The Friday 56: The Dark Days Pact

The Friday 56The Friday 56 is a weekly blog meme hosted by Freda’s Voice. Join us every Friday and share an excerpt from a book you’ve been reading.

Rules:

*Grab a book, any book.
*Turn to page 56 or 56% in your eReader.
*Find any sentence (or a few, just don’t spoil it) that grab you.
*Post it.
*Add your (url) post here in Linky. Add the post url, not your blog url. It’s that simple.

**Be sure to leave a link to your Friday 56 post in the comments!**

His lordship watched the door close behind the two servants, the nail of his forefinger flicking hard against his thumb. He had clearly not realized the extent of Quinn’s and Darby’s affection for one another, and it troubled him. Well, it troubled her, too. Perhaps here was the opportunity to use Delia’s ill-gotten information.

“I believe Mr. Quinn and Darby are well on their way to a deep attachment,” she said carefully.

I don’t read historical fiction often, but when I do I find myself drawn to novels with fantastical elements. The Lady Helen series takes place during the Regency Era, but imagines a world where demon-like creatures roam about and a secret society of demon-hunters are determined to destroy them. You can read my mini-review of this sequel, The Dark Days Pact by Alison Goodman, here. Cover is linked to Goodreads.

From the Goodreads Synopsis:

      “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.

Mini Reviews: The Dark Days Pact + Flame in the Mist

MiniWriting slumps are the worst when it comes time to write a review or discussion post. I’ve found a way to work through those slumpy times by utilizing the mini-review. It’s loads less stressful when I know all I got to do is make my brain work for a paragraph or so before allowing it to check out again. This week I’ve got mini-reviews for Alison Goodman’s sequel The Dark Days Pact and Renée Ahdieh’s highly anticipated Flame in the Mist. Covers below are linked to Goodreads.

Title: The Dark Days Pact
Author: Alison Goodman
Series: Lady Helen, #2
Pages: 496
Publisher: Viking Books for Young Readers
Release Date: January 31st 2017

      “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.

swirl (2)

“She wet her lips, remembering the animal savagery she had felt on the arrival of her full Reclaimer strength. She had lost precious reason, all control, and had tried to kill his lordship. It had been one of the most terrifying moments of her life. One that she did not want to repeat.

Alison Goodman delivers another intriguing novel with The Dark Days Pact, sequel to the first installment in her Lady Helen series. Since learning that the world is a much more dangerous place than she ever imagined, Lady Helen has finally embraced this new world full of demons and accepted that she has a role to play in protecting humanity as a Reclaimer. Lord Carlston is determined to complete her training before the Grand Deceiver makes his or her appearance, but time is running out and Lady Helen isn’t quite sure if she can live up to his expectations. Just like the first novel, with this one I was hoping to read a more action-packed novel. If you don’t go into this one or the previous installment understanding that it’s a slow-paced kind of novel that does eventually culminate in an exciting ending, it might be a really frustrating read. The conflict in this sequel focuses more on the on-going politics within the Dark Days Club. Though its members should be looking out for the good of humanity, their personal biases and motivations pit them against one another. I did find it kind of frustrating that Helen was a bit naive when it came to the machinations of these players, but the storyline is really driven by Helen’s big heart and thus her capacity to be manipulated because of it. The ending for this one knocked the air right out of me–even when I did see a particular twist coming–but I’m eager to read where Lady Helen’s story goes from here.

Rating: 3/5

★★★


Title: Flame in the Mist
Author: Renée Ahdieh
Series: Flame in the Mist, #1
Pages: 393
Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers
Release Date: May 16th 2017

      “The only daughter of a prominent samurai, Mariko has always known she’d been raised for one purpose and one purpose only: to marry. Never mind her cunning, which rivals that of her twin brother, Kenshin, or her skills as an accomplished alchemist. Since Mariko was not born a boy, her fate was sealed the moment she drew her first breath.
      So, at just seventeen years old, Mariko is sent to the imperial palace to meet her betrothed, a man she did not choose, for the very first time. But the journey is cut short when Mariko’s convoy is viciously attacked by the Black Clan, a dangerous group of bandits who’ve been hired to kill Mariko before she reaches the palace.
      The lone survivor, Mariko narrowly escapes to the woods, where she plots her revenge. Dressed as a peasant boy, she sets out to infiltrate the Black Clan and hunt down those responsible for the target on her back. Once she’s within their ranks, though, Mariko finds for the first time she’s appreciated for her intellect and abilities. She even finds herself falling in love—a love that will force her to question everything she’s ever known about her family, her purpose, and her deepest desires.”

swirl (2)

“Mariko bit back a scream as clanking metal and rustling bodies converged in the nearby shadows. Chaos grew with each passing moment. The flames in the norimono leapt higher. Faster. Their heat turned her skin pink. She clasped her fingers tight, smothering her coughs as she shrank farther into the corner.

I had a tremendous amount of expectations going into Renée Ahdieh’s Flame in the Mist, the first installment in her newest series. The Wrath and the Dawn is one of my favorite duologies and I am still struck by the beauty of Ahdieh’s writing. Flame in the Mist unfortunately did not meet my expectations. It’s a novel that I really wanted to like, but I never felt fully immersed in its world. I liked the concept of the story more than it’s execution. I liked the idea of a girl disguising herself as a boy in order to uncover the truth about the failed assassination attempt on her life, but Mariko herself felt like an incomplete character. We’re told countless times that she is odd and clever, but I never felt that the story actually showed these characteristics in action. She infiltrates the Black Clan, a group of thieves who she believes tried to kill her, but she never really has a concrete plan on how to find answers to her questions. I found myself really frustrated while reading this one because a lot of time is spent on character introspection. I wouldn’t mind this normally since inner conflict is a good sign of a character-driven novel which I love, but so many times these characters were reflecting on things I’d already been told and it felt very superfluous. The book has this really interesting magical element that is not explored enough and which I wanted so bad to learn more about. In the end, I never felt an emotional connection to any of the characters which really affected the way I received this book.

