[Warning: This is a spoiler-free review, but I will be referring to some events from The Dark Days Club, so if you haven’t started the series at all yet, beware. You can find my review of The Dark Days Club here.]
After breaking off her betrothal and being disowned by her uncle, Lady Helen is spending the summer season in Brighton, playing the invalid in order to avoid society, and training for her new role in the Dark Days Club with her mentor Lord Carlston. All things considered, life isn’t going terribly for her – that is, until Mr. Pike (a representative of the new Home Secretary) arrives in Brighton, convinced that Carlston is going mad, and demanding that Helen fulfil a dangerous task for him, or face charges of treason.
Well, I thought that there was a lot going on in the first book, but this one really escalates everything! So much happened; that little introductory passage barely even scratches the surface! And yet it also manages to completely side-step the trap of having so much happening at once that it becomes impossible to follow along. The writing is remarkably clear, and has the same addictive quality as in the previous book. I also really loved how much research went into this book – the location and time period both feel incredibly real, but at the same time, I never felt as if the historical details were being shoved in my face; they were just there in the background, enriching the atmosphere.
In terms of characters, I really loved the way that many of the characters from The Dark Days Club were further developed, particularly Mr. Hammond and Lady Helen herself, as well as Lord Carlston, who remains something of a mystery, but is clearly beginning to lower his guard. The new characters were brilliant as well: Lowry was completely despicable, the Comte d’Antraigues was fascinating, and although I spent much of the book despising Pike, I ended up really loving the way his role in the story played out. Duke Selburn is the other major player in The Dark Days Pact, and while I quite liked him in the first book, I’m beginning to find the way he inserts himself into Helen’s affairs quite irritating (and it seems that Helen is, too), however well-intentioned he may be. I’m definitely looking forward to how his character, and his relationship with Helen, develops in the sequel (or sequels, maybe? I certainly hope so!).
The one thing that I was really hoping wouldn’t happen somehow ended up happening in the last few pages of the book, which was not entirely unexpected, but a bit sad. I will have to wait and see, however, if Helen is able to at least escape from the consequences of it in the next book. And I did feel that the mystery of Lady Elise was a little underwhelming, and brushed aside too quickly, but this is pretty much the only thing that the book didn’t do brilliantly, and it does seem like the issue is likely to come up again in future instalments in the series.
On the other hand, the story itself was masterfully executed, with what felt like a thousand twists and turns, each one more heart-poundingly difficult than the last. I’ve become ridiculously invested in this series, and I almost wish that I hadn’t read it straight away, as I now have a whole year to wait for the next book (such agony!). 😥