Friday, 22 January 2016

Review: The Dark Days Club

The Dark Days Club
Rating: 5/5
Buy or Borrow: BUY BUY BUY! 
Source: Copy Courtesy of the Publisher, Walker! 

London, April 1812. Eighteen-year-old Lady Helen Wrexhall is on the eve of her debut presentation to the Queen. Her life should be about gowns and dancing, and securing a suitable marriage. Instead, when one of her family's housemaids goes missing, Lady Helen is drawn to the shadows of Regency London, full of demonic creatures and deadly power.

There, she finds William, the Earl of Carlston, a man of dubious reputation and infuriating manners. He

is one of the few who can stop the perpetrators: a cabal of powerful demons that has infiltrated every level of society. He believes that Helen, too, is destined to protect humanity, but all he is offering her is danger, savagery and the possibility of madness. Not the kind of destiny suitable to a Young Lady or a life she is sure she wants. On the other hand there is a Duke offering her a normal life, one she has been trained for all her life. 

But Helen finds herself being drawn further and further in to the shadowy world Carlston is offering. Should Helen trust a man whose reputation is almost as black as his lingering eyes? And will her headstrong sense of justice lead them both into a death trap?

"In 1812, Prinny had been regent for one year. Britain was on the brink of war with America, and in its tenth year of almost continuous war with France and its emperor, Napoleon Bonaparte. None of these countries, however, knew there was another, even older war being waged."
Well, well, well, I had a feeling I was going to love this book, it was pitched as "Jane Austen meets Cassandra Clare" it's set in Regency London and has could I not?! I was definitely not wrong. The Dark Days Club has firmly situated itself as one of my favourite books, and just completely blew me away. I became so immersed in to the world that my notes took on a very distinct Regency manner of speech! I bet this review will as well! I'm just not over the book, it was completely fantastic from start to finish and as soon as I started to read I knew I was going to love it, and I loved the book more and more the more I read and I fell completely in love. It surprised me, it didn't go where I thought it might, it took turns I didn't think it would and I never wanted the book to end as I was reading it! The world was so sumptuous and vivid and authentic!

There's a little introduction page at the beginning of the book that gave me such a shiver of anticipation as well as setting the scene and giving me some quick background information on the time period! Then we go straight in to the story, and it's everything you hope it will be and are expecting it to be and more! 

Helen is introduced to us immediately, and you get such a sense of her as a person just from one chapter, and I immediately loved her, and was on her side. She's fantastically loyal, particularly to a friend in a situation that would have seen most ladies of the time running away from said friend! She's friendly with her servants, Darby being her closest confidant. She's willing to help them as well, which would have been unusual for the time! Helen herself is quite unusual, she's taller than most girls of the time period, she's a debutant that also has some crazy demon slaying destiny, and she's fairly well learned when most ladies of her age would not be, nor would care to be. She's witty, intelligent, and she takes steps to protect her made as well as herself as things come to light. I can't get over how fantastic she is, she's completely different from the majority of YA female leads! I connected to her immediately and continued to love her more and more, feeling what she felt and rooting for her. 

You're immediately curious about Helen's parents and begin to suspect something is amiss. Little tidbits are dropped to drive you mad with intrigue and even when you get some answers, you don't get the one answer you're desperately trying to work out! So hoping for that mystery solved in the next book! Particularly as the Queen herself appears to be on Helen's mother's side! But that's only the start of the mysteries, more on the rest later! Let's talk characters....

Every single character was fantastically created and really came to life as you where reading, you could picture the characters so perfectly and they where complex and in a lot of cases there was or is more than meets the eye! I loved Darby, her ladies maid, she was loyal to Helen as well as her own friend. She was as protective as she could be of Helen, and she's there for her every step of the way supporting her and helping her with her plans. I'd love to know more about her in the next book, and she definitely has a larger part to play! 

Lord Carlston was an interesting character, I don't want to give too much away, which makes most of my notes redundant actually! BUT, he has a very shady reputation, like done something really bad and all of society is determined to shun him as best they can, except he has some friends in high places! As such, Helen's family hate him, but he knows about her mother and what's going on with Helen herself, he's pretty much decided he's her mentor. I actually really loved his character, I liked how there's this mystery to him and you're not entirely sure what the real story is, so for all you know he could actually be really dodgy, but you get to know his character you're like noooo there's a proper explanation and he's innocent, much like Helen's thought process! I'm waiting to find out the truth to be honest! He was a bit tough to crack in the beginning, he was cold and rude,  but as Helen gets to know him you see more and more of what he's really like as well as why he is the way he is and he's kinda perfect. He's pretty much really misunderstood and I loved how he was protective of Helen if when she wasn't sure she'd actually join him and the Dark Days Club. Helen's right though, his manners are awful! 

