WORLDS OF INK AND SHADOW
by Lena Coakley – HarperCollins Publishers Ltd, 2016
ages 14+ / y.a
Ask someone to list their top 10 favourite books and chances are high that there'll be something on it from one (or all) of the Bronte sisters. Charlotte, Emily and Anne are famous for their passionate and original writing styles that contrast starkly with their upbringing in a parsonage at Haworth.
Their journey to literary acclaim finds a new telling in this historical/fiction/fantasy novel by Lena Coakley.
As we meet the Bronte sisters and their brother Branwell in the parsonage on the moor, things are just as you would expect. Charlotte teaches the younger girls, Branwell paints and of course they write their stories.
But here, the stories, the characters, everything they put on paper are more than just words.
Because of a bargain made when they were young, the stories they tell are full of life and so real that they can actually be entered (!) through a door created from their telling:
Branwell had turned seventeen that summer, and even Charlotte had to admit he was becoming rather handsome.
And yet… how thin he was, and pale, with something frenetic about those ever moving fingers. Both he and Charlotte were ill more often than their sisters; they felt the cold more keenly; they tired more quickly. Charlotte knew why, but usually she was able to imprison the reason at the back of her mind.
The light changed. There was something in the room with them that hadn’t been there a moment before, something bright. Charlotte would have seen it if she turned her head, but she kept her gaze on Branwell.
‘What have we done?’ she whispered.
Still writing furiously with his left hand, Branwell lifted his right, palm up.
Her brother's eyes were shut now, his face beaming with corrupt joy. His quill fell from his hand. Charlotte held her breath—and as she watched, her brother disappeared.
‘Oh’ she said. The sight still surprised her after all this time. She glanced at the study door, but they had been careful to shut it, as always.The light was gone. She was alone. ‘Reckless boy.’
She leaned over to look at Branwell’s side of the desk. Incredibly—miraculously—his words were still unspooling across the page. Charlotte took up her own pen with determination. In very small, very cramped handwriting, she began to write.
As the Brontes grow, these worlds that are more than imagination start to change and the siblings are forced to confront their personal fears and insecurities. They come to realise that this gift they once thought priceless is costing them more than they thought. They must journey to save themselves and each other from their own creations.
Laced with equal parts sibling rivalry and love, untold secrets and imagination come to life in this wonderfully creative story about how the much loved Bronte sisters began their journey to becoming acclaimed authors.