Worlds of Ink and Shadow ( A Novel of the Brontes) by Lena Coakley

Posted on March 18, 2017 by Regina | 0 Comments

Worlds of Ink and Shadow ( A Novel of the Brontes) by Lena Coakleyon January 5, 2016
Pages: 352
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Charlotte, Branwell, Emily, and Anne. The Brontë siblings have always been close. After all, nothing can unite four siblings quite like life in an isolated parsonage on the moors. Their vivid imaginations lend them escape from their strict, spartan 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.

From the Bronte Parsonage Museum


This is the kind of book that you want to plan a whole photo shoot for. Isn’t the cover fabulous!? Of course, the title of the book is pretty fabulous as well.

And that, my friends, is exactly why I went into this novel with a little trepidation.

Would the story be equally amazing, creating a trinity of bookish brilliance?

I should know better than to ask so much from books with beautiful covers.

While I was not blown away by the story, I was continually intrigued by it. I enjoyed what I learned about the Brontes, and I would definitely recommend this book to any fan of their writing.

Image result for Bronte sisters archives

I love the writing of the Bronte sisters. I also love reading novels set in the nineteenth century, and I have read many, so the author had her work cut out for her. I just did not adore this novel as much as I had hoped I would. I think the reason for this was mostly my fault. Reading fantasy is always a challenge for me. I found it a little difficult to keep up with the characters within the Brontes’ created worlds.

Despite my too high expectations, this book was a lot of fun. It was filled with darkness, magic, and mayhem. Sibling rivalries and deceptions abound within the walls and imaginary worlds of the Brontes’ home. Worlds of Ink and Shadow reminded me of Jumanji or Night at the Museum in some aspects.

Oh! And there is a Bronte brother! This book introduced me to Bramwell, the brother to the Bronte sisters that I did not even know existed. According to the author’s book, he was equally as creative as his female siblings.

Click on the picture to be redirected to an interesting article in Emily Bronte from The Paris Review.


The plot was slow-moving, reminiscent of Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights. Unlike these novels, however, there is no passionate and forbidden love story. There is a thread of romantic feelings between two characters in the novel, that mirrors Heathcliff and Catherine’s in Wuthering Heights, but nothing that is ever developed to capacity.

This novel is a window into the psyches and daily lives that shaped the writing of the Brontes. The author shows how, despite their creative talents and impulses, the Brontes were forced to create alternate lives for themselves, with ink and paper, to escape the oppressive culture that only provided them with two narratives to live their lives by: become a governess spinster or marry into the cult of domesticity. While the Bronte siblings had a relatively free and rich life within their home, the real-world that they were aging into would not have allowed them the same freedoms. It is no wonder that they created such dark and magical parallel lives. The world beyond their hearth would not be as accommodating to their talents and temperaments.

To Walk Invisble: The Bronte Sisters ( A Masterpiece Original series)

The author did a wonderful job drawing from the thematic material of each Bronte sisters’ writing to shape the Gothic fantasy world that occupied and controlled the lives of the Bronte family within her novel. Themes of despair, love, loss, religion, and gendered oppression are all touched upon. The critique of women’s roles and expectations in nineteenth century England was, in fact, the most compelling part of the novel for me. Worlds of Ink and Shadow gives twenty-first century readers a glimpse into the stark reality for women during the Brontes’ lifetime. The fact that any of them found the opportunity to put pen to paper was an anomaly all its own.

Did you read Worlds of Ink and Shadow? Please leave a comment, and let me know what you thought!

And Just For FUN:

Here is a fantastic and informative promo video for the novel, narrated by the author herself:

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