Through an otherworldly power of imagination, Charlotte and Branwell Brontë are able to transport themselves to the fictional world they created as children, sometimes bringing their younger sisters Emily and Anne along. Now 19 years old and the eldest sibling, Charlotte admits that the price they pay for crossing over is too great, and she attempts to abandon her beloved characters and the shining city of Verdopolis. But it’s soon clear that the inhabitants of Verdopolis will not be left behind quietly, and the Brontës must use their shared influence over the city to break free completely, before irrevocable damage is done.
Lena Coakley’s remarkable intuition for subtle differences in the Brontës’ personalities shines as chapters alternate between the four young writers’ perspectives. Emily’s wild passion, Charlotte’s moral strength and Anne’s quiet steadfastness are quickly established through short but deft moments of dialogue or internal monologue. Branwell, who didn’t leave behind novels that hint at his personality, is portrayed as a young man filled with love and admiration for his brilliant sisters, especially Charlotte, but also struggling with intense anxiety over his own talent and the limited options for a poor parson’s son. Coakley carefully avoids anachronistic language, keeping the reader firmly rooted in the “real” setting of 19th-century Yorkshire despite the plot’s supernatural elements.
Nearly seamless in its meld of believable historical fiction and unbridled fantasy, Worlds of Ink and Shadow will be enjoyable not only for teens discovering the Brontës for the first time, but for any reader intrigued by this remarkable family.