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July 24, 2012

Review: Charlotte Markham and The House of Darkling by Michael Boccacino

Format: ARC (Edelweiss)
Release Date: July 24, 2012

Excerpt here
Purchase: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository 

Debut novelist Michael Boccacino invites readers into the world beyond the realm of the living in Charlotte Markham and the House of Darkling, a Victorian gothic tale of the strange and supernatural. But all who enter this house must beware--for there is a price to pay for visitors who wish to save those they love.

The story of a British governess and her young charges seduced by the otherworldly enticements of a mysterious mansion in the forest following the inexplicable death of the former nanny, this Tim Burton-like tale of dark fantasy is a bewitching treat for fans of horror and paranormal fiction, as well as readers who love creepy gothic tales and mysterious shadowy English manor houses. Not since Suzanna Clarke introduced Jonathan Strange to Mr. Norrell, and Neil Gaiman's Coraline crawled through a secret door into a twisted and sinister mirror world, has there been a journey as wondrously fantastic and terrifying as Charlotte Markham's adventures in the House of Darkling.
I have to agree that CHARLOTTE MARKHAM AND THE HOUSE OF DARKLING by Michael Boccacino felt Tim Burton-ish, a little Coraline, in that there's a parallel and morbid universe existing side by side ours. You have a pair of orphan kids and their nanny stumbling upon the magnificent House of Darkling where they can reclaim lost time with the children's departed mother without any seemingly serious repercussions.

The House of Darkling is like a big cabinet of curiosities, it can be whatever you choose to make it, it is full of oddities and marvels, some of them trinkets and some of them more... useful, as Mr. Whatley, the Master of the house, points out to Charlotte. There is a very seductive allure to The House, here you can be reunited with your loved ones without consequence, visit with them then go back home after a day of fun and games, it's like your loved ones never passed away. The challenge is severing that connection, moving on, processing grief and accepting that these people are dead and can't go back to our world, the world of the living. I think I too would find it hard to give up the place because I have the comfort of being reunited with the dearly departed and behave as if none of it happened. And here is where the widow Charlotte's dilemma lies, the House of Darkling offers this wonderful balm to their grieving souls but how does one give it up? In the end, will they choose the living, go back to the depressing state of brokenhearted longing or stay with the dead and be at peace?
I felt it all slipping away -- the storybook ending, my future with the children, Henry's happiness, Lily's redemption, my victory over Whatley -- the pieces were slipping out of place.
The only thing that left me wanting was the villain. I love rabid villains, they add depth to the heroes and to me, the "dark" part of the story felt "dusky" because the villain wasn't as foreboding as I expected it to be. The antagonist was more of an apparition than a constant threat to Charlotte so I didn't really feel the danger and the urgency of the conflict. There is a twist in the end which probably justifies the duskiness but for a minute there I wanted to be scared and threatened.

CHARLOTTE MARKHAM AND THE HOUSE OF DARKLINGis a great debut novel, the plot follows a concrete progression that kept me anxious on how Charlotte will manage to fulfill her job in keeping her charges, James and Paul, safe. I love the short stories that MBoccacino incorporated into the story to emphasize the precarious situation Charlotte and the children found themselves in.This dark Victorian Gothic tale was a pleasing historical fantasy with curious characters and even curiouser otherworldly creatures, MBoccacino created a premise one can't help but discover.




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