Thursday, March 17, 2016

Book Review: Dark Days Club

Dark Days Club
Alison Goodman
Viking Books for Young Readers, 2016
Genre: Historical Fiction/Fantasy
Source: I won this ARC copy from Brittany at Please Feed the Bookworm
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

~What It's About~

Set in the Regency period of London, in 1812, Lady Helen Wrexhall is preparing for her debut ball at eighteen years of age.  Both parents died when she was young under mysterious circumstances that has left a stain on the family name, but with her uncle's strict code of propriety and her aunt's doting, they hope that all memories of Helen's mother and her traitorous ways have been erased.  At her showing to the Queen of England, though, Helen receives a most mysterious message from Her Majesty about her mother, sending her into a world of intrigue, demons, and the dashingly handsome and dangerous Lord Carlston.  Helen is only just beginning to realize what an important role she has to play, but she'll have to figure out a way to make that happen within the confines of an elite society eager to play up any scandal they can.

~The Good~
 The characters were really well done and drew me in.  Lady Helen Wrexhall is a strong female character, forced to live in a restricted environment.  At night she sneaks down to her uncle's library to pour through his many books that are not appropriate for the eyes and minds of women.  She feels a strong connection to her mother and sneaks her mother's miniature with her when she leaves, even though it is forbidden.  Never before has Helen willingly stepped outside of the confines of propriety to get what she wants, but now she's being forced to do so.

Lord Carlston has evil swarming around him, literally.  Just a few years ago he was discovered with his young wife, dead.  Although never charged with the murder, society has shunned him, but he's back in London and is intent on meeting with Lady Helen.  Although he is forbidden to Helen, due to the scandal on his name, she is drawn to him and the information he could provide her about her mother.

There was so much happening that this incredibly long book only took me about 5 days because I just needed to find out what happened!  As soon as she starts to discover the truth behind her mother's death and what she is meant to do, everything begins to build.  You don't know who you can trust.  Just as Lady Helen is busy trying to determine who around her is a demon, the reader is also trying to decide who to trust.  You're not sure, although you think you know, and then something new is revealed.  I questioned everyone she knew.  Everyone.

The subtle references of feminism and the demands placed on women to behave a certain way or else be considered ruined were woven throughout the story.  It began with a friend of Helen's going missing, but being found days later with a man, now dead.  Helen is no longer allowed to speak to her because she is ruined and it is her own fault that this had happened--not the man who led to this scandal.  Helen's uncle often refers to passing her off to her future husband (whoever that may be) so that he no longer has to be in charge of her, but her husband can do so.  Her uncle has complete control over her finances until she is somewhere in her 20's or she is married, which means her husband is then in charge of the money.  Enter Lord Carlston who offers her a way to be so much more than just the wife and mother in elite society, but to have a real influence on her world.  He shows her that her own mother was much more than everyone believed.  However, even the choices he gives her are manipulated by him and the Dark Days Club, putting women in the lesser roles because they are women.

~The Not-So-Good~
The only negative thing I have to say is that the beginning was slow getting started.  Helen has not yet discovered the truth of her past and who she truly is and she's focused more on the social gatherings about which ladies of her station are concerned.  I was desperately waiting for the action to begin--don't worry it does.  It took about a hundred pages or so to get it started, but the beginning is still good.

~Final Thoughts~

Absolutely amazing!  I don't often give books a 5 star rating, but I felt it was well-deserved here. The action and adventure coupled with the attempt to remain within the acceptable confines of propriety led to a thrilling story. Lady Helen was appropriately concerned about doing what she felt was right for both herself and the world and for her family, which led to quite a lot of inner turmoil.  The Dark Days Club was a fun read and I'm anxious to read the next book about Lady Helen and her adventures.

If you like Buffy the Vampire Slayer (and who doesn't?) or Jane Austen, then you'll love this book!

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