It’s 1812 in England, and Lady Helen Wrexhall is a young woman of means, about to be presented to the Queen and come out into society. The night of the Queen’s ball, she meets Lord Carlston, a disgraced nobleman who finagles his way into her life so he can drop a bombshell: England is infiltrated by a group of terrifying beings (Amazon calls them demons, but I dunno, I feel weird calling them that) who feed off all the negative parts of society, surviving by spreading fear, discord, lust, and an assortment of other deadly sins among the population. These beings, called Deceivers, can only be beaten by a small group of fighters known as Receivers. Turns out Lady Helen is a Receiver (and possibly some kind of Super Duper Receiver, at that), and Lord Carlston wants her to join his merry band, the Dark Days Club.
When I was about a third of the way through this book, I remember thinking that not much had happened yet, but now that I’ve finished it and am looking back on it as a whole, holy crap, so much happened. There are some pretty exciting battles (and I usually skip stuff like that in books, but these had me on the edge of my seat), some very interesting supernatural stuff going on, intrigue and deception, and also plenty of Regency-era romance and clothes.
With any book that’s about someone discovering they have some mysterious and supernatural power, there’s always the question of how they’re going to tell their loved ones and how their loved ones will react. That’s one thing I loved about this book. It’s Jane Austen’s England, so NO WAY can Helen tell anyone the truth about what’s going on with her. She’s a teenager, unmarried, a girl, going off and having completely insane adventures and doing things that are completely inappropriate for her time (like talking to a man without a chaperone, just for starters), and there is just no possible way she can be open with her family and friends about what is occurring. It’d be social suicide, for one thing, and her uncle, who is her guardian and is really a jerk, would probably disown her, for another. I just loved this additional layer that Alison Goodman added to a pretty standard Exceptional Teen story. The Dark Days Club set in the present day would probably be just as exciting, but would lack this delicious bit of scandal it has thanks to the Regency setting.
And as for the setting: Goodman really did an amazing job. I remember at one point being struck by how vividly I could picture the scene, from only a few words on her part. Honestly, every scene came to life. I’m not one for long flowery passages of description, and it seems so often to be a part of historical fiction. The authors are always trying to describe some tool or custom that we no longer use today. Goodman never once did that, and yet I felt I could always picture exactly what was happening.
And lastly, even if this book wasn’t well-written and exciting, it would be worth it for the friendship between Helen and her lady’s maid, Darby, alone. Darby’s awesome. She’s honestly a lot cooler than Lady Helen, to be honest, and I want her to be my friend. Really, the one complaint I have is that it took some time to get going. Once it did, though–I loved it!