The Dark Days Deceit

Please note that this review may contain spoilers for earlier instalments in this series. You can read my reviews of these novels by clicking the links below:

The Dark Days Club | The Dark Days Pact

The Dark Days Deceit was written by Alison Goodman and first published in 2018. It is the final instalment of the Lady Helen Trilogy, following Lady Helen and Lord Carlston as they hunt down the Grand Deceiver and defend the Crown. As the novel follows on directly from where The Dark Days Club (2015) and The Dark Days Pact (2017) left off, I would strongly recommend reading them in sequence to have the faintest idea of what is going on.

Helen and Carlston have had little chance to test the strength of their new bond but time is running out. Now that they have joined to become the Grand Reclaimer dyad, they know that their counterpart – the Grand Deceiver – will also be growing in power. The problem is, they still do not know the identity of their enemy and only have the vaguest clues to begin their search.

To make it worse, Helen’s wedding to the Duke of Selburn is fast approaching and the Duke is eager for Helen to retire from her Reclaiming duties as soon as they are married. He occupation is clearly dangerous and he makes quite clear that he believes that her place is in the home, bearing him an heir. Although Helen knows that it is her duty to be his wife, she feels torn. Can she really give up her freedom as a Reclaimer and settle down? Worse still, can she really be a faithful wife when she still has strong feelings for Carlston?

When an attempt at harnessing the Grand Reclaimer power goes awry, Lady Helen quickly realises that they have a bigger problem. The magic of the Ligatus that she absorbed during their last battle was never meant to be contained within flesh. Unchecked, it threatens to tear a hole in the fabric of reality and bring instant death to the three who are bound to it by blood – Helen, Carlston and Darby. If Helen does not find a way to reign in its maddening power, there is no way that she will possibly survive to see her wedding day…

If you read my reviews of the previous two books, you may remember that I actually enjoyed them. While I’m not a huge fan of literature set in Regency era England, I did find Goodman’s combination of fast-paced urban fantasy and 19th Century Romance to be refreshingly different and thoroughly engaging. However, I am sad to say that I was really disappointed by The Dark Days Deceit. While The Dark Days Pact did a fantastic job of balancing its two polarising themes, the pacing of this final instalment of the trilogy was unfortunately very poor.

Around 80% of The Dark Days Deceit is devoted to planning the climax. This largely boils down to a lot of scenes of Lady Helen simply talking with the other characters, either about her Reclaimer abilities and the dyad bond or just planning the wedding. In fact, I’d say that a little too much of the novel revolves around the latter. Despite the fact that the hunt for the Grand Deceiver should be of the utmost importance, a staggering amount of the novel busies itself with meal planning, socialising with Selburn’s previously unseen family and wedding dress fabric selection. Selburn seems to be intent in doing everything he can to prevent Helen for fulfilling her duties and, despite the fact that both he and Helen have sworn a binding pact to the Dark Days Club, everyone seems oddly okay with this.

While Goodman does still have a keen eye for detail and is exceptionally good at catching the mood of the era, this time it really did start to grate on me. I doubt that many at this stage are simply reading this novel for its historical accuracy and the attitudes that Helen’s friends and relatives had at times had me tearing at my hair. What, exactly, does Helen need to do at this stage to be recognised as being capable? Even now, after everything that occurred during The Dark Days Pact, she is treated as being hysterical, weak and unintelligent. While I appreciate that these attitudes are accurate to the times, as a modern reader I found them a little tiresome. The part where Selburn implies that he will rape Helen if she does not put out on their wedding night, in particular, rubbed me the wrong way.

I also keenly felt the loss of Mr Amberley in this novel. Helen’s alter ego from The Dark Days Pact offered a great opportunity to show the world from a different perspective, allowing the reader to see the seedy and impoverished side beneath Helen’s typical world of gala luncheons and presentation balls. However, in The Dark Days Deceit, the scope of the world narrows once again. Helen rarely leaves Selburn’s estate and, when she does, she is escorted by a large entourage of women, many of whom are unaware of her secret life as a Reclaimer. This seemed to set the story back to how it was at the beginning of The Dark Days Club, long before Helen discovered he true calling.

I also found myself rather frustrated by the twist this time around. I must admit that I had a hunch about who the Grand Deceiver would ultimately be back when I was reading The Dark Days Pact and quickly realised this time that I was absolutely correct. However, the annoying thing was that I could not figure out why it took Helen so long to come to the same conclusion. Even in the climax, she is surprisingly slow on the uptake even though there is only one character at the wedding who actually fits the prophecy.

The final battle against the Grand Deceiver was a little brief but was at least every bit as exciting as I had hoped. Still, I did feel that the loose ends drew together a little too neatly. The fast pace didn’t allow enough time for the protagonists (and reader) to come to terms with the sudden character deaths, and the happy ending was a little too saccharine for my tastes. While it has always been very obvious who Helen will ultimately end up with, the way that the novel allows for this to happen without scandal just felt a bit over convenient.

In terms of characterisation, I was disappointed to find that The Dark Days Deceit shared many of the same issues that I had with the previous instalments. Despite her strength, reliability and intelligence, Helen is a frustratingly passive character and prefers to internalise her problems rather than acting on them. While I still love her relationship with Darby – and appreciate Darby’s ability to give her mistress a swift reality check when needed – I do wish that Helen would just take responsibility for her own life. Until the climax of this story, she is still very quick to allow others to make her decisions for her.

With the exception of Mr Hammond – who remains the most sympathetic character in the novel – I also found myself frustrated by almost every male character. While I did find myself warming to Carlston this time around, as he does gradually come to show Helen the respect that she deserves, everyone else largely angried up my blood. The manipulation of Helen by the likes of Selburn, Pike and Andrew was simply too much for me and made me struggle to actually get to the end of this novel.

I think that about covers everything. All in all, I was left massively disappointed by this series. While my love of the previous two instalments made me excited to get hold of The Dark Days Deceit, I found it to be a lot slower than the previous books. While the climax was gripping, this was just too little and too late. Unless you are looking for a Regency era novel with a bit of a twist, this unfortunately means that the Lady Helen Trilogy is not one that I would recommend.

The Dark Days Deceit can be purchased as a Paperback, eBook and Audio Book on Amazon.co.uk

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Blog Stats

  • 66,636 awesome people have visited this blog

© Kim Dyer and Arkham Reviews, 2019. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Kim Dyer and Arkham Reviews with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

All novels reviewed on this site are © to their respective authors.

%d bloggers like this: