Category: Literary Fiction
Author: Alison Goodman
Format: Hardcover, 490 pages
Publisher: Razorbill, imprint of Penguin Canada Books
Pub Date: January 26, 2016
Summary from Publisher:
London, April 1812. On the eve of 18-year-old Lady Helen Wrexhall’s presentation to the queen, one of her family’s housemaids disappears and Helen is drawn into the shadows of Regency London. There, she meets Lord Carlston, one of the few who can stop the perpetrators: a cabal of demons infiltrating every level of society. Dare she ask for his help, when his reputation is almost as black as his lingering eyes? And will her intelligence and headstrong curiosity wind up leading them into a death trap?
– From Goodreads
Don’t be deceived by the genre classification of The Dark Days Club by Alison Goodman. While it’s shelved in the young adult section of your local library or bookstore, it undeniably has an exciting, mature narrative that will tantalize more than the young adult market that it’s intended to reach.
While its “magic” is housed in its paranormal plot, its historical setting and cultural nuances not only transport its readers to the 18th century of the Regency era, its propriety is a consistent and moral conflict for its female protagonist, Lady Helen Wrexhall.
She is a dichotomy between the stifling expectations placed on females during that time and the personal nature she wars against in herself.
While propriety demands her ultimate grace in self-control and decorum, in the 18th century a woman’s only greatest hope is to marry well; a marriage she and her family hopes will ensure her financial prosperity and social standing.
Yet, Lady Helen’s very nature compels her to act, protect, and defend with an inexplicable agility, dexterity, energy, strength, and, fearlessness—traits usually only expected of males during that time.
With this struggle coursing through the novel, the plot is propelled forward with the enigmatic arrival of Lord William Standfield, the Earl of Carlston, a distant, but ostracized relative whose role in Lady Helen’s welfare is far more than what it appears to be.
This tension, too, is parallelled against the rival tension between the Earl of Carlston and the Duke of Selburn, two men of the upper class and noble breeding. What their rivalry is about seems both obvious and antagonistic—yet mysterious, too, since the Duke of Selburn’s character seems far too idealistic to be free of suspicion.
And while the book is filled with the luxury of debut presentations, royal courts, intricate gowns, 18th century British propriety, it also showcases a raw poverty and harsh division between the classes. While this isn’t the focus in the novel, it is apparent in the characters’ attitudes toward the importance of adhering to the cultural expectations of one’s class in British society especially by such characters as Lady Helen’s aunt and uncle, Leonore and Viscount Pennworth.
But, if that isn’t enough to tantalize you into experiencing the grace and luxury of the Regency era, young adult readers are certain to enjoy the fast-paced tension and paranormal mystery in the book. The tension certainly propels the story forward and guarantees a late-night read with constant page-turning and gritted teeth.
But, as you can imagine, what’s a YA novel without a little love and romance? Between the paranormal dangers, which is the focus of the novel, the excitement doesn’t end there, but extends to the passionate beginnings of infuriating attraction, repressed sensuality, and the burning question: should Lady Helen pursue her destiny fighting to protect and serve humanity or should she succumb to her role as social debutante with the hopes of returning to and living out her life in search for love and marriage before she came to know of her innate power?
The language and the narrative in the novel is surprisingly intelligent, what with the snarky wit, dignity, and leadership role of the Earl of Carlston. Though he’s a secondary character to Lady Helen as protagonist, he is far more interesting as one whose experience has made him exceptional in knowledge, dark in his burdens, yet hopeful in his belief in the power of good. He is by far my favourite character in the book!
The cover design is indicative of the darkness in the book, as well as the British propriety that must be held and endured by the main character. It almost renders a mournful feel, a foreboding procession of some kind that is in tune with the novel’s plot and the makings of a potential trilogy.
I was incensed that the novel had to end as novels must, but that I was also surprised in discovering that the novel is indeed the first book in a series—which means I have to wait eons (or at least in this case, a year?) for the next book to come off press!
Readers’ attachment to such characters and their plight means we must suffer the inevitable withdrawal that comes when a book ends and leaves us impatient to read and experience the next installation. Now, I must make a note for myself and mark my calendar in time to add “The Dark Days Club Book Two” to my library and reading collection.
If you enjoy YA novels, historical fiction, and paranormal fantasy, you’re going to really enjoy this read.
Characters: 3.5 stars
Plot: 3.5 stars
Language/Narrative: 4 stars
Dialogue: 4 stars
Pacing: 4 stars
Cover Design: 3.5 stars
A special thanks to Penguin Random House Canada for providing me with a copy of The Dark Days Club: A Lady Helen Novel, in exchange for an honest review.
About the Author:
Alison Goodman is the author of the internationally bestselling and award-winning Eon/Eona duology, as well as the YA science fiction thriller Singing the Dogstar Blues and an adult novel, A New Kind of Death (originally titled Killing the Rabbit). She was a D.J. O’Hearn Memorial Fellow at Melbourne University, holds a Master of Artsm and teaches creative writing at the postgraduate level.
She is online and on Twitter, and has a treasure trove of Regency goodies at Pinterest.
Alison Goodman and her husband live in Victoria, Australia, with their irrepressible terrier, Xander.
– From novel, The Dark Days Club
Have you read “The Dark Days Club” by Alison Goodman yet? If so, what did you think of it?
If you could have a supernatural power, what would you choose to have and why?
What do you think is the most interesting thing about the Regency era?