Tuesday, January 17, 2017
ARC Review: The Dark Days Pact by Alison Goodman
Title: The Dark Days Pact (Lady Helen, #2)
Author: Alison Goodman
Rating: 4.5 Stars
Release Date: January 31st, 2017
I think The Dark Days Pact might be my favorite of all Alison Goodman's novels to date. This sequel picks up promptly where The Dark Days Club left off with Lady Helen in Bath for the summer, having been cast aside by her aunt and uncle. Now that Helen has discovered that she is a Reclaimer, she is under the tutelage of Lord Carleston as he trains her to join the Dark Days Club. But nothing is quite as it seems... Lord Carleston is prone to illness, a strange Lord Pike is stirring trouble, Helen is confident she's seen a Deceiver in town, and the Duke of Selburn has followed Helen to Bath to renew his offer of marriage. Add to the mix Helen's best friend, Delia, who escapes being sent to an asylum to join Helen and Helen's new vows as a Reclaimer, which compel her to follow the King's orders--even if that means listening to Lord Pike--and The Dark Days Pact is a hell of a ride.
What I love most about this book is the fact that Helen is caught between her upbringing as a noble woman and her duties as a Reclaimer, which demand her to dress and behave as a man on more than one occasion. As the only female Reclaimer in the Dark Days Club, Helen is an anomaly and watching her navigate the constructs placed upon her gender, while keeping to her vows as a Reclaimer, was a wonderful journey. Goodman excels at capturing the intricacies of gender--the fact that the men of the Dark Days Club see Helen as a noble woman despite her strength and contributions to the society--and I loved watching Helen re-define the boundaries to fit her.
Of course, in Victorian England, there is constantly a push-and-pull of societal expectations and the heart, and this comes to light particularly in the romance. The Duke of Selburn can give Helen a good name--something her reputation rather needs--but Carleston understands that she needs freedom and trusts her to follow her instincts instead of constantly protecting her. It's not a love triangle, because it is clear who Helen favors of the two men, but the war between love and duty is one that becomes even more clear in this novel. We see that not only Helen but Hammond, his sister, Helen's maid Darby, and even Lord Carleston are all battling this same war.
I particularly loved getting to know more about Lord Carleston, who is too much of an enigma in The Dark Days Club. We finally unravel the many secrets of his past and, what's best for me is that we see Lord Carleston out of his element. Enemies from his past, such as Lord Pike, plant doubts in the mind of Lady Helen and as Carleston's "illness" gets worse, he acts rashly and out of turn. Carleston isn't entirely in control of his actions and to see him go from a confident leader to a weak figurehead, of sorts, is a twist--one that is as difficult for him as it is for the secondary characters and Helen, especially. I loved seeing the changing relationship dynamics that this brought, though.
And, of course, the plot just continues to thicken. Though we get many answers in this sequel, there are just as many questions remaining and Goodman wastes no time in elaborating upon her world-building. We meet so many more members of the Dark Days Club, understand the bond between Reclaimer and Terrene better, and even have our assumptions about Deceivers put to the test. This is such an intriguing world and though variations of this idea may have been done before--namely in The Infernal Devices--Goodman still manages to make her world wholly unique. I couldn't anticipate the grand majority of plot twists in this novel and the ending threw a knife in my gut; my emotions are a complete mess and I desperately need the sequel to know everything is going to be okay. Goodman doesn't hesitate to do away with characters we're starting to love--or already do!--so I can feel in my gut that the grand finale to this trilogy is going to be an emotional roller coaster for sure.
For fans of The Dark Days Club, this sequel doesn't disappoint in the least. It's a wonderful blend of gender roles, romance, action, paranormal, and plot twists. Helen's difficulty in mastering her Reclaimer skills and fitting into the society of the Dark Days Club--so different from the life of a noble women--is utterly realistic and I love, love, love this strong-willed, determined heroine. The secondary characters--a wonderful blend of genders, sexual identities, and class hierarchies--all make this a historical fantasy novel rooted in diversity and I am eager for more of Goodman's work. I, personally, love the Victorian Era and can never become tired of being thrown back into Jane Austen-esque novels with paranormal twists, so this is among my favorite series. But, even if you aren't as obsessed with Victorian England as much as I am, give this series a shot--it's absolutely worth it and you'll discover a new go-to author as a result.