Charlotte Markham and the House of Darkling: A Novelby Michael Boccacino
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.
- HarperCollins Publishers
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Meet the Author
Michael Boccacino's poetry has been published in the St. Petersburg Times. He currently works and lives in New York City. This is his first novel.
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This is not your Disney water color fairy tale, but something much darker along the lines of the Grimm fairy tales when you open the cover of Charlotte Markham and the House of Darkling by Michael Boccacino. You are immediately taken back to the Victorian age and the writing is unremarkable and polished as the writer takes you back to a sinister event, the piercing scream of a women in the dark of night. Charlotte Markham has awakened from a bizarre dream with her dead parents and a Christmas ball, not knowing if the scream she has heard is real or not. As she begins investigating the house at night, she is called downstairs by the staff and learns that Nanny Prum has been violently murdered in the forest. When they question the Constable Brickner's findings he truly believes no man is capable of this act and resolves the answer to an animal killing her. However, Charlotte's friend Suzanna witnessed a man in black hovering over the body and believes he is the one who committed the murder. It seems that Charlotte has a bit of history with the man in black who appears whenever death has been near, first with her father, then with her late husband Jonathan and now the sighting of him near Nanny Prum's body. Hired as a governess to work for Mr. Darrow, who has also lost his wife, Lily, Charlotte now assumes the role of carrying for the young children, Paul and James since Nanny Prum's death. Charlotte is warned by the housekeeper, Mrs. Norman that she tried to warn Nanny Prum of her fate and now warns her that she must be watchful and keep her eyes open as well, but offers no explanation as to why. It seems that death is watching over the house of Everton and with it keeping those inside bound to a half life, one between the living and mourning over the loss of those who have died. One afternoon during a worrisome day of teaching, Charlotte invites to boys to take to drawing or writing prose about one of their dreams which provides her an insight she never truly imagined before. James, the youngest, draws a picture of the Spider Queen whom he tells Charlotte, lives under his bed eating goblins that would seek to torment him. When she inquires that that should be a good thing, he replies, that she gets mad at him. When she pushes even further, he tells her that he is gathering parts of her silver strands of web to save his mother. Paul, the oldest, explains that his drawing is of a map showing the forest at the edge of their property. Beyond that lies an orchard and a house with he believes his mother waits for them. Charlotte realizes that both of these boys are still dealing with the death of their mother in remarkably different ways and when challenged by James to follow the map, she doesn't see any harm in showing them that dreams don't bring back the dead. Until as they begin to follow the map beyond the forest, where a misty fog lies that blocks out the sun, an orchard and The House of Darkling await them all. I received Charlotte Markham and the House of Darkling by Michael Boccacino compliments of William Morrow, a division of Harper Collins Publishers for my honest review. This is a dark fictional book where the worlds of life and death literally lay buried in the fog and where the middle ground between the two world lies ripe for a war for human souls. I love the writing style of Michael Boccacino who has used his own experiences with the death of his mother and the way he dealt with the grief as his inspiration for the writing of this novel. I rate this one a 4 out of 5 stars and can't wait to read more books from him in the near future.
I’m not quite sure about calling this a Victorian gothic tale as I can’t quite place the time period through the language, clothing, and social aspects used within – it seems to be more a of mish-mash of time periods – which is OK if you go into knowing that and not expecting a purely Victorian time period. It is a gothic tale though and the world that the Darrow boys and Charlotte cross over into is mesmerizing. While I am not one to do comparisons, I can’t help saying that those portions felt like Tim Burton and Neil Gaiman had a love child that decided to create an alternate reality. It’s kind of like that and I kind of loved it. What I didn’t get was the fact that Charlotte is playing a “game” with the master of Darkling, whom Mrs. Darrow is indebted to. I felt lost as I never saw what moves he was actually making, because it wasn’t from his point of view. And it just didn’t feel sinister enough to me – not like it should have for what was on the line. I did enjoy the characters that were otherworldly as they were creatures, some that pretended to be human and some that clearly couldn’t care less. The oddities that came with those characters were inventive and intriguing and if we would have stayed with them the entire time I wouldn’t have minded one bit. ARC reviewed by Jessica for Book Sake.