Written by Alison Goodman
Published December, 2015 by HarperCollins
Genres: Fantasy, Historical
Purchase: The Book Depository | Bookworld | Booktopia
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London, April 1812. Lady Helen Wrexhall is set to make her debut at the court of Queen Charlotte and officially step into polite Regency society and the marriage mart. Little does Helen know that step will take her from the opulent drawing rooms of Mayfair and the bright lights of Vauxhall Gardens into a shadowy world of missing housemaids and demonic conspiracies.
Standing between those two worlds is Lord Carlston, a man of ruined reputation and brusque manners. He believes Helen has a destiny beyond the ballroom; a sacred and secret duty. Helen is not so sure, especially when she discovers that nothing around her is quite as it seems, including the enigmatic Lord Carlston.
Against a backdrop of whispered secrets in St James's Palace, soirees with Lord Byron and morning calls from Beau Brummell, Lady Helen and the Dark Days Club is a delightfully dangerous adventure of self-discovery and dark choices that must be made ... whatever the consequences.
It’s only early January and already I’m predicting that Lady Helen & The Dark Days Club is going to end up being one of my favourite reads of 2016! Completely immersive, incredibly researched and a page-turner despite its 400 or so pages, Lady Helen is everything I dream of when picking up a historical fantasy.
“I have been taught to sew and sing and dance, and my duty is to marry, not fight demons.”
Lady Helen & The Dark Days Club is YA historical fiction at its finest. It being my favourite genre, I was of course going to be picky when reading this one – having some of my most cherished books being its direct competition. I am so happy to say that Lady Helen ranks high up there. It has the potential to be an amazing series; already off to a stellar start!
Although I see some reviews despairing about the ‘slow-paced plot’, I have to disagree. Though this book is sizable, I was able to finish it in two sittings. Everything was intricately described, but in a way that makes us feel as if we have been transported into Helen’s world of Regency-era London. I could tell immediately that Alison Goodman had put SO MUCH RESEARCH into this tale, and I was so grateful. I’m so used to reading things that are Victorian, not Regency, so some great little insights as to what Helen wore, what she ate, how she lived, etc. was most welcome. I actually had a lot of fun seeing all the traditional customs play out against a fantasy/supernatural backdrop.
I firmly believe that all this ‘setting’ was integral to the story. I don’t think I would have enjoyed it as much without it! It was fantastic to see Helen toss up the between the worries of being seen at a public execution un-chaperoned against her desire to fulfil a promise to aid in the world of the Reclaimers. There were also tonnes of real places in London used, too, so it was fascinating to read about the familiar street names and places, as well as discover new ones.
The supernatural/fantasy element was well-written, too. I adored the lavish ‘secret society’ of The Dark Days Club and how it had been integrated into polite society. There were no huge ‘info dumps’, either, which is always a plus for me. Although there was a lot of information and lore to learn, everything unwound itself at a nice, easy pace for readers to manage. We didn’t learn something until we needed to learn it, and little morsels of information were kept hidden to heighten the suspense. I kept reading because I wanted to find out what happened to certain plot points like Helen’s maid, the checkerboard hair behind her mother’s miniature and Lord Carlston’s wife.
“If she had only one word to describe him, Helen decided as she drew closer, it would be commanding. Or enigmatic. Or disturbing. Which, of course, was three words. Lord Carlston was not a man to be contained, even in adjectives.”
The romance is so very subtle. So much so that I wasn’t seeing any sign of romance until the last handful of chapters (and even then it’s barely there). This was completely refreshing. The relationship of Lady Helen and Lord Carlston is left to unfold at a natural pace – one that will certainly keep developing in the next two instalments. Considering the time period in which Lady Helen & The Dark Days Club is set in, I find that very fitting!
There are so many questions that this book left unanswered, but it’s clear they are ‘greater/series arc’ questions, so I just know they’ll be answered throughout the series. It’s a great way to incite anticipation for the series – I can’t wait to get my hands on the next book already! As for the smaller plot arc focusing on this book, it was definitely concluded, which is satisfying!
Alison Goodman has created a substantial and unique world within Lady Helen & The Dark Days Club! I am blown away by (again) her research into making the time period authentic, as well as her ability to weave such an original fantasy element within it. The Deceivers – soul-sucking creatures that inhabit human vessels – are great ‘villains’, as well as the promise of a ‘Great Deceiver’ who will ultimately become Lady Helen’s arch-nemesis, and purpose for her powers as an Inherited Reclaimer.
Lady Helen & The Dark Days Club is a must-read for anyone loyal to the YA historical fantasy genre, as I am. If you aren’t that fond of the genre, however, this one might be a bit heavy for you.
I for one LOVED Helen’s journey of discovery in this first instalment and can’t wait to see how she handles her training, as well as her blossoming feelings for Lord Carlston in Book Two.
Here’s a look at the different covers for Lady Helen & The Dark Days Club (simply called The Dark Days Club in the UK & US). I absolutely love the UK cover with Helen and Lord Carlston. It has to be my favourite!