The supporting characters as well, are equally as well created, and complex, they're colourful and lively and add so much to the story just by being present. A lot of them you don't really see much, but I'm hoping to see more of some of them in the next book, as well as learn more about them. I really liked Helen's brother Andrew, he made me chuckle and was so open with his emotions compared to Helen, although I did want to smack him one at a couple of points! He was there for Helen in the end though! 

Quinn is another interesting supporting character I'm itching to know more about, he's Carlston's Terrene. What's that I hear you ask? That'd be giving too much away! The deranged mentor of Calrston's, was very well created, he made my skin crawl and made me feel mildly sickened. Then you have Lady Margaret and her brother Mr Hammond, I'd love to know how they came to be involved in things! I'm also looking forward to seeing more of the pair and their backgrounds hopefully! Duke Selburn (more of him shortly!), Beau, Millicent and so on, so many smaller characters helping to add to the story and create the atmosphere and setting so perfectly! 

Now we've covered characters, I'm sure you're all itching to know about the romance! The romance is  very subtle. We spend most of the book watching Helen and Carlston getting to know each other and watching things slowly building up. There's cute scenes, don't get me wrong, but they're further in to the book as the two have gotten to know each other better and feelings are beginning to develop! All of this culminates in a scene near the end that had me quietly cheering (because it was nearly 5am), and then the very end of the book was totally cute and made me so excited for the next book! The romance isn't the main point of the plot, and I loved that it was subtle and the romance didn't jump straight in. The pair have some definite chemistry that becomes more and more apparent, and it leaps off the page. 

One thing I dislike in YA is insta-love so I loved watching Helen and Carlston get to know each other, be surprised by each other as they learn new things about the other. They both have a lot more in common other than both being ya know...what they are, and their opinions of each other clearly change as they learn. They're both logical and intelligent, rationalists. I think they both surprised each other at varying different parts of the book, and you see them slowly get to know each other and then like I said, it perfectly segues in to developing feelings. Developing. I say that for a reason because we are literally just seeing the beginning of the potential romance, and I'm excited to see they're relationship develop more over the course of the next book and see where it goes! 

Their first meeting though, I just have to mention it because I kind of wanted to smile and chuckle a bit, but at the same time I really wanted to smack him one! Much like Helen, actually! I loved how Helen didn't give him the nicest description in the beginning either, and you could see Helen's feelings develop and change as her descriptions of him changed, which was a lovely touch to be honest! 

I'm not gonna lie, I'm pretty much on the Helen and Carlston ship, (do they have a ship name?) like as soon as they first met I was like YUP! I SHIP IT! I'm also fairly certain Helen is set on Carlston as well. So yeah, I have picked my team and my ship and so because I immediately loved the two of them together, and their back and forth, it added another dimension to watching the whole getting to know you oops now I have feelings, thing!  There's some interesting obstacles in their way as well, and the way is not smooth in this book either, there's trust issues and some drama but like I said, I do find them kinda cute when he's not being all jerky. I'm so excited to learn about Carlston and hopefully have one of the obstacles removed, but it looks like it's going to be an interesting romance and not straight forward. No drama for the sake of drama, but perfectly natural and organic obstacles before things can be settled. I really hope I'm correct, because if the author goes in a different direction with the romance I'll look back at this and probably cry! 

Although, speaking of obstacles, I loved how Helen's struggle over whether or not to join The Dark Days Club was so completely authentic. It's a perfect example of what I'm talking about, no drama for the sake of drama, it's a completely natural obstacle. Considering the time period and the situations being a Reclaimer throws her in to, and what things where like for women of the time, her concerns about joining where very real. She's risking a lot by joining, her sanity, her reputation and so on, so it's a very genuine struggle and because she's intelligent and logical and weighs everything she can see both sides, good and bad of joining or not joining. I can't really blame her for hesitating! I love how you have that level of understanding of Helen! 

Now. I'm not entirely sure if there is going to be a love triangle. The previously mentioned Duke Selburn has an interest in Helen, an interest that doesn't go away no matter what situation she gets herself in to that isn't entirely proper. He and Carlston have an interesting background together, and I'm not entirely convinced that Selburn really does like Helen and doesn't want to just one up Carlston, or isn't seeing his past love when he see's Helen. Selburn is kind of the perfect contrast to Carlston, he too has things in common with Helen, but has a different countenance to him than Carlston. Or does he? Thinking about it, there's a bit near the end that made me wonder about him actually. ANYWAY, he's an interesting potential romance. He can offer Helen a normal life, and a way out from her Uncle and his douchey nature. 

