Author: Lena Coakley
**I received a copy of this book through NetGalley which does not affect my review**
Nothing is more important to Charlotte Brontë than her stories. Her characters are much more than mere figments of her imagination–they’re real. Along with her brother Branwell, Charlotte has found a way to enter their shared imaginary world and interact with their characters. But this gift comes at a price and the older Brontës have done their best to keep their sisters, Emily and Anne, safe from this fictional world, not knowing it’s been beguiling them for years. As the characters from their world begin to take on a life of their own, even bleeding into the real world, Charlotte and her siblings begin to realize the price they’ve paid may be too high.
Lena Coakley’s Worlds of Ink and Shadow is a reimagining of the Brontës lives as young adults. Being familiar with Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre and Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights, I came into this one with a certain amount of expectation regarding their personalities. While I am not familiar with the Brontës juvenilia, these latter works are rather bleak in tone, so I expected more serious demeanors on their authors. Worlds of Ink and Shadow gave both girls personalities that sometimes bordered on silly which I felt was incongruent with what they wrote later in life. The tone of the novel overall was not as dark or twisted as I expected considering the tale is meant to explain why none of the Brontës siblings lived long lives.
The fictional worlds and the characters invented by the Brontës never felt complex or compelling enough for me to feel personally invested in them. It’s hinted that two characters are prototypes for famous literary figures, Mr. Rochester and Heathcliff, but I found both to be poor representations of these characters. I did appreciate the idea that characters can sometime have a mind of their own and in many ways their personalities can alter a story’s plot. I believe this novel would have been better if it was not plagued by the expectations placed on it by basing it on the Brontë siblings.