Book: “The Dark Days Deceit” by Alison Goodman
Publishing Info: Viking Books for Young Readers, November 2018
Where Did I Get this Book: ARC from the publisher
Book Description: Lady Helen has retreated to a country estate outside Bath to prepare for her wedding to the Duke of Selburn, yet she knows she has unfinished business to complete. She and the dangerously charismatic Lord Carlston have learned they are a dyad, bonded in blood, and only they are strong enough to defeat the Grand Deceiver, who threatens to throw mankind into chaos. But the heinous death-soaked Ligatus Helen has absorbed is tearing a rift in her mind. Its power, if unleashed, will annihilate both Helen and Carlston unless they can find a way to harness its ghastly force and defeat their enemy.
Review: Whelp, as I warned, the horrid covers continue. I mean, look, we all know how I feel about cover models: almost always worse than a cover without a model. But if you’re going to go the whole “girl in a dress” route for a historical novel, at least have the basic decency to choose a beautiful dress!!! I mean, what even is that thing? A dress? A weird, wizard robe? And the model’s sneering facial expression doesn’t help matters. Now not only do I have to stare at this ugly cover whenever I pick the book up, but I have to actively concentrating on NOT letting that model take over my imagined image of Lady Helen.
After the events of the previous book, Lady Helen is preparing to become the next Duchess of Selburn. However, her work with the Dark Days Club is in no way over. In fact, the world is becoming more and more dangerous as the threat of the Grand Deceiver looms ever nearer. What’s more, after absorbing the Litigus, Lady Helen is struggling to contain the damage is creating. Will her bond with Lord Carlston as the Grand Reclaimer be enough to stop this oncoming nightmare?
My feelings for this, the final book in the trilogy, are kind of what I expected after reading the second book. The trilogy started out on a massive high, masterfully balancing dark fantasy elements, high-stakes action, and a prim and proper Regency setting. The second book, while moving the larger story forward, did get stuck a bit with its character arc, leaving Lady Helen floundering in indecision a few too many times for my taste. So here, while we never return to the high that was the first book, I ultimately found myself satisfied with the trilogy overall.
Lady Helen’s character, for one, I felt was largely improved in this book. After some of the revelations and resolutions found in the second book, Lady Helen continues to gain a better grasp on the players at work and her own role in the looming battle ahead.
I still enjoy the historical elements of the story, and for fans of period pieces, there are a lot of nice little details that speak to the time. This element of the book will gain better traction with some readers than others. These books are long. They’ve always been long, and this one is no different. So while yes, you’re getting lots of magical battles with demonic creatures, you’re also getting extended shopping expeditions to Bath. Personally, as much as I love these historical details and segments, I do feel like all of the books, including this one, could have benefited from a bit more tightening around the waste. Ideally, this balance would be found in trimming back not only on some of these extended shopping scenes, but also in some of the slower moving fantasy action as well.
I was pleased to find that there were in fact a few twists and turns that came as unexpected surprises. As I mentioned in my reviews of the other books, there were a few secrets that were all too easy to call, even from early in the series. Unfortunately, this aspect of the story, its tendency to be a bit too predictable, didn’t help the aforementioned pacing issues, again causing the book to read as a bit long as slow. However, while some of those “big reveals” did indeed fall flat, there were also a few surprises that did enough to keep me turning pages with interest. I still loved all the gentlelady fighting scenes, and we got even more of them here, in a few unexpected places.
And, of course, readers were all waiting on pins and needles to see how the romance of the story would be resolved. This too was a balance of good and bad for me. I very much like slow-burn romances, and this was nothing if not that. But throughout the trilogy, there was also a tendency to create unnecessary angst through silly decisions and lack of communication that never felt grounded in true characterization. I was pleased with the way the romance was tied up here, though I will say that I wish there had been a bit more of it. Again, if the book is going to insist on being as long as it is, and readers had to go through an entire trilogy full of angst and will they/won’t they-ness, I felt like we deserved a bit more than we got here.
While for me the trilogy never quite lived up to the strength of its initial concept and book, it also stands on its own as a shining example of mixing historical, Regency romance with dark fantasy action. Lady Helen, other than a few moments here and there of indecision, was a fantastic leading lady and aptly carried the trilogy. The romance was solid, perhaps striking different chords for different readers simply depending on preferences. And the fantastical elements and action, while predictable at times, were also exciting and appropriately dark. Overall, the trilogy was an entertaining and reliable, never presenting any major stumbling blocks to its readers and sticking its final landing.
Rating 8: Fans of the first two books are sure to enjoy this one!
“The Dark Days Deceit” is a newer book, so it isn’t on many interesting lists. It is on this one (though I’d debate the use of YA for this series): “YA Regency Fantasy.”
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