Charlotte Markham and the House of Darkling by Michael Boccacino

Published by William Morrow, July 2012 ***

I actually liked this book better than I thought I would, considering its fantastical elements.  My enjoyment was because Boccacino conveyed a great Victorian voice and his character, governess Charlotte Markham, has the practicality and sense of Jane Eyre.  He creates great atmosphere in both the real world and the mysterious land of The Ending, where the House of Darkling resides.  It is here that Charlotte’s young wards are reunited with their deceased mother, but there are sinister yet provocative forces driving this reunion.

Here’s where I got a little befuddled.  Perhaps it is because I am lacking the imagination, but I had a hard time mentally visualizing the bizarre curiosities of Darkling that are described.  As Charlotte attempts to discern the workings of this mysterious land, she meets a variety of immortals, who are in the midst of a political struggle.  This added to my confusion even more.  Who are these strange beings who are not gods, just squabbling creatures unable to experience death?  I felt the motives for their “war” were indeterminate and the game that Charlotte was playing with the master of the House of Darkling was puzzling.  If the struggle was more clearly defined, I would have liked this book a lot more.  It had potential (especially after reading about the author’s personal connection in the extras), but I think if The Ending were written as well as the non-fantastical parts, it would have succeeded more.  The original Victorian sensibilities got muddled in the confusion of The House of Darkling. Despite this, there were aspects that I did appreciate: the characters were well written, the atmosphere was tangible, and the story was original.  The redeeming qualities just barely outweigh the flaws in the plot.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher.

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