Charlotte Markham and the House of Darkling
Feisty young governess Charlotte Markham discovers a dark alternate world called The Ending, the place for things that cannot die, in which the deceased mother of the two boys under her care has been waiting. She invites them into the ominous House of Darkling, a wondrous, dangerous place filled with enchantment, mystery and strange creatures that are not quite human…
The invitation of “We bid you welcome to the House of Darkling” was quite luring, and I accepted it without any reluctance. And I’m glad that I did. The House of Darkling is just magnificent.
Let’s start with the characters. Charlotte Markham, a governess, and now taking care of the children of Henry Barrows, features as the main protagonist and you see the story through her eyes in a third person way. Charlotte was for me a great character, part motherly towards the children, part caring towards Henry and when actions require, even a heroine. Her character grew strongly after Charlotte and the children stumbled, through the mists, upon The House of Darkling. I especially liked the way she reacted to the whole scene, this led me to believe that Michael Boccacino really thought this part through, a very natural reaction. In their first encounter I perceived her as quite shocked and actually hesitant on another visit to the house. So what would you do if you feel obliged for the sake of the Barrows children to visit again? Take the necessary precautions of course… This was exactly what was done, bearing a cross and being very cautious of the things that Lily said to her. Even going as far as taking a drink and reminding herself to keep her lips sealed because it might be poisoned. Portraying Charlotte in this manner gave a good constructed feeling of both Charlotte and the idea behind the book.
The other characters are just detailed enough to support Charlotte or to go against her, with their intentions and actions all made clear. Although I found that Henry was maybe a bit too easily convinced that The Ending existed. I do think that the children James and Paul showed both a great change between young boyish adventure and being frightened during the exploration of The Ending and the House of Darkling.
Not only are the characters great and their descriptions livid the environment adds a great atmosphere to the book. Both Everton and House of Darkling are lavish and very vivid. As Charlotte, James and Paul encountered the House of Darkling through a mistbank, everything changes to the otherworldy, starting before they even enter the house. The tour they receive gives a great feel to the house and everything that is present, all very alluring and mystifying. What really gave the otherworldy, dark fantasy and oftentimes also a creepy feel were the inhabitants of the House of Darkling and the daily business of the House. Like there are the Candleman, living creatures with a wick on top their heads, guiding visitors through the dark corridors. The others inhabitants vary from human appearances to part wooden and while some might appear normal, do not let that fool you. Some of them truly fit in to one of those oddities roadshows, and reinforced the gothic feeling to The House of Darkling. All of this does produces an interesting, very imaginative and on top of all unique picture of House of Darkling.
A nice addition into the book are the stories that are being told to James and Paul by Lily, their mother, as they stay over to sleep in the House of Darkling. The stories range from laughable moments to very sinister and darkly moments. Precisely what one might expect from bedtime stories. This further build up the dark feeling of the (physical) House of Darkling and The Ending.
As the plotline draws to an end, there was a nice enlargement of what I thought might be the clue to everything. Charlotte comes closer to the possible murderer of Nanny Prum, through her visitations of the House of Darkling and several memories that spring to mind as she is thinking back to past occurrences. The plot was smartly constructed and left for me nothing left to be desired.
As far as a debut goes, this is one of the better that I have read so far. I was pleased with how everything was just enough; the descriptions and actions of the inhabitants of the House of Darkling could have been overdone but this was reined in and just enough to keep up the curiosity. The book is well written and reads away easily. Although Michael Boccacino tries to steer you in the book, there was no force pushing me, and did not at all feel limited in indulging me into the book.
I’d like to thanks Titan books for kindly providing me with the review copy.