I truly haven’t read anything quite like The Dark Days Club – a gothic genre bending YA (NA?) combining demons and the upper-crust of Regency London.
Lady Helen has been living the life of a proper young lady of significant means in London, 1812. Her world is revolving around her coming-out ball and finding a respectable husband. Having been orphaned after the sudden disappearance of her parents, labelled traitors to the throne, she has been under the guardianship of her rigid Uncle and kind Aunt since childhood.
When one of the family’s maids disappears, Lady Helen is quickly thrust into a dark, gothic, demonic world of horrific imagining. With her world turned upside down, discovering her parents are not who they seemed, and she is most definitely not who she thought, Lady Helen struggles to accept her new, critical role in order to protect England (and the world) from demonic takeover. Now she must learn to trust Lord Carlston, the only one who possess some answers, and ultimately herself. In a world that stuffs ladies into pretty, protected boxes … this is much easier said than done.
If you’ve read this far you’re likely frowning at that description. It seems mad. It is mad … somehow it works. This is genre-bending at it’s best. The contrast between Regency London and gothic horror actually pairs so well together. I was quite impressed.
I found Lady Helen to be nuanced and very likeable. She is expertly portrayed for the time period she inhabits — the constraints of her gender and of her position were so accurately conveyed. She was brave and as feisty/defiant as possible and it made her an enjoyable heroine.
Side characters — Lord Carlston, his man Quinn, her maid Darby, etc — were also enjoyable, believable and interesting to read. All of course told through the eyes of Lady Helen, so true character depth and knowledge is of course limited in that regard.
The research is significant and you can tell how much Alison Goodman enjoys this time period of English history. From turns of phrase, to dresses, to food, and even the elaborate tea and pleasure gardens … I actually unexpectedly learned a lot of regency London! While I praise her and thank her for not being over-the-top descriptive of gowns, etc the pacing was incredibly slow in the beginning. It took quite a bit of time for the “regency” part to meet the “demon” part of the story.
That demon part. Holy moly. It was scary! And cringey … in the way of looking through your slitted fingers because you both want to and don’t want to see what is going to happen next (it reminded me a little of Holly Black).
It is a bit of a beast of a book, but the flip side to that is you always get incredibly detailed, vivid worlds and characters. There is a very, very light bit of romance … almost a whisper of a possibility of a romance, if you will. But for fans of fantasy with no romance, I think you will be quite pleased.
Overall a solidly entertaining, albeit slow & steady pace, that unveils secrets methodically and determinedly to keep you guessing.