We don't actually see much of Selburn or get to know him as much as Carlston, I'm wondering if that might change in the next book. Like I said, I'm not sure if there is going to be a love triangle but like he seems pretty determined, and even though Helen seems fixed on Carlston and joining his cause and has seemed to settle on not having a normal life, I'm wondering if it might change or if maybe she does have some sort of feelings for Selburn, not as strong as Carlston but maybe. I'm not sure. If there is going to be a love triangle, it's definitely going to be an interesting one for many reasons! 

So at this point, you're probably dying to know what Helen and Carlston are. All I'm going to say is the book introduces us to the Reclaimers. Helen and Carlston are two of 8 in the country, and they are part of the Dark Days Club. The club also has other members who gather intelligence, and they fight Deceivers aka demons. They have plenty of different gifts, but eventual madness is a consequence of using them. Helen is tied up in a prophecy, there's signs of a Grand Deceiver coming ( I snorted so hard at the implication Bonaparte was one) and the game could change. This is a brief, very brief, explanation without going in to too much detail, because there is seriously so much to the story and what they are! 

The lore of the demons in the book and the mythology surrounding the Reclaimers is rich and detailed and very well explained, as well as astoundingly original. There's different kinds of demons that feed on different things. The demons and how they operate is original, and I just love original spins on things! You come away from the book feeling like you really did enter the world, you have such a complete understanding without reading pages and pages of explanation, it's all slotted in to the dialogue and is so fascinating that you're gripped and eager to learn more. So my very brief explanation is merely the tip of the iceberg, there is so much to learn and it all gives your imagination a workout! 

I really, really liked that it didn't jump straight in with the demons right at the beginning, it builds up to it, adding to the mystery that Helen is trying to solve. You could tell something weird was going on but you weren't sure what was going on, you where kept guessing as you, along with Helen, tried to work out what she was, what she could do and so on. The introduction of this shadowy world was gradual, strange events occur, Helen discovers more and more things she can do, and you make some guesses, and the intrigue and the suspense builds....then there's the reveal. I think the reveal was done right at the perfect moment in the story and fit with the pace, and I loved how when Carlston does the whole reveal thing, there are still surprises that you aren't expecting, within the lore and the mythology and what they can do and so on! I must say, I was delightfully surprised at the detail to it all! I've read so many that don't delve in to it too much, but everything is laid out in a fantastic amount of detail so you can fully understand the workings of the Reclaimers. 

I just have to mention Helen's abilities for a minute, she immediately displays some of them, and it really gets you excited for what's to come especially when you know some of the ones that are coming. The strength coming on was a fantastic scene *fans self*, I wasn't sure what to expect from it and I loved the position it put Helen in, being able to fight back. I loved the Chi thing, it was something I'd not seen done before! I particularly loved how she could predict/calculate what would happen next in situations, particularly potentially violent ones, and could see the steps needed to prevent them and so on, the way it was written when she uses this ability really reminded me of the Sherlock Holmes films! I also loved the way Helen reading people was described! So much thought has gone in to the book! 

I immediately fell in love with the world of the book, and it was obvious that a hell of a lot of research had gone in to it. It doesn't romanticise the time, I mean the talk of the hair pads, uncomfortable clothing, and ya know....what happens if you need to pee while waiting to be presented! While that was quite gross, I did actually chuckle at the whole, men using sawdust to bulk out their calves, and women using wax rather than the more modern chicken fillets! The author has done a hell of a lot of research on events at the time, phases of the moon, etiquette, people of the time, publications of the time and what life was like and more! 

You genuinely are thrown straight back in time to Regency London, you can picture the streets and the settings so clearly, smell the food, feel the heat of the dance rooms. You're fully brought in to the world in how authentically created it is. No to mention the fact that real historical events have been smoothly tied in to the plot, with a twist to bring them fully in to the world of the book, and it's so brilliantly done that you immediately accept the alternate explanation like "yup, can totally see that happening".  Other events are mentioned to give you an idea of the political climate of the book, and what else was going on in the world, events that weren't tied entirely to the plot, but just added a nice touch to bring you in to the world. Not to mention the historical figures added to the book, some that you see more than others like Beau and others you only see in passing like Byron that helps to set the scene. Not to mention the characters authentic reactions to Byron and Beau, in particular! 

