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Worlds of Ink and Shadow is an eerily enthralling novel. Lena Coakley cleverly weaves in the historical background of the Brontë family together with the magic of crossing over to imaginary worlds, created by the siblings. The novel draws readers to discover the “deathless bonds between writers and their creations”.

The novel focuses on Charlotte, Branwell, Emily and Anne, and is positioned around ten years after the deaths of their two older sisters. Charlotte and Branwell have created a world called “Verdopolis”, born from their stories. The two of them even get to cross over to this world and interact with their beloved characters… but at a price. Overcoming this is also difficult when Emily and Anne are not as innocent as they seem, and the Verdopolis characters themselves haunt the siblings for letting them go.

Brief background on the Brontë family: Charlotte, Emily and Anne Brontë were nineteenth century authors who wrote under the male pseudonyms of Currer, Ellis and Acton Bell. Their most famous work was Charlotte Brontë’s bestseller Jane Eyre. Branwell was the only son in the family, and was a painter and writer.

What fascinates me is how closely detailed the characters are to the actual Brontë family. The story runs so smoothly, straddling fact and fiction. For instance, Coakley’s version of the story behind Branwell’s painting was spine-chilling as I visualised the incident. Throughout the story, Coakley has played with references that linked to the real lives of the family. The deaths of the two elder sisters, Maria and Elizabeth, have deeply influenced the works of the Brontës, and this is echoed in the novel, especially in the retelling of what happened in Clergy Daughters’ School. Personally, doing a bit of research on the Brontë family made me appreciate the book even more.

Unlike the Brontës’ real novels, Worlds of Ink and Shadow is not what people may find intimidating ‘heavy reading’. Instead, it carries readers off in a thrilling, engrossing read.

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