ARC Review: Darkmere by Helen Maslin


Series: None
Author: Helen Maslin
Published August 6th 2015 by Chicken House

Goodreads Synopsis
A castle. A curse. A dangerous summer. Leo has invited Kate and a few friends to spend the summer at his inheritance, Darkmere Castle: as wild and remote as it is beautiful. Kate thinks it will be the perfect place for her and Leo to get together - but instead, she's drawn into the dark story of a young nineteenth-century bride who haunts the tunnels and towers of the house. And whose curse now hangs over them all.  

I received an Advance Reader Copy from the publisher. This in no way impacted on my view.

This book was just wow! I don't think there's any other way to describe it. After seeing it being hyped up all over twitter, by reviewers whose judgement I trust, I just had to request it. Thank you so much, again, Chicken House books, for allowing me the opportunity to read it!

Darkmere is a dual PoV book, covering both the modern day and 1825 The two protagonists, Kate and Elinor, both had extremely distinctive voices, and there wasn't one I preferred over the other: I just loved them both. Kate’s modern voice had all the signs of an English teenager, whereas Elinor really reminded me of a sort of Jane Austen-esque protagonist – think Elizabeth Bennet or Fanny Price. The two voices share the connections of Darkmere, a castle on the coast, and of the St Cloud family.

First, to turn to Kate. She’s a 17 year old scholarship student who is invited to a friend’s recently inherited castle for the summer. Though she had had feelings for this friend, Leo, whilst at Darkmere, he turned dark, and she soon realised that he’d only invited her to make Jackson jealous. From the very beginning, I had disliked Leo, and always thought there was something brewing beneath the surface. I much preferred Jackson, though he was gloomy at first, and even tweeted about how much I needed him and Kate to kiss. Kate, though scared for the most part – of the curse, and of Leo’s behaviour – really stood her own throughout the entire book, and I was really proud of her for that. Having a difficult home situation, she was already a strong person, but I felt as if she became stronger through the events of Darkmere.

Elinor, on the other hand, was everything a lady of the nineteenth century should be, and, at the same time, wasn’t. Unlike her sister, Anna, she wasn’t a stunning beauty, but still attractive enough to warrant some suitors. After a disastrous accident, leaving her sister disfigured, Elinor found herself engaged, and later married, to Mr St. Cloud, whose first name we never discover. Through her marriage, she becomes the mistress of Darkmere castle, and should be having the perfect life, of wealth and opulence. However, this is not the case. Her husband, St Cloud, is a vicious, vile man, who is operating an illegal smuggling cells, and the servants think of her like an idiot, and don’t respect her. She soon becomes a shell of her former self, and wishes more than anything to not be in the situation she is in. it’s only when her former best friend, Nick, comes one year for Christmas, that she begins to be more like herself, but by now it’s too late, and actions lead to dire consequences for all involved.

Though Elinor’s chapters were fewer than Kate’s, I was desperate for them as much as I was to hear about the modern events. Having the split in time periods, we were able to become much more anxious for all of the events, and were not disappointed. Each chapter was as exciting as the last, and even with a raging headache, I was unable to put down the book except when I finally got too tired. At first, there didn’t seem to be much correlation between what was happening in 2015 and in 1825-7, but as more and more details came to head, overlaps became noticeable. These were mainly to do with the ‘supernatural’ entities present in 2015 Darkmere. The ghosts we saw, and what was found in the castle and the village, all directly related to the people from Elinor’s time. However, this was done in a way that you didn’t know what was about to happen until it did, particularly with the female ghost – I’d only guessed her true identity just seconds before she announced herself. Right up until the final page, there were twists and turns that left me on the edge of my seat, and the ending completely threw me. 

The romance wasn’t a super big part of the book, but was still utterly enjoyable. Like I said, I never liked Leo, and was glad that his true personality was discovered – obviously the St Cloud personality was inherited. Every moment between Kate and Jackson was lovely, and I’m glad with how the book ended, in relation to them two. For Elinor’s time, the romance was basically non-existent. Her husband was wholly awful, and the little smidge of a romance was so small, that I was left wishing for more. But I knew this had to be the case. Even from the start of the book, we knew that Elinor had a dreadful married life, and nothing good came from her marriage. She had to suffer through her chapters, because her character ultimately suffered in the history of the book.

All in all, this was a wonderful thriller-y, historical/modern UKYA book, and a fantastic debut! Both characters were lovable in their own way, and I am so glad with how distinctive they were; you could never confuse one for the other. This book is definitely one I can’t recommend enough, and I look forward to reading more from the author in the future.

Dates Read:
July 20-22, 2015

5 Stars

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