Thursday, March 2, 2017

REVIEW | The Dark Days Club by Alison Goodman

The Dark Days Club by Alison Goodman
Publication Year: 2016
Genre: YA, Fantasy, Alt History
Series: Lady Helen #1
Awards: Nothing 
Format: Audio (from Audible)
Narrator: Fiona Hardingham

WHY?: Many good reviews by bloggers I trust.  Plus - demon hunting in Regency England. No way I'm not reading that!  Tagline on one of the editions is, "Duchess or Demon Slayer - does Lady Helen have a choice?"

SYNOPSIS: Lady Helen Wrexhall is 18 and entering her first London season.  It's an exciting time but amongst all the hubbub of social engagements, Helen has started to notice a lot of odd and mysterious things going on around her. Then a distant relation of her Aunt's, the disgraced Lord Carlston appears and informs Helen that she is destined for bigger and scarier things than marrying a Duke. Will Helen turn her back on this exciting but terrifying future or will she play it safe?  

Without a doubt, I adored this book.  It's a Regency era novel with deadly demons thrown into the mix and I found it to be executed very well.  It is a book that is perfect for a very particular kind of reader.  If you like paranormal reads, you are likely to like it okay, though I've seen a number of reviews by SFF fans who found it slow-going.  Regency novel fans?  Hmmm.... I think will like this better than most SFF books as it does take pains to get the societal conventions and setting right but it may not be quite right for them.  If you are someone who loves both Jane Austen and Buffy the Vampire Slayer?  I predict you will flip your lid for this book!  At least, I certainly did.  I like feisty kick ass ladies as well as painstakingly described details about muslin and dance cards so this book had me covered on all points. 

Lady Helen lives with her Aunt and Uncle because both her parents are dead and while she gets along with her Aunt, her uncle is a strict, close-minded, misogynist who brooks no appearance of impropriety.  Therefore, Helen is mostly looking forward to the season and is not opposed to finding the right gentleman to marry and therefore get out from under her Uncle's thumb. I really liked that Helen isn't really a huge rebel to begin with.  She's smart, independent, has opinions and therefore chafes under her Uncles rule but she is not really longing for a singular life.  She really just wants what most young women in the Regency era wanted, to find a good match and have the freedom of running her own household.  Sure she might prefer that household be her older brother's but marriage is not off the table.

There is a lot of time spent on the details of a life in Regency era England - the expectations, the manners, the rhythm of life, the details of the balls -  and I loved this and thought it was balanced quite well with the more action-and-demon-packed part of the story.  It bored some reviewers but that never happened to me.  I think the time spent on Helen's normal life emphasizes what she would be giving up to join the Dark Days Club. It is impossible to be both a well bred lady and a demon hunter in Regency Era England.  Especially when one's mentor is a tall drink of well-mannered-but-may-have-killed-his-wife scandal.  Lord Carlston and Helen cannot spend time together because a) he is a man and b) he is disreputable.  This throws up many of the challenges faced by the heroine and I felt really anxious for her juggling all the balls of her life.  

It couldn't be a Regency Era novel without there also being a romance of course and while I wasn't really into it, I liked the pairing and that it is the slowest of slow burns.  Again, the Regency era setting helps keep things relatively restrained and that appeals to me.  I am also partial, for some reason, to the passionate hero that keeps it all locked down tight so you have no idea what he's feeling except under certain extreme circumstances.  This type of person would probably drive me nutballs in real life but I like it in a romantic protagonist. There are a few intense moments but mostly it is restrained glances and touches.  

The demon hunter world that Goodman overlays Regency England with is also very interesting and well developed.  The idea that the demons, or deceivers as they are called, inhabit regular people, like a possession, sets up some nice moral quandaries as well as the fact that only certain people can see and then fight them when they get out of hand.  Voila!  A Dark Days Club of extra strong, extra sensing folk who operate in secret.  Secret demon hunting societies will always tickle me to pieces!  I also like that each demon hunter, or Reclaimer, must have a companion who is bonded with them and that Helen's choice is her stalwart maid and friend Darby.  I really liked their relationship and that this female duo has most of the men of the Dark Days Club unhappy.

I loved and devoured this book!  I listened to the audio version and Fiona Hardingham was a perfect narrator for this.  She is one of my favorite narrators generally and she does a great job giving voice to Lady Helen and bringing her to life.

FINAL VERDICT:  For all you Jane Austen AND Buffy the Vampire Slayer lovers - this is your book.  A good solid Regency novel with a paranormal element mixed into the blend for a good balance of the two!  4 out of 5 Stars.

Other Opinions Are Available: Book Smugglers | Fine Print | Fantasy Book Critic

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