THE DARK DAYS CLUB
Eighteen years old, longing to escape from her disapproving uncle’s home, and about to make her debut (and meet the Queen!), Lady Helen Wrexhall ought to have nothing more on her mind than dances and dress fittings, and catching the eye of a suitable man. Instead, she finds herself drawn into the society of the infamous Lord Carlston, an accused (though not convicted) murderer, recently returned from overseas – and whose past is somehow linked to that of Helen’s long-dead mother.
The Dark Days Club is the first book in the new Lady Helen series, and was published in the UK in January this year. The (currently untitled) sequel is expected in 2017.
As much a mystery novel as an adventure, The Dark Days Club presents several tantalising mysteries to unravel: The fate of Lady Catherine, Helen’s mother who died at sea after being accused of treason; the unexpected disgrace of her friend Delia, who ran off with an unknown man despite never having been a romantic sort; the disappearance of the maid Berta; the reappearance of the presumed wife-killer, Lord Carlston, in decent society – and seemingly endorsed by several of the ton’s most influential members, when he ought to be a pariah; and, of course, the mysterious blue glow that Helen keeps seeing around people…
Not all these questions were actually answered in the course of this book, but that’s to be expected, really, since it’s only the first in a series – and the questions that were answered, were answered really well. All the threads of plot were really well fleshed-out, and woven together masterfully.
The two main characters in this book are Lady Helen and Lord Carlston, and I really loved them both. Helen is, of course, the character we see the most of, as the story is told from her perspective, and she’s both likeable and relatable, unsure whether or not she really wants to be part of this strange demonic world, even if it is for the greater good, and might give her some answers about what happened to her mother.
With Carlston, Goodman managed to build a really great amount of mystery around him: He appears to be a (mostly) good person, but the rumours about him are incredibly dark, and it’s difficult to tell (for the reader and for Helen) how much of his reputation is grounded, even as we get to know him better.
There are a quite few supporting characters as well, but notably among these are: Helen’s brother Andrew, who came across as nice enough, but rather short-sighted, particularly where his sister is concerned; his friend Duke Selburn, who is suspiciously attentive; Helen’s well-meaning, protective Aunt Leonore (who I loved) and preachy, judgemental uncle, Lord Pennworth (who I hated); and Darby, who pulls double-duty as Helen’s handmaid, and as, essentially, her best friend.
ROMANCE & RELATIONSHIPS [5/5]
The romance took a definite back-seat in this book, which was quite refreshing for a YA novel. Which is not to say that there isn’t any, but love isn’t the most important thing in Helen’s world with everything else that’s going on in the story. Or possibly ever – as a woman, and particularly a noblewoman, she’s very realistic about the fact that her choice of husband will have more to do with the life that he can offer her, than with romance (or even affection). That said, the romantic feelings that she does have come about quite gradually, and are worked into the story in a very natural-feeling, unobtrusive manner.
In terms of platonic relationships, I don’t have so much to say, but I loved the way that Helen and Darby interacted, constantly aware of their difference in status, but also trusting each other implicitly. Helen’s slightly strained relationship with her aunt was also delightfully complex: Aunt Leonore clearly feels a great deal of affection for her neice, but it’s often mixed with shame over the actions of Helen’s mother, and worry that Helen is heading down the same path.
Regency England is one of my favourite time periods to read about, and the addition of the secretive world of Deceivers and Reclaimers, and the mysterious Dark Days Club, just made it more exciting. Goodman’s portrayal of the period itself was nicely done, with plenty of detail, but not so much that it felt that the setting was all there was to the book. The more fantastical parts of the world were also introduced at a good pace, making it easy to grasp new information without being overwhelmed by it.
There’s little that I can say about the writing except this: It was really good. Easy to follow, fluid and very well-paced, and rather addictive… I ended up reading the majority of this book in just one sitting, it was so difficult to put down!
OVERALL IMPRESSION [5/5]
A really fantastic start to what looks to be an intriguing series. I will definitely be picking up the sequel as soon as it’s available!
Fans of Cassandra Clare’s books should absolutely read this, too; the Infernal Devices trilogy in particular.