Friday, 18 January 2013

Book Review: Charlotte Markham and the House of Darkling by Michael Boccacino

“I have seen beyond the bounds of infinity and drawn down daemons from the stars...I have harnessed the shadows that stride from world to world to sow death and madness...”
(“From Beyond”, H.P. Lovecraft) 

Charlotte Markham is haunted by death. As a young child she witnessed a man in black appear at her sick mother’s bedside before she took her last breath, then again whilst her father’s heart gave out and finally when her husband saved her from their burning house. And although she suspects that the man in black is death she is unsure why she is privy to his visits.

 After the death of her husband, Charlotte finds work at Everton House as governess to the two Darrow children; it is on the grounds at Everton that her fellow employee and friend, Nanny Prum, is found murdered. Nanny Prum’s murder sets in motion a series of events which places Charlotte as both Nanny and governess to the children.

After a series of unexplainable events, the children set off on a quest to follow a map based on Paul (the eldest Darrow child) dream which leads them deep into the forest on Everton Estate. It isn’t before too long that Charlotte and the children find themselves enveloped in mist; an invisible threshold separating two worlds, the living and The Ending. It is here at The Ending that they come across the House of Darkling where, the late mistress of Everton, Lily Darrow has patiently been waiting.

The House of Darkling is full of strange and wonderful things, a place where death does not exist and of which, The Ending’s inhabitants crave more than their own immortality. Although the House of Darkling frightens Charlotte, she finds herself drawn to its many wonders including its master, Mr Whatley, who seems to hold the secrets to not only the mysterious death of Nanny Prum but of her past and the man in black.

Charlotte Markham and the House of Darkling breathe life back into gothic fantasy, reminiscent of the genius of H.P. Lovecraft, Edgar Allen Poe, Baudelaire, Neil Gaiman and Tim Burton. Boccacino’s prose is simply beautiful and I found myself lost in the conjured nightscape of The Ending and its unusual inhabitants.

For a debut novel, this was brilliant, both in its writing style and original storyline.  This novel was indeed strangely intoxicating and I found myself finishing it within the day. I simply can’t believe I left it sitting on my “to read” bookshelf for so long! I would recommend this novel to anyone who admires the abovementioned likes of Poe, Lovecraft and Burton; you will be enchanted by the gothic horrors of The Ending.    


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