A Spark Unseen Blog Hop, Day 5

I read and loved The Dark Unwinding (me review), the first in this series, soon after it released. I was swept away in Katharine’s story because of the lavish descriptions, unique characters and beautiful historical setting. I am honored to be part of this blog tour celebrating the next book, A Spark Unseen (my review). Thank you Sharon for your insightful and horrifying information on Lunatic Asylums in the 19th century.

Location Scouting, Charenton Lunatic Asylum

In A Spark Unseen, Katharine is horrified by what she sees in the Charenton Lunatic Asylum. As anyone would have been. The curing of the insane in the 19th century looked more like torture than treatment, and was just as successful as the curing of diseases before we understood the concept of germs. In other words, not really successful at all! Look at this partial list of the number of admissions to Charenton in 1841, and what was considered the cause of these patients’ “lunacy”:

Domestic Chagrins
Libertinage, excesses of all kinds
Suppression of habitual evacuations (constipation!)
Reverse of fortune
Disappointed love
Political causes
Excess of study
Reading of romances

278
146
54
49
37
32
16
13

Chains and cold water shocks were certainly not going to “cure” anyone of these “mental illnesses!”

Charenton Asylum, as it is today, about five miles outside of Paris. Now called Hopital Esquirol

But in spite of all it got wrong, Charenton was actually a very progressive asylum for its time, allowing its quieter inmates menial tasks, fresh air, and the opportunity to socialize. One of its more famous patients, the Marquis de Sade (the man from whom we get the modern term “sadist”) was allowed his own rooms, the ability to publish his writings, and even visits from his wife and female servants. Some of these privileges may have been kinder than was wise!

But whether kindness or cruelty was intended, it doesn’t take away the scariest fact about 19th century asylums: Once you went in, it was very difficult to find a way back out again.

A Spark Unseen (The Dark Unwinding, #2)Summary (via Goodreads):
The thrilling sequel to Sharon Cameron’s blockbuster gothic steampunk romance, THE DARK UNWINDING, will captivate readers anew with mystery and intrigue aplenty.

When Katharine Tulman wakes in the middle of the night and accidentally foils a kidnapping attempt on her uncle, she realizes Stranwyne Keep is no longer safe for Uncle Tully and his genius inventions. She flees to Paris, where she hopes to remain undetected and also find the mysterious and handsome Lane, who is suspected to be dead.

But the search for Lane is not easy, and Katharine soon finds herself embroiled in a labyrinth of political intrigue. And with unexpected enemies and allies at every turn, Katharine will have to figure out whom she can trust–if anyone–to protect her uncle from danger once and for all.

Filled with deadly twists, whispering romance, and heart-stopping suspense, this sequel to THE DARK UNWINDING whisks readers off on another thrilling adventure.

A Spark Unseen by Sharon Cameron releases September 24th 2013 by Scholastic Press

Find Sharon Cameron:
Website 
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Enter to win a finished copy of A Spark Unseen
Find out more about the hop and giveaways here.

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Be sure to visit the other stops on the tour

Review of A Spark Unseen by Sharon Cameron

A Spark Unseen by Sharon CameronA Spark Unseen (The Dark Unwinding #2)
By: Sharon Cameron
Release Date: September 24th 2013
Publisher: Scholastic Press
Pre-order:
Barnes and Noble
Amazon

A copy was provided by the publisher for being on the blog tour and in exchange for an honest review

Rating:
star

Please note: this is a sequel so there might be spoilers for book one, The Dark Unwinding. If you’ve not read the first book my review is here.

Summary (via Goodreads):
When Katharine Tulman wakes in the middle of the night and accidentally foils a kidnapping attempt on her uncle, she realizes Stranwyne Keep is no longer safe for Uncle Tully and his genius inventions. She flees to Paris, where she hopes to remain undetected and also find the mysterious and handsome Lane, who is suspected to be dead.

But the search for Lane is not easy, and Katharine soon finds herself embroiled in a labyrinth of political intrigue. And with unexpected enemies and allies at every turn, Katharine will have to figure out whom she can trust–if anyone–to protect her uncle from danger once and for all.

The Story:
A Spark Unseen picks up two years after The Dark Unwinding. Lane has been absent and Katharine is caring for Uncle Tully and the estate. Cameron continues in the same fashion as her prior novel: eloquent writing, well researched material and compelling subject matter.

As with The Dark Unwinding many plots surround gaining Uncle Tully’s intelligence and creative inventions all in the name of politics. Katharine is single minded in her protection of her Uncle and doing what is right by him. I loved the descriptions of Uncle Tully’s inventions and how they worked.

