“A clandestine group he called the Dark Days Club.” (Goodman, 173)
Prepare to be immersed in the world of high society in London of 1812. It is here you will find chivalry, scandal, judgement, propriety, and a hidden force of the supernatural among lords and ladies. Alison Goodman has done an exquisite job of immersing us into detailed time period imagery and well developed characters.
“I have worked hard to make the London of 1812 and its social milieu as accurate as I possibly can, as well as maintaining a strict eye on the actual events that occur in the background of the action.” (Alison Goodman, Author’s Note).
The plot: Lady Helen has been brought up in a world of high society and social propriety. She is under direct pressure from her Aunt and Uncle to be presented to society for the availability of marriage. It is during this time that she meets a mysterious lord with an unsavory past and reputation. She is dragged in to a world of the supernatural, hidden in plain sight, and slowly learns of her “natural abilities” inherited from her mother, a traitor of the crown. With the pressure to host her own presentation ball and find a suitable husband, will she also be able to handle learning that she is destined to fight evil?
“I am no warrior, sir, nor do I aspire to be. I have been taught to sew and sing and dance, and my duty is to marry, not fight demons.” (Goodman, 242).
Some may view the story building in this one as “slow”, but I feel that it was correctly paced to prove a point and to submerge us in to Lady Helen’s world. Women of this time period were viewed as weak and simple. It was not appropriate for a lady to raise her voice, travel unattended, or find herself alone with one of the opposite sex (it was considered worse to have a soiled reputation than to have taken ill). Ladies were expected to present themselves to proper society, keep moral company, and find themselves a suitable husband to marry and keep a house for. I believe that the time Alison took to create the image of this world and those expectations massively impacted the effect of the story and the reaction Lady Helen shows to what she learns.
Lady Helen’s character is revealed to us layer by layer as Alison builds the story and setting. At first glance, she appears timid and seems to be held back by her mother’s mistake and reputation, but as certain situations and conversations are presented to her, she begins to reveal that she is a reasonable, intelligent, inquisitive, clever and caring young lady. We stand alongside her as she learns of her hidden abilities and reassess her known ability to “read” people. She has had ten years, since the death of her parents, of being raised in the proper ways of a lady, and is now learning that there is more to the world than dinners, tea, and balls.
“I know it is hard to accept, but there are agencies other than human in our cities, and they require certain special abilities to contain.” (Goodman, 173).
Though, Lady Helen is a strong, well developed character on her own, she is not without the necessary shaping of supporting characters.
Lady Helen’s main support comes in the form of the help. Jen Darby is an unseasoned maid in the Pennworth household. Though she had not been employed as long as some of the other maids in the house, Darby was chosen by Lady Helen to be her personal maid because of her bright curiosity and quickness that Helen felt matched her own. Darby proves to be a strong, loyal, and brave ally to Lady Helen.
Lady Helen’s brother, Andrew, shows up several times in the story. He is shown to be caring but stern. He has gentlemanly qualities and holds good morals. He is a decent supporting character, and I am hoping in the future that he is made aware of The Dark Days Club and Lady Helen’s abilities.
Lady Helen’s uncle, Viscount Pennworth, plays a major role in shaping Helen and her future choices. He is a harsh, overly religious, sexist man who uses harsh words and a firm grip for intimidation. His character lends major support to the story building and time period setting.
Aunt Leonore is what constitutes as Lady Helen’s “mother figure” in the story. She is quite similar to Mrs. Bennet from “Pride and Prejudice”. She worries constantly, is quite judgemental of others, and is most definitely married to social obligation and the ideals of proper ladies and being wed. She is the main reason Lady Helen is raised in the ways of high society and has such a hard time accepting the world of The Dark Days Club.
And, what would a story be without a main supporting character as a possible love interest and a conflict instigator? We find ourselves introduced to Lord Carlston by name and reputation firstly. After the mysterious disappearance of his wife, Lord Carlston left London for a period, and suddenly returned. Society fears and loathes him, but we come to find him intriguing and mysterious. He holds secrets that are slowly revealed to Lady Helen and guides her through the confusing world of the supernatural.
With an immense amount of time period imagery, a steady, and necessary story build up, Alison Goodman has delivered us a beautiful story. The characters we meet are complex, interesting, and not without a bit of humor (“Are you bribing the servants again?” Goodman, 41). The world of the supernatural is intriguing and believable and set well in to the story line. I am very much looking forward to picking up the next book in this series!