Genre: Historical Fantasy, YA
Publisher: Walker Books on January 26, 2017
June 1812. Just weeks after her catastrophic coming-out ball…Lady Helen Wrexhall—now disowned by her uncle—is a full member of the demon-hunting Dark Days Club. Her mentor, Lord Carlston, has arranged for Helen and her maid, Darby, to spend the summer season in Bristol, where Helen can sharpen her Reclaimer powers. Then the long-term effects of Carlston’s Reclaimer work take hold, and his sanity begins to slip. At the same time, Carlston’s Dark Days Club colleague and nemesis will stop at nothing to bring Helen over to his side—and the Duke of Selburn is determined to marry her. The stakes are ever higher for Helen, and her decision will truly change the world…
Sometimes I like to take a break from reading and reviewing historical fantasy in an effort to stave off over-saturation or boredom with the genre, but then I’ll read something like THE DARK DAYS PACT and I’m sucked right back in again. Historical fantasy, I can’t quit you! Alison Goodman has outdone herself with this book, which is filled with magic, manners, and the ill use of both. If you’re a fan of historical fiction or historical fantasy, do yourself a favour and give this series a go.
After the events of the first book, Lady Helen has gone to spend the summer in Bath with the Hammonds, ostensibly for her health. But in reality, she’s begun her Reclaimer training in earnest: she practices sensing the demons known as Deceivers, hand-to-hand combat, and even masquerades as a man. If the society ladies were to catch wind of it all, Helen would be ruined forever…which makes the continued presence of the notorious Lord Carlston something of a problem. Because where Carlston goes, rumours, gossip, and intrigue will eventually follow. The powerful Reclaimer, Helen’s mentor, and suspected murderer figures prominently in this story, so your mileage will most likely vary depending upon how you feel about him as a character. While he’s not my favourite romantic hero, he’s unquestionably a good fit for Helen;seeing the two of them work together towards a common goal while trying to resist their inappropriate attraction was delicious.
As if all that tension weren’t enough, Helen must go into society in her male disguise to hunt down Deceivers in the lowest of places to find a cure for Carlston’s growing madness, a side effect of Reclaiming the darkness from the demons he fights. It was fascinating seeing these places through Helen’s eyes, as they’re the kinds of establishments that a gently bred lady shouldn’t even be aware of, yet alone visit unchaperoned. While she has the morals of any noble, Christian, Regency era woman, Helen is certainly more openminded and forgiving than most, but her shock at certain activities was pretty fun to see. If only you knew, girl! Thankfully Helen has a good head on her shoulders and her powerful abilities as a Reclaimer to help see her through…if only they would work the way everyone tells her they should.
If I had to describe THE DARK DAYS PACT in one word, it would be “more.” This book has more action, more intrigue, more danger, and certainly more drama than the series debut, and I loved every second of it. Despite its hefty size, I breezed through this one with my girl Becky in only a few sittings because I was desperate to know what happened next. I only have one quibble about this book, which is the prominence of one Duke Selburn. He is the worst sort of Nice Guy character: someone who thinks he knows best for everyone else simply because he’s a man and a Duke besides. He doesn’t listen to Helen, he tries to manipulate her, and he clearly does not share her agenda, and yet he claims to care for her. Um, okay buddy. We’ll see about that in book three.
Sure, there are some slightly cheesy moments in this story (why is literally everyone in love with Carlston?) and Helen is a bit of a special snowflake, but Goodman’s top notch writing paired with a twisty plot and characters to die for more than makes up for that. Take season one Buffy and give her the morals of an upper class woman from the Regency era and you have Lady Helen Wrexhall. And if that doesn’t convince you to read this series, then nothing will!