Rating: 3/5

★★★

The Friday 56: The Dark Days Club

The Friday 56The Friday 56 is a weekly blog meme hosted by Freda’s Voice. Join us every Friday and share an excerpt from a book you’ve been reading.

Rules:

*Grab a book, any book.
*Turn to page 56 or 56% in your eReader.
*Find any sentence (or a few, just don’t spoil it) that grab you.
*Post it.
*Add your (url) post here in Linky. Add the post url, not your blog url. It’s that simple.

**Be sure to leave a link to your Friday 56 post in the comments!**

“She searched her friend’s face. Millicent appeared outwardly calm, but Helen could see the tiny signs of fear. It was not surprising—so much had been placed upon their one minute before the Queen. No doubt she herself had the same tight eyes and jaw.”

This week I’m spotlighting Alison Goodman’s The Dark Days Club. I love when authors add a paranormal or fantasy twist to historical fiction. This one is about a girl who discovers, upon entering her first Season, that she has the ability to fight the demon-like creatures that have been lurking in the shadows of London. You can read my full review of this one here. Cover is linked to Goodreads.

Goodreads Synopsis:

“London, April 1812. On the eve of eighteen-year-old Lady Helen Wrexhall’s presentation to the queen, one of her family’s housemaids disappears-and Helen is drawn into the shadows of Regency London. There, she meets Lord Carlston, one of the few who can stop the perpetrators: a cabal of demons infiltrating every level of society. Dare she ask for his help, when his reputation is almost as black as his lingering eyes? And will her intelligence and headstrong curiosity wind up leading them into a death trap?

**Side Note: August sign-ups for the Comment Challenge are now open. I’m co-hosting this challenge with Lonna @ FLYLēF. For this challenge, we’re pairing you with another blogger and all month long you will be commenting on the each other’s blogs. If you’re interested, you can find all the info here.**

The Dark Days Club by Alison Goodman

The Dark Days Club by Alison Goodman

Title: The Dark Days Club
Author: Alison Goodman
Series: Lady Helen, #1
Pages: 482
Publisher: Viking Books for Young Readers
Release Date: January 26th 2016 

      “London, April 1812. On the eve of eighteen-year-old Lady Helen Wrexhall’s presentation to the queen, one of her family’s housemaids disappears-and Helen is drawn into the shadows of Regency London. There, she meets Lord Carlston, one of the few who can stop the perpetrators: a cabal of demons infiltrating every level of society. Dare she ask for his help, when his reputation is almost as black as his lingering eyes? And will her intelligence and headstrong curiosity wind up leading them into a death trap?

swirl (2)

“Through the blue haze she saw him throw back his head and smile up at the Pavor, the glass knife still in his hand. Helen had never seen such a smile. It was beyond joy; an ecstasy of total abandon. Of madness. There was no boundary left within him, and it was terrifying.”

Alison Goodman’s The Dark Days Club is a great blend of paranormal and historical fiction. Lady Helen Wrexhall is preparing for her first Season, and while she should be excited, no one is letting her forget that her mother’s sordid reputation is already a mark against her. Helen knows she ought to make it public knowledge that she condemns her mother just like everyone else, but despite this, Helen still remembers her fondly and can’t quite believe that her mother was a traitor like everyone says. There’s also the fact that no one has ever been able to explain Helen’s strange ability to read people so easily, to see beyond pretty smiles and hollow affability, and she wonders if perhaps something in her parents’ past might explain. Though her brother and uncle expect her to behave like a proper lady in order to secure a husband, Helen holds herself to different standards. When a housemaid that no one seems to care about except the other servants, Helen takes it upon herself to discover what happened.

Throughout the novel, Helen is pulled into two different directions. When she discovers that the world holds horrors that she never could have dreamed of, even in her worst nightmares, she must decide if she can accept the strange calling to defend those ignorant of this hidden world. But it is still 1812 and Helen is expected to marry, she has obligations toward her family that cannot be ignored. She has grown up knowing that her greatest accomplishment will be an advantageous marriage, so when she meets Lord Carlston, who believes she can help fight the demonic entities feasting on the people of England, she finds it hard to believe. Helen has more gumption than she realizes, she’s brave and determined. While those in her social class are more likely to ignore those below them and dismiss members of their own class involved in scandalous situations, Helen has a much bigger heart and sees the worth in those others are so willing to dismiss.

While the story itself is not the most unique, the author’s care in telling a story during the Regency Era is what sets it apart. The framework for The Dark Days Club is similar to two books I’ve read this year: Tarun Shanker and Kelly Zekas’s These Vicious Mask and Cindy Anstey’s Love, Lies and Spies, but of the three, I liked this one the most. It’s easy to see how important it was to the author to capture the atmosphere of the era and while I enjoyed the details included, I can also see why these details would make the pacing feel slow for those looking for a more fast-paced story. Also affecting the pacing was the lack of action in the novel. While there are a handful of fight scenes, I was hoping the protagonist would be much more involved. It’s clear that this first book functions more like an introduction to this world where the protagonist must decide if she will join the fight. I believe this aspect will be rectified in the sequel, which I am really looking forward to.

Rating: 4/5

★★★★