Regency, what? I usually take “regency” anything as an alliteration. Regency + Romance. Well, thankfully there’s none of that here. Or at least, it’s in a very small concentrated dose, which, for urban fantasy in the young adult category, is a welcome relief.
I tread lightly these days: when I want to read historical fiction or alternate history with a supernatural bent, I want creatures and I want awesome characters and I want a level of detail to the setting that makes me better understand the past. I am nothing if not a demanding reader, and I’ll be the first to admit it.
There are enough publishers passing off paranormal romance as horror to make my book selections cautious, but this one I totally threw to the wind: the cover got me. I’ll admit it: that was how I judged this book to be worthy of my ten bucks spent on Amazon. No regrets. The TL;DR version of this post (for you redditors) is, “I enjoyed it. I want the sequel now.”
I also wouldn’t mind hiring the cover designer. That is one snappy-looking book jacket. I’ve reached out to Alison Goodman about it on Facebook, but that was two days ago and I haven’t heard back, so I suppose I’d have to poke the publisher, and never having done this before, I suspect they won’t be awfully forthcoming — but you will never know if you never try. In any case, my commendations to both the artist and the writer:
Both the book and the US cover are spectacular.
The Dark Days Club by Allison Goodman
Lady Helen is about to be presented to the Queen of England. The event marks her entrance into society, but Lady Helen’s past hangs over her like a pall. Her mother was branded a traitor, and no one is being forthcoming as to why. Helen’s family encourage her to sever all ties and be remorseful for her mother’s actions — to make it clear that she is not her mother’s daughter, and that she will be well-received into society by declaring a break.
This, of course, doesn’t go over well with Helen at all. They called her mother mad, they said she defied normal gender conventions. Helen secrets a small portrait of her mother to the presentation, attached to her fan and hidden away in her palm. The gesture is commemorative: she only ever wanted her mother to be with her, if only in spirit.
At the presentation, Helen meets Lord Carlston — a shady fellow who isn’t well-liked in society, given his sordid past. His wife, Elise, died under mysterious circumstances, and everyone blames him for her death. Carlton unburdens Helen of the miniature, and when Helen stands before the queen, she receives a curious message:
Not everything they’ve said about your mother is true.
Through Lord Carlson, Helen is drawn into the secretive underworld of the Dark Days Club, a society to which her mother belonged. They’re hunters of a supernatural variety, and Helen realizes quickly that she has inherited much more than her mother’s shadowy past. She has a gift, and it’s up to Helen to decide if the life her mother lived is the one she wants for herself as well, or will she shy away from her newfound birthright for a life of propriety as someone’s dutiful wife.
Post Mortem: A Book Review of the Dark Days Club by Allison Goodman
A well-balanced, interesting book that immerses the reader in the past while offering a very clear picture of what life as a woman would have been like in 1812. The supernatural element is, for the better part of the book, a second layer to establishing the conflict:
Helen must choose between what’s expected of her as a woman, and what she’s capable of.
It’s a meditation on defying expectation, and becoming something more — a hero — something unheard of for the women of that era. The ramifications of Helen’s decisions, of course, impact everyone around her, and the responses of the supporting cast of characters when Helen begins to act out are spot-on what you’d expect from a brother, an uncle, an aunt who consider a troublesome woman a burden until she’s handed off to a husband.
I appreciate that Goodman went to lengths to establish the book historically. It gives it a real feel and adds a layer of tension that keeps the reader rooted in reality throughout, so that when the supernatural element becomes clear, you believe that these creatures are viable additions to the world.
Delicately handled details add to the atmosphere, and Helen’s internal struggle is compelling: you want her to choose correctly. You want her to step up. You want her to succeed.
By the end of the book, Goodman’s reset the playing field, so it’s difficult to gauge what comes next for her characters, but regardless, I’m very excited to see where she takes them.
Published by Viking Books for Young Readers on January 26th 2016
Check it out: Goodreads
London, April 1812. On the eve of eighteen-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?