Cameron did an excellent job giving the reader insight into the politics of the time and day to day life of her characters. Her descriptions of the buildings and people helped to develop my overall impression of the time period and helped to immerse me into the story.  It was fascinating to read the author notes in the back of the book about what aspects were directly derived from history.

The Characters:
I felt that the story was incredibly strong in this book but I was a bit disappointed in the characters.  Everyone in The Dark Unwinding were so unique it was hard not to love each of them and be completely invested them. Since Katharine and Uncle Tully flee to France we don’t get to see these characters as much. One of my favorites and the love interest of Katharine, Lane, is largely absent from the novel. His interactions with Uncle Tully and Katharine were missed.

In the first book Uncle Tully was my favorite character because of his eccentric attitude and genius. Thankfully, he is wonderful in this book too though he only really participates from mid book on.

Katharine has grown even more than she did in The Dark Unwinding and she has blossomed into a wonderful care-taker for her uncle. Her deep affection is evident along with her patience and compassion. I enjoyed her interactions with the society in Paris and especially found her dialog with her aunt’s longtime friend entertaining.

With the location change there are many new characters introduced, all of which were interesting. As stated prior though, I never cared for them as much as the old cast of characters. Katharine is single minded in her mission and closed off to the people she interacts with. This was felt by me as I read and affected my connection to the secondary characters.

Final Thoughts:
Sharon Cameron has a beautiful writing style which is well researched, elegant and vivid in its descriptions. I fell in love with the characters in The Dark Unwinding and mourned their less frequent roles in this new novel though I enjoyed the story and Katharine’s growth and determination.

Extras:
Read my interview with Sharon Cameron
Read my review of The Dark Unwinding
Be sure to check out my stop tomorrow on the A Spark Unseen Blog Tour!
A Spark Unseen book trailer:

Trailer Reveal: A Spark Unseen by Sharon Cameron

A Spark Unseen (releases September 24th) is the follow-up to the wonderful historical, steampunk inspired The Dark Unwinding. I loved The Dark Unwinding so jumped on the opportunity to be able to post the trailer for the next book and be in the blog tour next month, running from September 9-20th. My tour date is September 13th–be sure to come back and check it out.

If you’d like to participate in the tour you can find information here. (participants receive an arc of A Spark Unseen)

If you’ve not read The Dark Unwinding you can check out my spoiler free review and my interview with Sharon Cameron

Want to win a copy of this ARC?
Tweet or post on your own blog about the trailer release and be entered in to in win an arc of A Spark Unseen. You will need to include @CameronSharonE in the tweet in order to receive credit. Please tweet all blog links to the same twitter account. Retweets will also count.

About A Spark Unseen
The thrilling sequel to Sharon Cameron’s blockbuster gothic steampunk romance, THE DARK UNWINDING, will captivate readers anew with mystery  and intrigue aplenty.

When Katharine Tulman wakes in the middle of the night and  accidentally foils a kidnapping attempt on her uncle, she realizes  Stranwyne Keep is no longer safe for Uncle Tully and his genius  inventions. She flees to Paris, where she hopes to remain undetected and also find the mysterious and handsome Lane, who is suspected to be  dead.

But the search for Lane is not easy, and Katharine soon finds herself embroiled in a labyrinth of political intrigue. And with unexpected  enemies and allies at every turn, Katharine will have to figure out whom she can trust–if anyone–to protect her uncle from danger once and for  all.Filled with deadly twists, whispering romance, and heart-stopping  suspense, this sequel to THE DARK UNWINDING whisks readers off on  another thrilling adventure.

A Spark Unseen Book Trailer:

The Dark Unwinding
The Dark Unwinding:
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.

About Sharon Cameron
Sharon Cameron was awarded the 2009 Sue Alexander Most Promising New  Work Award by the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators  for her debut novel, The Dark Unwinding. When not writing Sharon can be  found thumbing dusty tomes, shooting her longbow, or indulging in her  lifelong search for secret passages.

Showcase Sunday #17

Showcase Sunday is a weekly meme hosted by Vicky at Books, Biscuits and Tea where you show what books you’ve purchased, gotten from the library, received from giveaway, as gifts or for review.

Borrowed and For Review:
THANK YOU Stacee (Adventures of a Book Junkie) for Cress and Scholastic.

 Cress (Lunar Chronicles, #3)  A Spark Unseen
Cress (Lunar Chronicles #3) by Marissa Meyer and A Spark Unseen by Sharon Cameron

Purchased:

Crown of Embers (Fire and Thorns #2) by Rae Carson

 

Interview with Sharon Cameron

The Dark Unwinding  A Spark Unseen  (The Dark Unwinding, #2)

Today I am with the author of the beautifully written historical fiction novel The Dark Unwinding, Sharon Cameron. She was kind enough to answer my questions about her inspirations, if she’d own an automaton and what she’s currently reading.

