Blurb from Amazon:
Jane Austen’s high society and Cassandra Clare’s supernatural underworld collide in the first book in the Lady Helen trilogy, perfect for fans of historical fiction and fantasy.
London, April 1812. Lady Helen Wrexhall is set to make her curtsey to Queen Charlotte and step into polite Regency Society. Unbeknownst to Helen, that step will also take her from the glittering ballroom of Almack’s and the bright lights of Vauxhall Gardens into a shadowy world of demonic creatures, missing housemaids and deadly power.
Standing between those two worlds is Lord Carlston, a man of dubious reputation and infuriating manners. He believes Helen is destined to protect humanity, but all he can offer is danger, savagery and the possibility of madness. Not the kind of destiny suitable for a young lady in her first London Season. This delightfully dangerous adventure of self-discovery and difficult choices has all the unnerving dark magic of Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell and the swashbuckling action of The Scarlet Pimpernel.
After hearing this book compared to (the amazing) Cassandra Clare’s Mortal Instruments series, I expected big things. For me, this had all the hallmarks of something thrilling: demons, demon slaying, romance, period detail, etc. Even whilst in the midst of reading this, I found this a novel and refreshing idea- especially as TDDC did also in fact have a lot of these elements, many of them done with real skill. It’s not easy to write in a Regency style and make it not sound dry or worn or hackneyed. At no point did any of the characters sound one dimensional, or as if they had been transplanted from a Georgette Heyer novel (which was clever, deft and refreshing.) Lady Helen’s aunt was wonderfully spirited, whilst her uncle was a convincingly real pig. But to be honest, I found the Regency-era dialogue, prose and style all a bit clunky and wearing at times, and Lady Helen seemed a bit naive. She also seemed more of a watcher on the sidelines, than an active controller of her own fate. For me though, the most criminal aspect was that I couldn’t see anything remotely appealing about her love interest, Lord Carlston. He just seemed smug, aloof and…odd. He didn’t seem to have the fey glamour of Jace Wayland, or the tortured soul of Will Herondale.
(SPOILER) I still have no idea why vivacious, spirited Helen is so torn between him and the clearly kind and witty Lord Selburn. The much lauded human vs. demon fight scenes also felt almost unbearably slow to me. I also wasn’t sure the idea of demons with coils of power known as ‘whips’ worked for me. However, I did like Lady Helen’s stubborn and steadfast maid, Darby, little details such as the mysterious death of her parents, and her defiant investigation into her housemaid’s disappearance. At times, it felt a bit like a murder mystery, which I enjoyed. I also liked its sense of atmosphere, even though I wished it was more Gothic/darker in tone, so all in all I would definitely recommend it. I’d be very interested to read the sequel, without a doubt, but only if it picks up the pace a little.
Overall rating: 7.5 out of 10