- The Dark Days Club, Alison Goodman
Rating: * * * * *
Series: Lady Helen #1
Publisher: Walker Books
Publication Date: January 2016
Goodreads synopsis: ‘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?’
I had been hugely excited about reading The Dark Days Club ever since I saw an advertisement for it at YALC in the summer of last year, and my enthusiasm was well placed. This is a wonderful novel, a perfect mix of history, mystery, fantasy, adventure, and romance.
Lady Helen is an original and highly likeable protagonist, right from the opening scene. I think that she is one of my all-time favourites. She is good-humoured, spirited, clever, and stronger than she knows. The reader instantly engages with her. She is one of those main characters who, although the PoV is in the third person, you can connect with just as much as if it were in the first person. Helen is capable of much more than she at first realises, and it is a joy to witness her find herself over the course of the novel.
Helen is joined by a great cast of other characters. Alison Goodman’s descriptions of them are first class and bring them to life, from the ‘caustic remarks’ of the mysterious possible-murderer Lord Carlston, to the overbearing nature of Lady Helen’s class-conscious uncle, who waves a letter in a ‘crackle of condemnation.’ The descriptions of the characters’ actions build up vivid impressions and visual images of them, and are a delight for the imagination.
Although there are quite a few young adult books with the theme of demon hunting, Alison Goodman brings some fantastic new ideas to the table, like the role of Terrenes and the uses of hair in alchemy against demons. The novel is truly refreshing.
There is also an intriguing contrast running all the way through the novel between two settings and ways of life which Lady Helen must choose between. On the one hand there are the mysterious rituals of the Dark Days Club, and the hideous acts of Deceivers; on the other there are splendid balls, poetry readings (where Lord Byron himself makes an appearance) and the deeply ingrained social protocol of high society. Alison Goodman, in her depiction of Regency London, uses exactly the right amount of historical detail for it to be wholly atmospheric and engaging, yet there is never a time when the information is excessive or overwhelming.
I thoroughly enjoyed this first installment in the Lady Helen series, and eagerly anticipate more of her and the rest of the Dark Days Club members’ adventures. I would definitely recommend it to fans of The Infernal Devices and the His Fair Assassin series.
‘I am no warrior, Sir, nor do I aspire to be. I have been taught to sew and sing and dance, and my duty is to marry, not fight demons.’