Worlds collide and characters come to life when four young writers discover the limits of their creative powers.
Haunted by the deaths of their sisters Maria and Elizabeth, the motherless Brontë quartet seeks to escape small-town life and limited futures through their shared-world stories. When Emily balks at her and Anne’s exclusion from tales of Verdopolis, older siblings Charlotte and Branwell reluctantly readmit their sisters—literally as well literarily, for Verdopolis is a realm manifested through their strong imaginations…and an uneven bargain with an untrustworthy spirit. There, the four encounter semisentient characters, some growing aware of their frequent revisions and intent on hunting down Verdopolis' creators. Loosely based on the real Brontës’ juvenilia and drawing heavily on their published works—violent but variable Rogue is an ur-Heathcliff, Zamorna a Mr. Rochester—Verdopolis and its inhabitants are shifting and shallow, ornately detailed but lacking depth. The fictional Brontës are equally underdeveloped, hewing closely to their biographically documented roles: plain Charlotte despairs of becoming a governess; braggart Branwell fears obscurity; eccentric Emily loves the wild moors; and prim Anne is unflinchingly honest and overly preachy. The frivolous and erratic worldbuilding and the childish Brontës’ capricious actions undermine Coakley’s serious contemplations of creativity, class, and guilt.
A potentially intriguing experiment runs aground. (Fantasy. 12-18)