inspired me to create my own imaginary world and as I put pen to paper thousands of ideas poured out of me and soon I had an entire world, my main characters and storyline, and a serious soft spot for the Brontës so naturally I wanted to get my hands on this book. I can happily say it did not disappoint, and I was completely swept away by the story, back in time and place to the dark and wild Yorkshire moors. The writing was lovely to read, a gorgeous mixture of sweetness and older times but with something darker underneath it.

The book largely takes place inside the Brontës’ heads, as what they write and imagine becomes real – they cross over into their imaginary worlds but not without paying a price, having made a deal with ‘Old Tom’, who could be anything from demon to fairy. The story centres around this, specifically about the price Charlotte and Branwell have to pay and how it takes its toll on them, and how they start to lose control over their worlds and characters. It’s almost a claustrophobic setting despite them crossing over into Verdopolis as the Brontës barely leave Haworth, but I think this works well for the story as they are so focused on the worlds they can create from their bedrooms. If life was truly like that for them it’s no wonder Emily found solace and freedom on the vast moors.

The characters are much as we expect them to be: Charlotte is serious and proper; Branwell is arrogant and self-serving; Emily is wild and free; Anne is shy and prim. This is nothing new, but I didn’t really expect this from such famous characters; we expect them to be a certain way and this is what Coakley has given us. They are still developed well and have distinct personalities, although I would have liked Emily and Anne to have been a more prominent part of the story – Charlotte and Branwell definitely take centre stage as the more dedicated creators and writers of Verdopolis, having banished Emily and Anne from crossing over with them as they grew older.

Although it’s nothing massively ground-breaking I really enjoyed this story; I expected much of the storyline but this wasn’t a problem for me as I find the Brontës fascinating to read about. I imagine many people will enjoy this, particularly those who know a little something (or nothing at all) about four somewhat tragic siblings from Yorkshire.

Read: December 30th 2015

4/5 stars

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