Lady Helen and the Dark Days Club by Alison Goodman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Oh, how I adored Lady Helen's rich and beautiful world! I have not been able to find many decent YA historical fiction novels as of late, so this one was a welcome addition to my bookshelf.
Ah, Regent London - what a time! I love reading about England in the 1800's, since it was such a time of change for the country. It was obvious from page one that Goodman had done extensive research on the customs of the time, and this made the story feel real. The historical aspects of this novel also melded seamlessly with the fantasy elements, making the Reclaimers and Deceivers seem as legitimate as the Prince Regent and his fondness for ostentatious clothing. Only thorough research and great writing could achieve that, so major kudos to Goodman!
Speaking of which, I thought the idea of Reclaimers and Deceivers was unique, well thought-out and thus enjoyable. It makes sense for the time, but would make equal sense had this novel been set in 2016. I think that is a cornerstone of great urban fantasy writing - can your world stand the test of time?
The characterisation in this novel was flawless. Each of the ancillary characters was three-dimensional, and Lady Helen herself was both badass and proper - very appropriate for her station and era. The romance in this novel was beautiful, well-developed over a long period, and not at all central to the plot. In my opinion, this is the best way to write a romance, and so I will go to my grave shipping Helen with a certain gentleman.
Fair warning, however - this book is long, and it reads long. I would not pick up this novel for a casual weekend read. The pacing is much better at the end, though, so the last ~150 pages went by in a flash. Personally, I think the beautiful prose made up for the lengthiness of this book.
Overall, this was a brilliant read that seamlessly combined history and fantasy to create a truly enjoyable story. I would recommend this to anyone who enjoys well-written historical fiction with intriguing characters, but does not mind a long read.
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