I’m starting off the year in truly rebellious fashion by bringing you a TOP BOOK OF 2016 on the first day of the new year! Yes, it is probably a bit early to be calling a Top Book of 2016, but this one really, truly is and I recommend that you go out and acquire it immediately. Today’s book, by an AUSTRALIAN author, features meticulously researched historical fiction combined with paranormal beast-slaying in a mash-up that works on every single level. I was lucky enough to receive an ARC of today’s book from HarperCollins Australia during my attendance at the BTCYA event in November 2015.
Without further faffing about, may I present to you…Lady Helen and the Dark Days Club by Alison Goodman! Here’s the blurb from Goodreads:
London, April 1812. Lady Helen Wrexhall is set to make her debut at the court of Queen Charlotte and officially step into polite Regency society and the marriage mart. Little does Helen know that step will take her from the opulent drawing rooms of Mayfair and the bright lights of Vauxhall Gardens into a shadowy world of missing housemaids and demonic conspiracies.
Standing between those two worlds is Lord Carlston, a man of ruined reputation and brusque manners. He believes Helen has a destiny beyond the ballroom; a sacred and secret duty. Helen is not so sure, especially when she discovers that nothing around her is quite as it seems, including the enigmatic Lord Carlston.
Against a backdrop of whispered secrets in St James’s Palace, soirees with Lord Byron and morning calls from Beau Brummell, Lady Helen and the Dark Days Club is a delightfully dangerous adventure of self-discovery and dark choices that must be made … whatever the consequences.
Read it if:
*the thought of demonic creatures invading polite society is so grievous it has you reaching for the smelling salts in case you have a fit of the vapours
*you think the best hiding place for anything that must be kept away from the prying eyes of one’s relatives is down the front of one’s ballgown.
*you like your Darcy-types brooding, dismissive and generally obnoxious – until they get their kit off in an unexpected situation that breaches all bounds of propriety
* you love period dramas and you also love paranormal ass-kicking adventures, and have been waiting, hoping and yearning for someone to put the two together in one thrilling, agitative adventure
I loved this book.
Plain and simple.
When I first read the blurb, I definitely thought that the content sounded like something I would enjoy, but I never expected to be thrust into such an exceptionally well-written work. I truly can’t remember having such enjoyment in discovering a new fantasy series since I first stumbled upon Garth Nix’s Abhorsen trilogy back in the early 2000s. Happily, Alison Goodman is also an Australian author and so I can rest easy knowing that the future of Australian fantasy fiction for young adults will be just as worthy as its past.
The research that has gone into re-creating the Regency period here is just astounding. From the details of clothing to the social interactions to the real-life celebrities of the time that have been slipped in here and there, my mind was thoroughly boggled at how the author managed to translate all that accurate information into a historical novel that also featured major fantasy elements. Impressive, to say the least. The accuracy of the period detail meant that I was immediately immersed in the historical setting and from there the fantasy bits, when they came, seemed a perfectly natural addition to the tale.
Lady Helen is a fully three-dimensional character of (reasonably) steady nerves and an abiding need to remain true to herself in a context in which social roles are ignored at one’s peril. I adored Darby, Lady Helen’s stalwart lady’s maid and appreciated the depth of characterisation of the two main male protagonists, Lord Carlston and the Duke of Selborn. Although it seems that these characters are foils for each other, they both possess personality traits that are largely hidden from public knowledge. While there is some romance in the book (which normally annoys me) it is not the simple love-triangle that we are so often subjected to and it is tempered by the historical setting.
I would have expected that given this is a mash-up of two usually separate genres, that one would be stronger than the other in the finished story, but the fantasy world that has been injected into the existing historical one is well-developed and it seems that there will be plenty more to discover about it in future instalments of the series.
It seems that I will have to now add Goodman’s back catalogue to my TBR list and I encourage you – whether you are a fan of historical fiction or fantasy (or just a bloody good read) – to get your hands on this one ASAP. For your convenience, here are the alternative covers so you can keep a good eye out:
Until next time,