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Book Reviews

Review: “Lady Helen & The Dark Days Club,” Alison Goodman

January 9, 2016
Review: “Lady Helen & The Dark Days Club,” Alison GoodmanLady Helen & The Dark Days Club (Lady Helen #1)
Written by Alison Goodman
Published December, 2015 by HarperCollins
448 pages
Genres: Fantasy, Historical
Purchase: The Book DepositoryBookworldBooktopia
Add to Goodreads
five-stars

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.”
– Helen

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.”
– Helen

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.

lhatddc-covers
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!

About Alison Goodman

Alison Goodman writes award winning science fiction and crime fiction, and lives with her lovely husband and their machiavellian Jack Russell Terrier in Melbourne, Australia. She was a D.J. O’Hearn Memorial Fellow at the University of Melbourne and holds a Master of Arts.

13 Comments

  • Reply Anissa @ She Reads Too Much March 19, 2016 at 10:50 am

    I’m so glad you enjoyed this one because I was a little bit on the fence about getting myself a copy, but by the sounds of it I am going to end up getting one! Hehe. :)

  • Reply Aila @ Happy Indulgence January 15, 2016 at 1:00 pm

    I’m so so glad you enjoyed this one! I also loved the captivating and well-researched setting, as well as the spunky heroine and mysterious Carlston. (Mysterious but a whole lotta YUM) The action was actually pretty fun and exciting, surprisingly! AND THAT ENDING. OMG. It pretty much left me with the feeling “GIVE ME MOARRR.” Awesome review!
    Aila @ Happy Indulgence recently posted…Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo Review: An Impossible Heist with a Motley CrewMy Profile

  • Reply Jeann @ Happy Indulgence January 12, 2016 at 6:06 pm

    I was actually one of those who struggled with this book and DNF’d it. I could definitely tell how much detail the author put into the book to make it authentic, but it was a bit too much overload of information for me! So glad to hear you enjoyed it though Brittany, and great review!
    Jeann @ Happy Indulgence recently posted…Unhooked by Lisa Maxwell Review: Where Neverland is NOT the place you want to beMy Profile

  • Reply Kynndra-jo @ Diva Booknerd January 11, 2016 at 6:14 pm

    I’ve seen this series floating around and gahh I want it so bad! I’ve been wanting to read more Historical Fiction, especially if it’s YA and this fits the bill. Plus your review got me incredibly excited. I’ll have to get this one soon. Love that third cover, amazing review Brit!
    Kynndra-jo @ Diva Booknerd recently posted…Captive Prince by C.S. PacatMy Profile

  • Reply Joy @ Thoughts By J January 10, 2016 at 5:20 pm

    I’ve heard some mixed reviews for this book, but I’m keen to start it! It’s my next read, so I had to skim your review in case I got spoiled, but so glad you loved it so much Brittany!

    Having interviewed Allison recently, I learned just how much time and effort went into her research. It’s amazing how much research and reading goes into one book!
    Joy @ Thoughts By J recently posted…Book to TV adaptations I’m excited forMy Profile

  • Reply Cait @ Paper Fury January 10, 2016 at 7:30 am

    I’m kind of nervous to try this one because I’m sooo not usually a fan of period sort of books (I know the sexism is accurate but it makes me so angry!!) but Omg I’ve HEARD of the massive amount of detailed research that Alison Goodman put into this series and aHHH THAT IS SO AWESOME. I love it when authors just really go the extra mile. It always pays of and makes the book so much of epic. :’)
    Cait @ Paper Fury recently posted…2016 YA Genre Trend Predictions ~ Wherein I Kidnap Other Bloggers’ Opinions TooMy Profile

  • Reply Bec @ Readers in Wonderland January 9, 2016 at 7:06 pm

    YESSS I loved this book! It was a tonne of fun to read as YA historical fan. The writing was so immersive. I want more!

    As for the pacing issues people keep talking about, I’m pretty sure I’ve only heard that from the mouths of readers that aren’t big historical fiction readers. The historical aspect plays a massive part in the story and if you can’t enjoy that, you’re going to have issues because all the paranormal things are revealed piece by piece over the entire 400 pages.

    Either way I cannot wait for book two! I predict the action is going to pick up and that we’ll get to see Helen kick ass :D
    Bec @ Readers in Wonderland recently posted…21 Gifts Ideas for a Bookworm’s 21stMy Profile

    • Reply Brittany @ Nice Girls Read Books January 9, 2016 at 9:04 pm

      I KNOW, RIGHT? It was stunning. I cannot wait to read the next instalment. 2017 seems SO FAR AWAY.
      I agree with you – I think the people that have been iffy about this book haven’t been huge historical readers. I can imagine what an onslought of fact this might be for those not fond of the genre. I however, ate it all up :D
      Yeees, action! I have a feeling Helen is going to undergo so major character growth and I cannot wait! I think something’s up with Selburn, too – there has to be a reason he’s so hellbent on marrying her, no matter what she does!
      Brittany @ Nice Girls Read Books recently posted…Review: “Lady Helen & The Dark Days Club,” Alison GoodmanMy Profile

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