The Dark Days Club

the-dark-days-club

The Dark Days Club was written by Alison Goodman and first published in 2015. It’s a dark fantasy story set in England’s Regency Era, focusing on a young lady finding out about the existence of a demon-hunting secret society. The novel forms the first part of the Lady Helen series and is followed by The Dark Days Pact (2017). The final instalment of the trilogy has yet to be announced.

Lady Helen Wrexhall has just reached eighteen years of age and is finally old enough to make her debut in society, attending balls and soirées to make a good impression on any potential husbands. Although she carries the stain of her family name, her uncle is convinced that the inheritance left to her by her disgraced mother will be enough to attract a suitable match.

However, the first man that seems to be interested in Helen is the infamous Lord Carlston – a man suspected of murdering his previous wife. Helen’s uncle is not impressed that Carlson – a distant relation of his – is trying to use their name to catapult himself back into high society. However, Helen soon learns that Carlston is not interested in her as a match. He is a Reclaimer – a member of a secret society called the Dark Days Club – and he believes that Helen is one as well.

Through secret meetings with Carlston, Helen learns all about his organisation, the horrible monsters that they fight and their sacred duty to protect humanity. However, the more that Helen sees of their world, the more certain she is that she doesn’t want anything to do with them. Yet Carlston is certain that a powerful creature known as a Grand Deceiver is on the rise. How could Helen be able to deny her calling when she could be the only one capable of stopping it?

I really wasn’t expecting to enjoy this book. I generally don’t like Regency fiction as I don’t feel that it ages well. It was (obviously) a different time – one where upper-class women were just expected to be vapid and pretty, as men were only really interested in them for their appearances and their ability to create heirs. As Helen’s uncle succinctly puts it in The Dark Days Club:

“If you are to become a wife, you must learn that obedience is the cornerstone of femininity”

I think that sentence alone sums up why I don’t think much of the Regency period. However, I was pleasantly surprised by this novel. While it is perhaps a little slow to start, it quickly sank its hooks into me. Beneath the balls and visits with the Queen and finery, there is plot concerning a missing servant who is possibly connected to a villainous Lord. It wasn’t long before I found myself utterly invested in Lady Helen’s tale.

The story is written straight faced, giving it the feel of a Jane Austen novel in its early chapters. The descriptions are wordy and sometimes feel as though they contain a little more detail than necessary, but this really shows how much Goodman knows her stuff. The amount of research that she has put into this novel is staggering, from the clothing to the etiquette to the political climate of the time. While the objectification of women is always hard to read, it is by no means presented as though it is a good thing, but merely a product of the times.

The novel changes dramatically as Helen grows increasingly involved with Lord Carlston. At first, this is nothing more than rumours. Carlston seems to be everywhere that she goes and speaks to her in ways that would never be described as “proper”. While there is no action in the early part of the tale, it is all build up towards the very exciting second half. Carlston grows more sinister, Helen discovers that she’s developing strange powers, and one of her friends has a terrifying supernatural experience. The events seem to be unconnected at first but draw together as Helen finally learns of the existence of the Dark Days Club.

You might notice that I’m being more than a little vague here but, trust me, I just don’t want to spoil this novel’s surprises. The demons – known as Deceivers – are incredibly original and their introduction really changes the whole feel of the story. While the novel feels a lot like a Historical romance up to this point, it’s simply not possible for this to continue once Helen is aware that there could be monsters working in her very household. The Dark Days Club also has many skeletons in its closet and some of the twists concerning its activities really took me by surprise.

The novel also ends very well. While it certainly leaves a lot open for a sequel, it still felt like a satisfying ending for the story as it finished on a relative high. This made me optimistic for The Dark Days Pact, as it seems that Helen will have a lot more freedom to move and act as she pleases going forward (without her Aunt perpetually dragging her away to try on dresses).

Yet it’s the characters in this story that really steal the show. All of them feel realistic for the period but Helen and her maid, Darby, are the ones that I found myself most attached to. Both are very strong characters, possessing driven personalities and the ability to make difficult choices. I loved them both, which made some of the choices that Helen had to make almost painful to read at times.

I also liked both of Helen’s potential love interests – Selburn and Carlston. While there was no true love triangle, I thought that both characters did make good counterparts for her. Both men were capable and genuinely seemed to care for her well-being, which is more than could be said for some of the other men in the story. While it appears Carlston is the one that Helen is most interested in, I’m curious to see if Selburn will continue to vie for her affections in the sequel.

So, all in all I was pleasantly surprised by this novel. While it was a little slow to start, it soon became an addictive read and was filled with twists and compelling characters. I don’t really have much more to say about this one, other than I can’t wait to get my hands on the next instalment.

The Dark Days Club can be purchased as a Paperback and eBook from Amazon.co.uk

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1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Trackback: The Dark Days Pact | Arkham Reviews

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© Kim Dyer and Arkham Reviews, 2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Kim Dyer and Arkham Reviews with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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