Charlotte Markham and the House of Darkling by Michael Boccacino
|Book Name:||Charlotte Markham and the House of Darkling|
|Publisher(s):||William Morrow Paperbacks|
|Genre(s):||Fantasy / Gothic Romance / Ghost Story|
|Release Date:||July 24, 2012|
Since it is getting close to All Hallows Eve, it seemed like a good idea to pick up a book involving ghosts, haunted houses, and trans-dimensional portals.
As the title might suggest, Charlotte Markham and the House of Darkling is about Charlotte, a governess for the Darrow family, and the strange encounters they have with the shade of Henry Darrow’s recently departed wife. Of course, they don’t know what deals Lily Darrow made to see her family again and who she is now indebted to.
I have a certain fondness for Victorian and Victorian-esque ghost stories. I liked Charlotte as a narrator and enjoyed her even temper, her conflicted feelings for Henry Darrow, and her determination to protect Paul and James Darrow from harm like a belligerent mother tiger. She hangs onto the people she cares for due to several tragedies befalling her before the events of the book and this colors how she interacts with other adults and why she lets the boys see their dead mother in the house of Darkling.
The story itself is pretty much a traditional haunted house story. Haunted houses eat women, this story is not all that much different. Most of the victims and near-victims of the strange goings on are women, with the exceptions of Charlotte’s father and her husband. The way Lily and Charlotte both try to use the hauntedness to their own ends gave up some interesting insights into both of their contrasting characters. Lily and Charlotte hold similar positions in the houses Darkling and Darrow respectively. Lily would do almost anything to see her kids again and Charlotte is willing to give up much to keep those same children safe from harm. The way that they figure things out via the stories of the Endless was a neat way of figuring things out. As with most haunted house stories, both women have to give something up to break the spell, but I think that Charlotte was the cleverer and braver of the two. She certainly has a more interesting ending to the book and she needed some time to figure out what kind of person she was when not in mourning.
The house of Darkling seemed to sit pretty solidly in the Uncanny Valley. This was certainly beneficial towards the ambiance, with its strange orchard that makes servants to the house, the collection of different deaths, and the extremely disquieting Mister Whatley. The Endless themselves (aside from Whatley) were less creepy as a whole and had a nice variety in their parallel dimension which helped single out the House of Darkling as a place apart even in the lands of the Endless.
I found the tentacled horror element was rather underplayed and severely underutilized, but Mr Whatley’s collections made up for that in spades. Also (puts on steampunk goggles) someone forgot to do their research into how Victorian clothes are layered. A corset is a foundation shaping undergarment used as a support for all the petticoats and skirts. The bodice of a dress goes over the corset. Victorian corsets were not for public view. While I’m on the subject of clothes… I had been looking forwards to getting through a pseudo-Victorian novel without anyone mentioning corsets.
It isn’t an “omgomgomgWHATWASTHAT” sort of novel. It’s more of a slow building creeping unease that resolves into accommodating that disquiet and moving along with itself. All in all, I really enjoyed this book and will probably start loaning it out to my friends so I can talk about it some more.