You’ve created such vivid, descriptive locations for The Dark Unwinding. What inspired Stranwayne Keep?
The situation at Stranwyne Keep is very much inspired by a real estate in England, Welbeck Abbey. In the Victorian era Welbeck was an enormous house with a very eccentric Duke, pink rooms, an underground ballroom and miles of gaslit tunnels. While the Duke at Welbeck was certainly not an inventor, he did hire an enormous amount of men to build his extraordinary projects at Welbeck, saving them from lives of hunger and poverty. He might have been crazy and he definitely squandered his fortune, but in an unusually noble way, I think.

Your characters: Katharine, Uncle Tulman (Tully), Lane, Mrs. Jeffries, the entire cast each is very unique and well developed. Did you create them or their world first?
I’ve always believed that people are shaped just as much by their environment as their DNA, so I almost always create a setting in my head first. Then I imagine what kind of person might inhabit that world, and how that world might affect their natural personality. Characters aren’t really “real” until you know where and how they’ve lived, I think.

Katharine’s uncle is one of the most endearing characters I’ve read, I adore him referring to her as ‘Simon’s Baby.’ What inspired his character?
Uncle Tully is a mixture of real people who have lived with autism and savant syndrome (and with all the anxiety and obsessive compulsive disorders that can go with that) and a few specific creative geniuses, like Oliver Heaviside  (bottom left) and Nikola Tesla (bottom right). Brains that work differently are absolutely fascinating to me, and with Uncle Tully, I not only wanted to explore an unusual way of thinking, but also a very childlike way of thinking. A genius who was also an innocent. He was super fun to write!

Oliver Heaviside2.jpg   

Automatons play a unique role in The Dark Unwinding. They are incredibly magical but also a bit creepy. What gave you the inspirations for Uncle Tully’s inventions?
I don’t think they’re a “bit” creepy, I think they’re horrifically creepy! All the automatons are inspired by real machines that were built between the 1740s and the 1850s. Not only were these automatons engineering marvels, but they were famous, touring the world to amaze and frighten the people of the time. There are some great video examples of automatons on my website.

Would you own an automaton? If so what would it do?
Oh, yes. I’d definitely own one. But then I would box it up and put it in a closet where it couldn’t look at me!

What can you tell us about the next book in the series coming out this fall, A Spark Unseen?
Hmmm! I can tell you that the story picks up eighteen months after The Dark Unwinding ends, and that it involves steamer trunks, a missing young man, piles of human bones, lightning, a palace, a tiny moustache, and that there’s a death in the first chapter.

Have you ever considered writing any novellas set in The Dark Unwinding world? Maybe from another character’s point of view, or their back story?
I have tons of little novellas in my head, from all the back stories of the characters to the little things I think happened when Katharine wasn’t present in the book. I haven’t considered making any of them a true novella yet, but one of those little back story novellas definitely led to A Spark Unseen.

Now to some random questions,
Is there a book or character you wish you had written?
I wish I had written Eugenides from Megan Whalen Turner’s “The Thief” series. He’s so tricky and amazing! But I also suspect that he’s smarter than me, which makes me think I could have never written him anyway.

What are you reading right now?
I just finished The Archived by Victoria Schwab, which was awesome, and just re-read Ruta Sepetys’s Out of the Easy. Love that Ruta!

Are you working on anything outside of The Dark Unwinding world?
Oh yes! New projects abound! Having loads of fun researching 18th century spy gadgets at the moment.

Thank you so much for stopping by My Friends Are Fiction. I cannot wait to get my hands on the A Spark Unseen.

Sharon Cameron lives in  Nashville, Tennessee. She has been a classical piano teacher, full-time mom, part-time genealogist, chair of a non-profit for a local theater group and a coordinator of the SCBWI Midsouth Fall Conference. The Dark Unwinding was her debut novel and winner of a 2013 Crystal Kite Award.

Look for A Spark Unseen from Scholastic Press September 2013

You can find Sharon Cameron on

Twitter                                Facebook                                     Website

A Spark Unseen jacket flap:

“When Katharine Tulman wakes in the middle of the night and accidentally foils a kidnapping attempt on her uncle, she realizes that Stranwyne Keep is no longer safe for Uncle Tully and his genius inventions. She quickly flees to Paris, where she hopes to remain undetected as she searches for the mysterious and handsome Lane, who is suspected to be dead.

But the search for Lane is not easy, and Katharine soon finds herself caught in a web of political intrigue. From the court of Napoleon III to the underground tunnels of Paris, Katharine will have to decide how a dangerous weapon can be kept from both a queen and an emperor, and whom she can trust to make her uncle safe once and for all.”

Read my review of The Dark Unwinding