Genre: Fantasy of Manners, YA
Publisher: Viking Books for Young Readers on January 26, 2016
London, April 1812. Eighteen-year-old Lady Helen Wrexhall is on the eve of her debut presentation to the Queen. View Spoiler »
Lady Helen Wrexhall is set to make her society debut, but unlike most other girls coming out this year, she must do so under a haze of suspicion and scandal: when Helen was a young child, her mother went mad and was convicted of treason against the Crown. And while that was more than a decade ago, society never forgets a scandal…
Shrouded by her late mother’s infamy, Helen must take pains to avoid even the barest hint of scandal. But that quickly becomes impossible when a dear friend of hers witnesses something truly shocking – something that suggests Helen’s mother wasn’t as mad as everyone thought. The world of the Dark Days Club, a shadowy organization of humans who fight earth-bound demons, has become aware of Helen and her latent supernatural abilities that will enable her to join their ranks. It’s a lot for anyone to take in, the fact that London society has a lot more dangers than just scheming mamas and rakish lords. But Helen is a practical girl, and when faced with irrefutable proof of demons’ existence, she willingly joins the fight.
Even-tempered and very concerned with propriety, Helen is an unusual YA protagonist. However, she’s also very headstrong and stubborn, rushing into danger when her friends and allies are threatened. She contains multitudes, y’all. She takes quickly to demon hunting (although she’s not actually allowed to enter the fray that often) once she’s taught the basics; actually, the most difficult part of the whole situation for Helen is the knowledge of what would happen to her if anyone were to discover her activities. Sneaking out of her Aunt and Uncle’s house in the middle of the night, with only a maidservant as a chaperon? Going off to dark alleys for clandestine meetings with men? Best-case scenario, Helen would be ruined. Worst case, she’d be institutionalized. This bracing reality brought a palpable tension and urgency to Helen’s sneaking around that added some excitement to the slower parts of THE DARK DAYS CLUB.
Helen’s relationships with her maidservant Darby and her Dark Days Club mentor Lord Carlston were very well developed. Helen and Darby form a close friendship despite their class differences – which were obviously a huge deal in the Regency era – and Darby becomes the only person in whom Helen can confide her fears about what the Dark Days Club expects from her. Their friendship was awesome, and I loved seeing the two young women fight for each other – and fight demons together. Helen’s relationship with Lord Carlson is an entirely different story. They have amazing chemistry and an obvious connection (despite the fact that everything is unspoken, according to social conventions) but there are also compelling reasons why they can’t be together. Like Carlson’s wife. There’s some very dark drama in this one, especially for a YA novel!
Alison Goodman clearly did a ton of research in preparation to write THE DARK DAYS CLUB because her version of Regency England is absolutely flawless, from the minutiae of upper class etiquette to the grim reality of the slums of inner London. My only real issue with this one was the fact that the initial set up of the story takes about 150 pages. That’s insane! The book felt quite bloated at almost 500 pages, and I think it could’ve done with a serious paring down. If you’re able to see past a slow beginning, you should absolutely pick up THE DARK DAYS CLUB, because it’s a fun, fascinating adventure through the streets of London in search of a great evil that also features some great ships. What’s not to like?