The Dark Days Club by Alison Goodman
Release date: January 26, 2016
Series: Lady Helen, Book 1
Genre: Teen & Young Adult, Historical Fiction, Supernatural Thriller
Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads
Helen must make a choice: Save her reputation, or save the world.
London, 1812. Eighteen-year-old Lady Helen Wrexhall is on the eve of her debut presentation at the royal court of George III. Her life should revolve around gowns, dancing, and securing a suitable marriage. Instead, when one of her family’s maids disappears, she is drawn into the shadows of Regency London.
There, she meets Lord Carlston, one of the few able to stop the perpetrators: a cabal of demons that has infiltrated all levels of society. Carlston is not a man she should be anywhere near, especially with the taint of scandal that surrounds him. Yet he offers her help and the possibility of finally discovering the truth about the mysterious deaths of her parents.
Soon the two of them are investigating a terrifying conspiracy that threatens to plunge the newly Enlightened world back into darkness. But can Helen trust a man whose own life is built on lies? And does she have the strength to face the dangers of this hidden world and her family’s legacy?
Set in the glittering social world of the Regency upper-crust, The Dark Days Club is a supernatural adventure that introduces New York Times best-selling author Alison Goodman’s Lady Helen Wrexhall—another heroine whom, like Eona, readers can take to their hearts.
If you take away nothing else from this review, know that The Dark Days Club is truly a great addition to both its supernatural and historical fiction genres. Once the story got going, I felt fully immersed in Lady Helen’s world, and genuinely enjoyed the story, the characters (especially Lord Carlston), and the development of the heroine. In that respect, Goodman did a fantastic job developing Lady Helen both as a supernaturally-gifted character and as a flawed-but-confident, kickass female growing up in 17th Century London.
My enjoyment of the story and development of the characters makes me reluctant to criticize this book, but it must be said: Dark Days Club could (and should!) have been shorter by at least 150 pages, especially if it is being marketed as a first-in-series young adult novel. It’s been my experience that series’ are better when books in a series get progressively longer – as opposed to being tediously lengthy initially – as the audience has had time to be fully invested enough in the characters and world that they want the books to be that long.
As much as I enjoyed the setting and the historical context, there was much that could have been left out in favor of getting to the relevant (and obviously more exciting) part of the story much sooner. Instead, readers will have to trudge through 150-200 pages of scene-setting backstory concerning Regency London and the societal demands on a girl coming of age during that time period. While the historical context does make some of that information necessary, the majority of it could have been trimmed down to highlights. If we’re being honest here, most readers are going to be drawn in more by the supernatural aspect than reading painstaking descriptions about the proper curtsy technique or how important it is to strategically respond to an invitation to tea.
Given how much I liked the book once I got to the middle, I would normally breeze through it within a day or two at most because, as mentioned earlier, the story is just as thrilling and consuming as any book you’d expect a seasoned best-selling author to pen. However, the unnecessary extra information and dialogue (particularly about the societal niceties and gossip that were ultimately irrelevant to the story as a whole) in the early chapters initially couldn’t keep my interest for long, which made my total reading time increase by several weeks.
Having said all of that, I still recommend readers give this one a shot in spite of the duller descriptive chapters, because the story is well worth it. Lady Helen Wrexhall was an intriguing character right from the start, and the book as a whole genuinely delivered on the exciting premise… eventually.
Full disclosure: A copy of this book was provided in exchange for an honest review.