The Dark Days Club by Alison Goodman
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Series: Yes, #1 in the Lady Helen series
Release date: January 26th, 2016
Publisher: Viking (Penguin Random House)
Length: 432 pages
Source: ARC from the publisher
Rating: my fave book of the (admittedly very new) year
New York Times bestseller Alison Goodman’s eagerly awaited new project: a Regency adventure starring a stylish and intrepid demon-hunter!
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?
Say so hello to my favorite book of 2016!
Okay, yes, it is not even February (though February is rather terrifyingly close...what is with this whole time-continuing-to-pass-even-when-I-tell-it-not-to thing?), but still. The Dark Days Club is so going on my end of year favorites list (which reminds me to do my 2015 favorites list...SEE WHAT I MEAN ABOUT TIME RUDELY DOING ITS TIME THING?)
The Dark Days Club can be summed up in a very tidy pitch: it's Pride and Prejudice meets Buffy. This is a pitch tailor-made for me. This is like Alison Goodman looked inside my dream journal and decided to write me a personal present. But even if this isn't your precise cup of coffee, I encourage you to dive into the story of Lady Helen Wrexhall, who is making her entree in 1812 society...while also grappling with a possibly cataclysmic supernatural destiny as a Reclaimer. An destiny that she doesn't think she wants anything to do with.
Why? Because it has so many THINGS! It takes its time, really sinking into the time period in a way that makes my Georgette Heyer-loving heart sing. Like Heyer, Goodman infuses the stories with details about clothes and society (the Ton!), about hygiene and etiquette and oh, this history nerd was freaking out, let me tell you. There are even cameos by real life regency figures, such as Lady Jersey, Beau Brummel, the Queen, and even the Prince Regent himself. The language is deliciously peppered with regency slang and diction, and I felt so immersed in the time that I really hated pulling out of the book and seeing my stupid 21st century life around me. #IdRatherBeAtAlmacks
Okay, so maybe you're not as big of a regency nerd as I am. That's cool. But do you like inventive monsters? Because TDDC has them. I'm not going to spoil how the Deceivers in this universe work, but holy shit, they are dark and ugly and drawn to all the very un-REgency-appropriate under layers of human nature. The way this story conflates the tidy surface of societal decorum with the raw savagery that can lie underneath is amazing--both in the monsters and in Helen herself. Georgette Heyer CERTAINLY never got this primal, let me tell you.
(And yes, that means this book is SMEXY in places. Not, like, full smexy, but...well, Goodman by no means pretends that none of these characters have sex drives, I'll just say)
One of the other themes of the story is choice. So many AND INTO EVERY GENERATION A SLAYER IS BORN stories lack main character agency, or an option to opt out, or even a chance for the main character to doubt if they really want to sacrifice their life for this demon-slaying lark. But Helen doubts. She considers. She wrestles. She's scared shitless. With great power comes great responsibility, and Helen wonders if she wants or can handle that.
|but also she can KICK SOME ASS|
Admittedly, this book is more of a set up volume, and the pacing may grate on people, but I loved taking my time with this opening installment. It never felt slow to me. only felt rich and unhurried. still had many an action scene, and took its DELICIOUS TIME developing what is going to be a CRACKER of a ship. LORD. EFFING. CARLSTON. HI HELLO. (That one scene. You know which scene. You know which scene. My toes curled and I made sounds and I rolled around like a...rolling thing. NO TIME FOR ACCURATE METAPHORS TOO BUSY SWOONING). This book may be proper Regency romance in parts but underneath...this book is SENSUAL. There are HORMONES. There is UST like nobody's BUSINESS. Smolder smolder, ship, smolder smolder.
Like I said, it's a slow build, but when the sexual tension train arrives, IT ARRIVES. It blows full speed into the station with smokestack chugging and whistles blowing. Like, I went from mildly thinking they could make a nice ship to OH HOLY GOD MAKE OUT RIGHT NOW ABSOLUTELY EVERYWHERE
Lastly, I'm going to talk about how much I adored the characters, starting with Helen. She is sensible, curious, whipsmart, and determined to fulfill her family's wishes, yet she's also struggling with her headstrong spirit and this strange... wildness that has suddenly come over. She's chafing beneath the inordinate amount of restrictions on a lady of 1812 society, but still in a way that makes her a believable woman of that time. (Seriously, the HOOPS Helen has to jump through just to go about finding answers about the supernatural shenanigans underline how woman of her class essentially could not do ANYTHING on their own.)
Helen's about to enter into society and angle for a husband, and her aunt and uncle are desperate for her to make a good match, mostly to cover up LE SCANDALE of Helen's mother, a traitor to the crown. (Aunt: ADORE HER, and she so easily could have been a cliche EVIL CHARACTER! Uncle: burn him with FUCKING FIRE, the misogynistic, bullying fucker). My other favorite character was Helen's ladies maid, the loyal, pious, and resilient Darby, whom I've very excited to learn more about. I'd really love to see more of the characters fleshed out--especially Lady Margaret--but I'm sure that's coming in the following books. We have MUCH GOODNESS ahead of us.
And then there's Carleston. Our Byronic hero full of seeeeecrets. We don't like him. He may have murdered his wife. But...well, you've read these books before. You know the drill.
OR DO YOU???
Read The Dark Days Club and find out for certain. PLEASE AND THANK YOU.