Review: The Dark Days Club by Alison Goodman

The Dark Days Club by Alison Goodman

The Dark Days Club by Alison Goodman (Lady Helen #1)

Genre: Fantasy of Manners, YA

Publisher: Viking Books for Young Readers on January 26, 2016

Source: Library

Rating StarRating StarRating Starstar_half

London, April 1812. Eighteen-year-old Lady Helen Wrexhall is on the eve of her debut presentation to the Queen.

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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?

Have you read THE DARK DAYS CLUB? What are your favourite historical fantasy novels? Have you read any unusual YA books lately? Let me know in the comments!

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  • Lynn Williams

    Sounds excellent and I do like the cover. I admit that I’m trying to be good at the moment because I am behind so this could be one to keep an eye on for now.
    Lynn 😀

    • The cover definitely drew me in, too! What can I say? I’m a sucker for a lady with a parasol. 😀

  • Lisa (@TenaciousReader)

    Yeah, it does seem unusual to have a YA protagonist concerned with propriety. 😀

    • I know, right?! I’m very curious to see what Goodman does with Helen’s character going forward. So many possibilities…

  • Ugh I really don’t like when authors can’t be brief and concise, yes somethings should be teased out but 150pages is def excessive. Glad you still enjoyed it.
    Tori @ In Tori Lex

    • HA! The slow start would definitely put a lot of readers off, but thankfully I’m okay with a slower-moving story and I was able to push through. Here’s hoping that the second book gets to the action more quickly!

  • I liked this book a lot! The only thing I didn’t like was the kind-of love triangle – I hate love triangles, even a hint of them. I totally get what you’re saying, about the 150 pages bit. I’ve read Eon and Eona by this author, and it was the same situation. I think it’s her writing style, but I do agree with you, it seemed like a lot of nothing. But I can’t wait to read book two!

    Great review, Danya. =)

    Alyssa @ The Eater of Books!

    • I have such a love/hate relationship with love triangles. If they actually make sense, then I can abide them…but I usually feel bad for the second “point” in the triangle. <— That was definitely the case here, since it was obvious Helen only really cared about Carlson.

      Eon and Eona, I remember those books! You're right, that series had a slow start too. But I ended up loving them in the end, so there's hope! I'm really excited for book 2 as well. Gotta love historical fantasy, right? 😀

      Thanks, Alyssa!

  • After reading your review I rushed over to goodreads to add this to my TBR – because it sounds amazing! – to find it’s already on their:). I think I may need to track down a copy for some Halloween reading.

    • Yaaaaay! Spreading the good word, only to find it’s already been spread. Hahaha. I really hope you enjoy this one, Stephanie. Given your love of Regency novels and historicals in general, I feel pretty confident that you’ll really like it. 🙂

  • Sounds like a fun book — I’m a fan of historical fantasy, but the 150-page setup does sound a little daunting!

    • It WAS a bit daunting to begin with, haha. But let’s be real: I’ll put up with a lot for a good, meaty historical fantasy. 😉

  • How did miss commenting on this. I come over because I’m thinking I’d not seen much from you lately and then it turns out I missed an entire review! What is this?

    Anyway, onto the book itself. I completely agree with what your saying on this one. I thought it was way too slow at the start. I mean there is world building and then there is unnecessary information overload. Once you get into the main story, though, it is far more interesting.

    I agree with you on the societal conventions, I liked that they were there. Too often in historical fantasy it’s far too easy for a woman to go prancing around doing what they want with few consequences. I liked that there were obvious consequences for her with society and especially with her family. I did like the set up for the next one, though. It looks like her having more freedom has been well explained at least.

    • HA! It’s likely because I’ve been a bad blogger who doesn’t comment on other blogs/respond to comments over the past few weeks… *hangs head in shame*

      YES, thank you! Definitely information overload. I get that the average reader probably doesn’t have an encyclopedic knowledge of the Regency era but I mean, come on. We don’t need every minute detail explained!

      That was my favourite element of the story, by far. Usually I really enjoy historical fantasies where women *do* have a lot of freedom and more opportunities than they would’ve realistically, because it’s just more fun that way. But this take on things was very refreshing!

      Oooh, I know! The set up of her going to live with them in that spooky country manor? Hell yes, I’m here for it! That’s gonna cause a ton of drama, mark my words. *rubs hands together in glee*

      • That’s ok, we all do it. I’m currently waiting a week at a time to read blog posts and respond to comments. It’s like a whole day thing lost to blogging without actually writing new blog posts!

        I know, I mean it was nice to have some explanation but it definitely felt like it could have been edited down a touch. Or spread out in the book to be given small doses of information overload.

        I am so excited for the next book and it looks pretty good. Fingers crossed it meets expectations. Especially after I read the Eon/Eona duology and liked the first book and hated the second. I don’t want that experience again.

  • I totally agree – for me, the hardest part was actually getting into the story, because of how slow the book seemed to be at times! Do you think you will be reading the sequel?

    • Oh yeah, definitely! I remember reading Eon years and years ago (also by Alison Goodman) and loving it, so I’m going to give this series a solid chance. And I just love Regency settings!

      Will you be reading the sequel, Geraldine?