Charlotte Markham and the House of Darkling by Michael Boccacino
Published by William Morrow Paperbacks
Publish Date: July 24, 2012
Source: Publisher/TLC Book Tours
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. –(summary excerpt from the back of book)
My Thoughts: Charlotte Markham has recently been employed at the estate of Henry Darrow, who lost his wife Lily in the past year. Charlotte is no stranger to loss herself, having lost both of her parents and then her husband in the recent past. After the unusual murder of the Darrow boys’ nanny, Charlotte steps in to fill the role and quickly establishes an almost maternal relationship with the boys. James and Paul grow to love and respect her, and she is able to be a presence when their father is nearly always absent, having been overtaken with grief after losing Lily.
While exploring the grounds one afternoon, Charlotte and the boys find an unusual area of forest – an area filled with thick mist, strange noises, and the moon high in the darkened sky as if it were nighttime. A little further into the forest, the trio happened upon a sprawling mansion with none other than Lily Darrow (still dead, mind you) at the door, beckoning them to come inside for a visit. While the boys rush into her arms in a happy and tear-filled reuinion, Charlotte is instantly suspicious – because Lily is dead. Not wanting to deny the boys the pleasure of being reunited with their mother, Charlotte begrudgingly follows them inside.
Inside the House of Darkling, things are unlike anything Charlotte has ever experienced before. The interior of the Darkling house changes before her very eyes. The creatures that inhabit the place have oddly-colored skin, are all shapes and sizes, and seem to be made of different substances. Charlotte learns that they are immortal and they have employed Lily Darrow as the house governess. There are strange and wondrous things as well as grotesque and horrifying things. The House of Darkling is amazing. And the area in which the House of Darkling sits, The Ending, experiences eternal nighttime. How odd!
As the boys grow more accustomed to the oddities at the House of Darkling and as they grow to enjoy the secret visits with their mother, Charlotte has growing suspicions that the master of the House of Darkling and his intentions are not all good and that she needs to break off communication with this strange and bizarre world, even if it means cutting ties with the boys’ beloved mother.
I loved the main character, Charlotte Markham. I imagined her very much like a lady of the times – a smart lady and one not to be taken lightly.Charlotte was not afraid to take charge and get things done, and there are several instances within the book where a gathering of people are looking to Charlotte for answers or action. In this way, and in the way of her job at the home, Charlotte was strong. At the same time, she had suffered great losses, just as the Darrow family had, so she had weaknesses and allowed herself to show her vulnerability when it was appropriate.
Aside from a couple of confusing places, which I think resolved themselves at the end, I enjoyed the heck out of this book. I loved the story of the House itself and it’s enchanted inhabitants, but there is a presence and theme of Death that arcs the story and takes the form of a man dressed in black throughout the book. He shows up both in characters’ dreams and he comes to visit characters.
This book reads like a big kid’s fantasy fairy-tale, full of magic and the macabre. Thebook starts out with a nightmare and a murder, complete with shrieking in the night. What follows is a very imaginative story that is also delightfully disturbing, if there is such a thing. Charlotte Markham and the House of Darkling reminds me of a Coraline-meets-Tim-Burton story for adults. It’s charming and a little dark and lovely all at the same time.
Fantasy with some Macabre twists
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