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.


bermudaonion said...

That sounds kind of creepy to me - perfect for this fall!

Anonymous said...

Okay, I want this! Victorian AND gothic? It has my name all over it.

Hmm, let's see. This will be hard as I can usually articulate why I like a book. How about - An Abundance of Katherines by John Green. Liked it but can't say why.

misfitsalon [at] gmail [dot] com

Sheila (Bookjourney) said...

OOH this sounds so interesting but your question is a tough one... let me think.... I usually like books even if they are not super good, but are different than anything I have read before.... ugh, let me think of one now...
I like the Little House On The Prairie books... I dont know why since I do not like reading about anything in that era....

Lisa said...

I think maybe for me that would be South of Broad by Pat Conroy because I can't explain why I like things when Conroy does them that might drive me nuts when others do.

Laura Kay said...

great question...The Woman Who Heard Color by Kelly Jones. I mean it was a really good book, but it wasn't like a happily ever was sad, raw. But it was a book that I really liked for some reason.

Thanks for the giveaway!

Laura Kay

Nancy said...

Feast Day of Fools by James Lee Burke. I didn't know I liked it until it ended. Thanks for the giveaway.

nanze55 at hotmail dot com

Simcha said...

I'm thinking that I really need to read some Lovecraft. I keep seeing references to his stories and writing style but it doesn't meant anything to me b/c I've never read any of his writings.

carol said...

I've seen this around and wasn't sure if I would like it or not. But I do enjoy Lovecraft, as surprising as that is, given my usual tastes.

I can't think of a book I really liked but can't explain why. I usually can put my finger on at least one reason, whether it be a character, the overall feel, or even the author's way with words.

carolsnotebook at yahoo dot com

Heather J. @ TLC Book Tours said...

I read Lovecraft for the first time during October's Dueling Monsters challenge and he is definitely creepy! Sounds like I might like this book as well.

Thanks for being on the tour Ryan!

nfmgirl said...

Hmmmm...I can't think of a book that I like, but don't really know why. Usually it's the opposite-- I DON'T like them, and don't really know why.

How about instead I tell you a book that I didn't love, but still recommend, because although there were some things about it that just didn't mesh well with me, I think it was well written: The Wake of Forgiveness by Bruce Machart

Thanks for the giveaway!

nfmgirl AT gmail DOT com

Michelle Stockard Miller said...

Great review, as usual. You really made me want to read this because I want to find out why you liked it for myself. ;O)

How about if I tell you about a movie that I liked, but can't explain why. The Ninth Gate, starring Johnny Depp (based on the book, The Club Dumas by Arturo Perez-Reverte). The first time I saw it, I did not like it, but I watched it again when it came out on DVD and I liked it. I guess it was one of those ones that you have to see twice, but I still can't explain why I liked it. And any time I catch it on, I watch it again (and I own it!). It's a movie I can watch over and over again...and still not sure why I love it so much. You know, I read the book (mentioned above) and it's very different from the movie. I liked it, but still not as much as the movie. Weird!

Thanks for the giveaway!

Anonymous said...

I really enjoyed reading
The Heretic's Daughter by
Kathleen Kent