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Jul 12, 2012

Charlotte Markham and the House of Darkling: A Novel by Michael Boccacino

Charlotte Markham and the House of Darkling: A Novel by Michael Boccacino
Facebook Fan Page: Michael Boccacino
Author Twitter campaign: @mboccacino
William Morrow Paperbacks, July 24, 2012
320 pages
Review EGalley downloaded via the publisher, thank you!
Burton Book Review Rating: 3 stars

Neil Gaiman meets Tim Burton in this debut-a Victorian gothic tale of the world beyond the living and the price you pay to save those you love.We bid you welcome to the House of Darkling…
When Nanny Prum, the nanny to the young Darrow boys, is found mysteriously murdered in the forest, Charlotte Markham, the recently hired governess, steps in to care for the children. During an outing in the forest, they find themselves crossing over into The Ending, the place for the things that cannot die, where Lily Darrow, the late mistress of Everton, has been waiting. She invites them into the ominous House of Darkling, a wondrous, dangerous place filled with enchantment, mystery and strange creatures that appear to be, but are not quite, human.

Through repeated visits with Lily, Charlotte and the boys discover the wonders of the House of Darkling, careful to keep the place and their mother's existence a secret from their father, Henry Darrow, lest the spell linking the two worlds together be broken. But when the boys and their mother become trapped in the enchanted house, Charlotte has no choice but to confide everything to Henry, to whom she finds herself increasingly drawn. Together they search to find a way to travel back into The Ending, but when they learn the price demanded by the creatures who inhabit the netherworld, Charlotte and Henry must decide if the sacrifice is worth the danger.

Not since Coraline unlocked a door and discovered a distorted world through a mirror has the simple act of walking through a dense fog revealed such a fantastic journey that is so splendidly strange, frightening, and exhilarating.

At first glance I thought this would be a quaint British-nanny-murder-mystery with a gothic flair.. but after a bit more reading I realized I was in for the full Tim Burton effect. Which means this is fantasy-fairytale with not so quaint images. Even a bit of Stephen King peeks out of these pages. This is an imaginative and creative story that follows the replacement nanny, Lily, into another world beyond an orchard, where her charges find their dead mother and explore the possibilities of rescuing her.

Lily knows what it is like to lose loved ones, so she allows the boys to visit their mother, but of course everything has a price (I would assume) when you are dealing with the dead/underworld/evil creatures. Along the sidelines of the plot is the possibility of a romance between Lily and the boys' father, as is expected.. and eventually that works itself out, too. The father Henry was off to the side throughout the story, so the romance aspect which could have exuded Jane Eyre was a mere nuance throughout most of the novel.

I am very glad this was a short novel, since I had reached just about my fill of odd otherworldly creatures, and I am not too sure I enjoyed the ending. When the author says "Think of it as 2 cups Jane Eyre, 6 oz of Lovecraft, and a tbsp of Tim Burton", I would reverse the Tim Burton and the Jane Eyre quantities. (No idea what Lovecraft is).

Obviously, this is not my normal type of read, so for those readers who do enjoy the fantasy/fairy/horror realm, this just might be their cuppa tea. The writing flowed nicely (I did read this in a day) but this is not for those with weak stomachs. Or for those who have may have recently lost a loved one. Or for those who do not like disturbing images frolicking throughout their mind. I would also say this should appeal to the paranormal and young adult audience as well.