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Thursday, February 18, 2016

"The Dark Days Club: Lady Helen Book 1" by Alison Goodman (Reviewed by Cindy Hannikman)





 Visit the Dark Days Club Website Here

OVERVIEW: 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?

FORMAT: Dark Days Club is the first book in a YA regency adventure novel/supernatural novel. It is the first in a proposed series titled Lady Helen.

Dark Days Club has a mix of regency adventure/setting, slight romance, mystery, and supernatural elements. It stands at 496 pages and was published January 26, 2016 by Viking Books for Young Readers.  

ANALYSIS: Alison Goodman is best known for her YA fantasy duology Eon and Eona. It has been some time since that series was completed and readers have been anxiously awaiting her new series – Lady Helen.

The Lady Helen series takes place in 1812 London and stars 18-year old Lady Helen Wrexhall. As with any historical fantasy novel that takes place in this time period, it is filled with parties, balls, and a huge desire to make sure every rule is followed to a T. Unfortunately, Lady Helen is a bit restless and isn't sure she wants to do. She is headstrong and not all that interested in immediately settling down with the first man to ask for her hand in marriage – but that looks like the way things will go until the unexpected happens.

One of Lady Helen's housemaids disappears. Lady Helen takes it upon herself to investigate the mysterious disappearance, which leads her to uncover a truth about her destiny that is unexpected. A truth that includes evil demon-like creatures that are intent on causing destruction, but it is up to a secret society of individuals to stop them and Lady Helen is connected to them somehow.

I have mixed feelings about The Dark Days Club – the first novel in the Lady Helen series. There isn't anything specific wrong with it. Alison Goodman is an amazing wordsmith and creates a detailed world, but it toes the line on too detailed to the point it slows down the pacing.

Alison Goodman did a lot of research about this time period and it shows in the writing. Unfortunately, there are huge chunks of this book which is just filled with bogging the reader down with relatively unrelated and somewhat boring information. Readers are treated to party scenes with intricate details about proper etiquette, how dances are performed, how people interact. All of which is great, but in small doses. This was not in small doses and it eventually dragged the pacing of the book down.

For example, the beginning scenes talk about Lady Helen as she is preparing for her presentation to the Queen. There are details included, such as how she needed to practice because she will need to pee in a small porcelain tray while standing up at the presentation. While this information is great for history buffs, it didn't add to anything in the story and really slowed it down.

The pacing of the novel does pick up, but it isn't until well past the 75% mark. Once the pacing does pick up, the novel moved quickly and turned out to be fairly enjoyable. There was demon fighting, drama, and mystery, all of which was lacking in the first part of the book.

The pacing and over-indulgence of information wasn't the only issue I had. I found it extremely difficult to relate and/or like the heroine of the novel – Lady Helen. London 1812 didn't leave a lot of room for women to do anything. They had to be constantly watched, were under the control of men until they were married (and even if they weren't), they weren't encouraged to read or know anything about the world. All of this showed in the character development of Lady Helen.

Lady Helen was supposed to be this strong, independent woman – or at least that was what readers are supposed to think of her. But she came across as very shallow, one-sided, and just plain boring. There were brief moments where some sense of humor showed through, but those moments were few and far between. She did start to shape up in the last 15 pages or so, which is enough to keep me reading until the next series, but I wish I had seen more of Lady Helen's unique characteristics earlier in the novel.

In my opinion, Lord Carlston was the best character. Unfortunately, he is mysterious in this novel and isn't featured a lot. It will be interesting to see his character grow and develop too.

There is one part of the novel I would like to point out and one I found extremely disappointing. I have read and reread this part of the book, so maybe I missed it. Readers are shown that Lady Helen is a Reclaimer – fighter of these evil demon creatures that look human, but aren't. All of a sudden, in the next chapter her handmaid knows all about this and is asking if creatures are around them. This was a perfect opportunity to develop the friendship between Lady Helen and her handmaid, but it wasn't there. It happened off book.

I would have really liked to have seen Lady Helen explain the demons, her role in the society, and everything to her handmaid. I would have liked to see the handmaid's reaction. I think this would have really allowed readers to connect and understand the relationship.

While it may seem like I didn't like the novel, it really did pick up at the end and turn out to be a semi-decent read. It appears to be one of those series that might be better read as a whole, as this seemed like a setup to better things to come.

This is definitely not a novel for those looking for fast-paced action or who really want to jump immediately into a story. But I do think there is an audience for the book – especially since there is very little romance (at least in this novel).  

Overall, I think the Lady Helen series shows promise. I am hoping that since we have the historical setting and info-dumping out of the way, it will give the series room to let other more interesting aspects shine. It certainly was well-written and shows amazing promise. I will certainly tune in for book 2, but I hope there are some improvements.

2 comments:

Melissa (My World...in words and pages) said...

Oh sometimes researching is a curse in writing. You want to share it all, but it's not needed. Thank you for sharing.

Cindy said...

Yes! There is a fine line between telling me info I need to get into a story and oversharing. Sharing how an individual goes to the bathroom in the dresses and stuff like that is oversharing (in my opinion).

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