WARNING: the synopsis will spoil you for the FIRST book of this series, so if you don’t want to be spoiled – go read and come back so we can discuss!
The Dark Days Pact by Alison Goodman
Series: Lady Helen (#2)
Genres: Paranormal, Historical Fiction
Publication: January 31st 2017 by Viking Books for Young Readers
June 1812. Just weeks after her catastrophic coming-out ball, Lady Helen Wrexhall—now disowned by her uncle—is a full member of the demon-hunting Dark Days Club. Her mentor, Lord Carlston, has arranged for Helen to spend the summer season in Brighton so that he can train her new Reclaimer powers. However, the long-term effects of Carlston’s Reclaimer work have taken hold, and his sanity is beginning to slip. At the same time, Carlston’s Dark Days Club colleague and nemesis will stop at nothing to bring Helen over to his side—and the Duke of Selburn is determined to marry her. The stakes are even higher for Helen as she struggles to become the warrior that everyone expects her to be.
This was such a fun and intense sequel. Unlike a lot of second book sequels, this one isn’t a filler story. In fact, it contributed so much to the progression and intensity of the series. This sequel involves a very intriguing story that’s built on a great foundation provided by the first novel. We get a wider scope of the world of reclaimers and demons, and experience it through Helen’s perspective. A large focus in the story involves the dark days club being super convinced that Carlston isn’t loyal or stable for the club, so SPYING!
I really liked all the twists and turns – and the plot thickens. The suspense killed me.
Amongst all the seriousness of particular situations, there’s a subtle sort of humour all throughout the plot.
The action and fight scenes in the last half of the book are epic – I could not put the book down. The ending had me so shook.
I really enjoyed the historical setting and detail in this book. With the backdrop of regency England, the worldbuilding in this series is amazing. It feels so authentic, vivid, and completely immersive. However, the details didn’t overwhelm nor bore the story, rather add to it as the plot progressed. There sure are some weird aspects to this series, but I think it’s the strangeness that makes it so unique and enjoyable. I absolutely love the idea of adding monsters and supernatural elements into a historical world.
I enjoyed most of the characters and their development. The friendships forged in this novel make me so happy. Also, I believe there is a character who is gay but I don’t want to assume their identity so I’m a bit reluctant giving this label since it’s not completely clear. Often homosexuality is unintentionally villainised by the author or treated with disgust by the characters in historical fiction, but I think it was handled well. The reactions were realistic yet respectful.
Helen fighting the patriarchy was literally my source of empowerment. And her struggles fuelled my resentment, bitterness and anger. We find her getting more familiar with her powers and training, but not without lows. I enjoyed how although she was dedicated and level-headed, she still struggled with her duty as a reclaimer and got kicked around sometimes. She’s realistic. I admire her resilience and the book shows how capable and strong she is. Another aspect of her character I admire is the fact that she knows her limits, when to call for help. She makes decisions AFTER getting enough information and doesn’t complain about the work she has to put in.
This time period is clearly a man’s world but this doesn’t stop Helen from bending social norms. I can’t phrase it properly, but I think this is done so well because Helen doesn’t completely subvert the patriarchy or change the world in that way. Rather, she undermines it sometimes through subtle actions, evolving her thinking, but also accepts sometimes she needs to abide by social rules being confined and limited. She’s insightful but also super smart being able to manipulate situations in order to achieve her desired outcome. That’s my girl! I think that’s fantastic writing from Goodman in portraying this character.
Darby is amazing and such a feisty addition to her scenes. I wish she had more page time. I love her dedication of Helen (and vice versa).
The siblings, Mr Hammond and Lady Margaret are so precious. They tend to bicker but they’re still great.
Most of the men in this novel are so gross – Selburn, Mr Pike AKA the slimey, disgusting one, and some other ones I’ve forgotten the names of.
Carlston is our resident brooding character who trains Helen in the dark days club (with a side of romantic tension). It’s clear that he cares for her but he shows this WITHOUT treating her like a weakling because she’s a female or acting like a territorial protector. And I’m unbelievably grateful. I really love the admiration and respect between them. He goes through quite some suffering in this novel. I admit his moodiness can be tiresome but hopefully the resolution provides some understanding. His progression towards “insanity” is well written, emphasising his hopeless situation.
Selburn was so irritating and obnoxious. I was just chanting go away whenever he turned up on the page. He feels like a fly who you’ve opened all the windows in the building to let it out, but it still chooses to fly around you. I feel that he has some ulterior motives aside from his unrelenting pursuit of Helen. And even his romantic pursuits are pretty much due to his disgust and jealousy of Carlston. No means no. in fact, I don’t even think of him as a love interest so don’t fret, there’s no love triangle. Or this would be a very distorted triangle.
This is random but I really want to know more about Lady Elise.
The romance in this novel is the definition of slow burn and I love it. It’s really rare in YA (or at least the YA I’ve read) so I really enjoy that aspect of this series. It’s so painful but so good. It’s not the focus which makes sense because there were clearly more dangerous schemes and events going on. Finally, a book whose protagonist has her priorities intact. Okay, she does agonise over her feelings about Carlston but it doesn’t interfere with priorities. This also made all the interactions between Helen and Carlston much more meaningful. We got a little of that angst but I was totally fine with it.
The first half of the novel was slowly paced and it took a while for things to get rolling. BUT, when the action kicked in, it was in full force. The pacing has a similar structure to the first novel of this series having a slower start and a gradual development to an action-packed ending. Unfortunately, this did make it difficult to stay interested in the first half of the novel because as much as I hate to admit it, it was dull. BUT, it was worth it in the end. The slow pacing is probably my biggest problem with this series. I really hope the finale doesn’t wait to pick up without sacrificing the detail and attention to this world and the characters.
I’m liking where the plot is heading and the direction of the series. This book is a roller-coaster of emotions – the strain, ache, grim, fun and humour – it’s there. And it works. I still have so many questions – I need book #3!
What did you think of the book? Did you have a problem with the pacing as well? What are your favourite characters? Comment below!
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