I just completely fell in love with the world of the book as I fell in to it, despite it not pulling it's punches and showing the harsher sides to living in that time as well as the glamour of the dances and being presented and so on. Like I wouldn't have liked to have lived in that time, or at least not as one of the ton and being married off to any bloke with good standing, not one that you necessarily like! I wanted to smack her Uncle so many times, preferably with a heavy object for being such a d**k! I mean I know he was a "product of his times" but he made me so damn angry and how he treated Helen and spoke to her and ugh. Yeah. Women couldn't really do much and didn't have all that much control basically.

The writing was beautiful with some fantastic descriptions, including the not so flattering one of Carlston where she says he basically has eyes like a shark. Hey! I told you she's not that flattering of him in the beginning! As well as the stunning and vivid descriptions, the writing was compelling with a steady pace that ramps up as the action does and we head towards the end! Every word rang with authenticity. The entertaining narrative, the dialogue, all of it was authentic in the language and phrases used, without being a heavy read. I loved that. That I felt like I was reading an actual book from the time period, without being bored, or struggling, in fact I was gripped the whole way through! 

It was also incredibly atmospheric, each setting have an atmosphere to go with it that was practically a physical thing, that rises off the page and surrounds you, drawing you in to the book more and more until you get completely lost in the book. That is, coincidentally, how I ended up reading until gone 5am! And THAT is probably why I found some bits creepy. Like there where some bits that where creepy in general, but made even more creepy by the fact I was reading it at night, when everyone else was asleep and kept hearing strange noises! The fight scenes where also fantastically written! They where gripping and had you on the edge of your seat, just as much as the social situations fraught with backstabbing Ladies and people watching and judging your every move. 

The plot is fantastic. Like I said, we build up to the big reveal and learning about the world, which gives time for the author to let you get to know the characters, the world and what things are like in that world. Not to mention to show you how much Helen overcomes and develops over the course of the book! It's got a fantastic pace, and there are so many threads! The missing maid, who Carlston is, what really happened with him, Helen's life, what she is, the man following her, and that's just some of them. Seriously. There's so many fantastic threads, that weave together perfectly to create one hell of a gripping and enchanting plot. Each thread adds another element to the plot, another piece of intrigue to keep you guessing. Not to mention the surprising plot twists, and some that where downright shocking, I actually gasped and choked on what I was drinking! 

I would fully agree with the description about being Jane Austen crossed with Cassandra Clare, I would however, say that Dark Days Club is darker than the Mortal Instruments, and as much as I love Mortal Instruments, I think this is on another level. I'm kind of leaning towards saying it's more grown up and definitely doesn't shy away from the seedier elements of Regency London! I completely loved the mix of these darker elements with the lighter ones such as the dances, and the humour. 

The build up to the ending of the book ramped up the tension, like I said, I stayed up until 5am because I couldn't put it down and was completely engrossed in the world of the book! It was the perfect build up of everything that had been going on, and the scene with her Uncle! SO MUCH FIST PUMPING! I can't even with the end! It got me so excited for the next book, and it's a YEAR wait! A YEAR! I can't cope that long without more Lady Helen! Like I've said, I can't decide if a love triangle's coming, or just a problem in general, there's so many possibilities for the next book and the direction of the story!

I'm so excited to see what's going to happen next, I'm in complete desperate need of the next book and I'm really not looking forward to the incredibly long (A YEAAAAARRR) wait! So many questions where answered, but there's more questions and some questions left unanswered, mysteries left unsolved and I'm hoping to see them sorted in the next book because my curiosity for some of them is killing me, and all my theories have been shot down and they're getting more and more elaborate and ridiculous now! 

The authors note is a font of knowledge, giving you even more than you picked up over the course of the book, and showing you just how much the author has done. I was in awe at her researching abilities and dedication to making it so completely accurate! As a history nerd I'm so blown away by it and insanely jealous of her resources! There's also confirmation that not much has been tweaked to fit the story! I particularly loved the note "To my knowledge, there is also no documentation that supports the assertion that Napoleon Bonaparte was a Grand Deceiver.....but you never know" *snorts*

SO this has been an incredibly gushing review, but I am 100% in love with this book, the world, the characters and just everything. I mean the book has everything you could want, rich mythology, manners, romance, a fantastic female lead, lively characters, vivid settings, astounding historical accuracy, originality, heart stopping fight scenes, cool gadgets and a perfectly building romance with plenty of cute moments to keep you going! Not to mention the previously mentioned perfectly created, gripping plot! How could you not love that!? It sucks you in, you lose track of time and reality and fall on to the streets of Regency London. As the ending neared I wanted the book to last longer and found myself getting sadder as the page numbers went up and up. I'm just still completely in awe of this book and blown away and I immediately want to dive back in! Roll on the next books, and more adventures! 

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