Review: The Dark Days Club by Alison Goodman
Book Genre: YA Historical Fantasy Romance
Romance Heat Level: Bell Pepper (clean romance, kissing only)
The Dark Days Club is a fantastic fantasy (see what I did there?) set in Regency-era London. A myriad of social foibles a la Jane Austen mix with a magical and unseen world in which spirit beings hide inside humans a la Cassandra Clare’s Mortal Instruments series.
I am bowled over (in the best possible way) by Alison Goodman’s seamless writing. First of all, she’s a top-notch story-teller without distracting little quirks that often crop up in even popular works (don’t get me started on the often-hissing vampires in Meyer’s Twilight saga). I was impressed by the ease with which she wove in a boatload of research. Regency dances weren’t just named, they were choreographed and danced in vivid detail. Parts of London hitherto only read about, I saw in vivid and living three-dimensional color as though Ms. Goodman had visited these places and then brought me along with her and pointed out everything. Historical details sparkled in scintillating accuracy. I know this type of stuff isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but having written historical fantasy myself, I am simply in awe of Ms. Goodman’s knowledge and skill at weaving it into story.
As you might know from previous posts, I am always on the lookout for romance-well-constructed. I suppose I’ve read too many books where the romance reads as a formulaic ritual: boy meets girl, boy and girl go through three to five building-romance scenes, boy and girl seem good to go, boy or girl does something atrocious and there’s a moment of doubt, and then ah, love, twu love.
While a good romance can certainly use a formula like this in its construction, it goes a step further, I think, to double down on chemistry and connection between the two leads. Goodman’s protagonists could flood a lab with their underlying intense glances and their word games. WORD GAMES. You guys, there is not much better in a romance than a conversation that meets multiple levels of expectation in a reader’s mind. Goodman does not disappoint here.
I will admit to something: it took me a bit to get into this book. I had just come off the high of reading An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir (did you read my review on it?), which was packed with action, angst, romance, fantasy, and more, and I had a tough time changing gears to the more sedate London scene of 1812.
That said, once Lady Helen met Lord Carlston, electricity ignited in those pages, and I read the rest of the book in one sitting, going the next day to the library, and checking out the sequel. At that point, I didn’t know that Book 3 of the series (The Dark Days Deceit) has yet to release in NOVEMBER OF 2018 (*sobs*), and I have since considered everything from traveling to Australia and personally knocking on Alison Goodman’s door, begging for an advanced copy of the book, to hounding her editors to see if they’ll give me an early copy.
Ms. Goodman, if you see a harried-looking American holding copies of your first two books and staring wild-eyed at you in line at a book-signing, be not alarmed. I just got really into your story. It’s all good.
Unless the ending isn’t happily-ever-after. And then there will be tears, and howling, and general misery. Please don’t do that to me.
Excellent book. Excellent, excellent. All five stars, and more if I had them.