Monday, July 30, 2012
Charlotte Markham and the House of Darkling by Michael Boccacino (Giveaway Too!)
Synopsis From Back Cover:
When the nanny to the young Darrow boys is found mysteriously murdered on the outskirts of the village of Blackfield, Charlotte Markham, the recently hired governess, steps in to take over their care. During an outing in the forest, they find themselves crossing over into The Ending, "the place for the Things Above Death," where Lily Darrow, the late mother of the children, has been waiting. She invites them into the House of Darkling, a wondrous place filled with enchantment, mystery, and strange creatures that appear to be, but are not quite, human.
However, everything comes with a price, and as Charlotte begins to understand the unspeakable bargain Mrs. Darrow has made for a second chance at motherhood, she uncovers a connection to the sinister occurrences in Blackfield and enters into a deadly game with the master of Darkling - one whose outcome will determine the fate of not just the Darrows but the world itself.
I have never thought about reading a slightly lighter Lovecraftian tale told within the confines of a Victorian Gothic novel. It's not something that I even considered before, but now that I've read it, I'm slightly confused as to the reason why nobody thought of doing this before. Now when I say Victorian and Gothic, I'm still speaking of terms of being slightly lighter. None of the thematic elements really dominate the structure of the novel. Instead it's like the author used them as the basic outline of the structure, then filled those lines in with something else. What that something else is, I'm still not sure I have a word for it.
Now despite my apparent confusion, I'm here to tell you that I actually really enjoyed this one. Sadly, I can't really tell you the reason though. There are sometimes, no matter how much you think about or analyze something, you can't really explain your reaction to it. I know I liked it. I know I enjoyed getting to know The Ending and those that dwelled inside. I know I loved the way those denizens were structured after some of Lovecraft's well know Elder Beings. I even liked the civil war the author forced them to fight. I never thought of the Elder Beings as being political or of having schisms amongst themselves. I also thought of them as monstrous beings bent on ending the world as we know it. The author took the world of Lovecraft and made it more human, something I didn't think I would like until I read it.
I think the only thing that would have made this book stronger, at least for me, is that I would have liked to see the "romantic" elements be a bit stronger. I guess I can't really enjoy a good Gothic novel without there being a strong romantic element. The main "romance" was between Charlotte and Mr. Darrow. It was never a relationship I ever bought into or liked, and it always felt as if it existed in her head more than anything else. It was a bit too forced for my taste, and because of the direction the book took, it was doomed before it left the ground. Similarly the minor romantic liaisons never felt all that explored and the one I liked the most was barely touched upon. On one of their trips to Darkling, the oldest Darrow boy is introduced to a young man who belongs to a race of creatures that inhabit the world. The particular family takes a human visage, and the two hit it off. It's obvious from the get go that there is something between them from the start. Of all the relationships, it was the only one that developed a real sense of affection, though it was only shown a few times towards the end.
I was going to ramble on about the causes behind the civil war, the landscape that Mr. Darrow and Charlotte traveled through on their last foray into the world, and the way Death is introduced; but I won't. All these elements are interconnected and I think it best that a reader discover them on their own. I was even going to touch upon the idea of a parent striking the deal that Lily Darrow made in order to see her children once again. But her character and her motivations are, once again, best left to the reader to explore themselves. What I will say is that whether you end up enjoying the book or not, Charlotte Markham and the House of Darkling will be more than worth the time.
Now onto the giveaway. One lucky reader will win the book for themselves, though that reader must reside in the United States or Canada. All you need to do is leave a comment letting me in on a secret. I want to know about a book that you liked, but can't really explain why. You also need to leave an email address so I can contact you if you are the winner. The giveaway will run until 11:59 pm CST on Monday, August 13th.