Darkmere by Helen Maslin has curses, haunted castles, a gothic romance and you NEED IT IN YOUR LIFE

DarkmereTitle: Darkmere
Series: N/A
Author: Helen Maslin
Genre: Young Adult, Paranormal, Historical Fiction, Gothic, Contemporary
Publication: August 6th 2015, Chicken House
Pages: 368 pages, Paperback
Source: Library
Rating: 4.5/5
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.

This was the book of the month we had to read for my book club and if it hadn't been for that, I don't think I would've picked this book up (I thought it was a horse book, don't ask me why but I just somehow had it stuck in my head that it was a book about horses hence I avoided it, don't even ask me how I reached that conclusion) and that saddens me. I don't generally review books that I haven't been sent to review but I haven't really seen this book around the blogosphere and it NEEDS more publicity because it's freaking fantastic. Like, I totally fell in love with it and I couldn't get it out of my head and EVERYONE JUST NEEDS TO READ IT ALREADY. *heavy breathing*

Okay, to sum it up nicely: this book was epic. It was compelling, it was dark, tragic and utterly addictive. It ensnared me from the first page and didn't relinquish control for a second. I'm so happy that I picked up this book as it was exactly the kind of story I never knew I needed. The premise of this book is utterly incredible and the way it was delivered was done excellently. There have been so many times where I've read a book with a fantastic premise but the writing/characters don't do it justice – THANK GOODNESS THIS DIDN'T HAPPEN IN DARKMERE. The plot was delicious, with suspense and subtle events that contributed enormously to creating the dark, brooding atmosphere that engulfed the castle. Some characters were wonderful, other characters were detestable - which magnified the chilling, haunting mood of Darkmere - the writing was beautiful, the transition between the two time periods (the 19th and 21st century) was done seamlessly and often left me in a state of extreme suspense and anxiety for the characters I had grown to love. And the atmosphere - my goodness, the atmosphere. I was constantly on the edge of my seat as the author included small, subtle hints that something deeply dark and terribly tragic was stirring within the castle walls and within the hearts of those – present and past – who occupied the castle. It was this persistent tension and darkness seeping into the story that had me devouring the pages rapidly and IT WAS PRETTY MUCH PERFECT, REALLY.

So Darkmere is about ghosts, terrible secrets, the past and the present, it's about romance, love, hate, despair and regret, it's about hazy summer days that thrum with dangerous energy – all this set against the backdrop of a beautiful, ruined castle on the edge of a cliff top that drops into the crashing sea down below. It's about Kate, a girl from a poor background who worked hard enough to earn a scholarship to an incredible (and expensive) school. It's about her finally feeling like she belongs and isn't a total misfit when the most popular, most charming boy at her school, Leo St Cloud, invites her to spend the summer at the supposedly cursed castle he just inherited, along with his friends Jackson, Beano, Hat-Man Dan and Lucie. She agrees. She expects a summer filled with partying and drinking, lazy summer days – and she gets that. And more. Deadly dares, malice, horror and centuries' old curses plague that group as soon as the sun sinks beneath the sea. Alternating between Kate's point of view and Elinor, the doomed wife of the formidable St Cloud, the tragic tale of how the curse came to be, unfolds in devastating and gripping manner that had me filled with apprehension, intrigue and terror. HAVE I PERSUADED YOU? PLEASE TELL ME I HAVE. BECAUSE YOU NEED TO READ IT.

One thing I loved about this novel was how the author included several different genres and linked them together seamlessly. I've read books in the past that have several genres happening but it just feels like an uncoordinated jumble of misfit puzzle pieces BUT NOT IN DARKMERE. It's a contemporary, historical fiction, horror, romance and paranormal young adult novel and all these combine together most admirably to form a gorgeously chilling book. There were scenes that felt as if I was reading a summery contemporary filled with fun and romance and then the next scene there was a flashback to the nineteenth century that was filled with balls, suitors, carriages, and servants, fast forward it's the 21st century again, in the castle, at night and there are paranormal/horror aspects beginning to emerge and it all just fits together so perfectly. I don't know how the author did it but can she teach me her ways? Please?

Another thing I can't applaud the author enough for is how brilliantly she executes dual perspectives. Darkmere is voiced by 21st century Kate, as well as Elinor, the wife of St Cloud who lived in the 19th century. I haven't read many books with dual perspectives but when I have, the voices of the characters generally sound extremely similar or one character is just so dull compared to the other. In Darkmere, I was gripped by both girls' accounts of their time spent at Darkmere. Both were enthralling and both had me feeling varying emotions from revulsion and shock to terror and excitement. The author also used this to her advantage in the most cruel manner: she would end the one POV on a complete cliffhanger and I'd be shaking in shock because I NEED TO KNOW WHAT HAPPENS NEXT and then by the time I've finished the other POV (which had also ended on a cliffhanger) I ALSO NEED TO KNOW WHAT HAPPENS NOW and wow, it was an excellent way to write the book as it made it all the more captivating. I was even more invested and I was just on the edge of my seat throughout the entire book. IT'S WONDERFUL.

For me, the characters are one of the most important aspects of the story. You can have a book that is severely lacking in plot but if it has incredible characters, I will most likely love it. Now, this is the one thing I didn't LOVE about the book and the reason I deducted half a cupcake: the characters. Even though I liked them, I didn't like the things they did. Anyone who knows me is aware that I don't drink and I'm really against drugs. The modern day characters drank a lot and got stoned a lot and I really struggled with that aspect of the story. I understand that most teenagers experiment with substances at some point in their life but that kind of thing has never appealed to me and if it features quite heavily in a book, it can decrease my overall enjoyment of the novel. I just thought it was stupid and irresponsible of them and I wanted to shake some sense into them BUT ASIDE FROM THAT, I loved everything else! I liked Kate, she wasn't scare to challenge Leo, she worked extremely hard to get her scholarship and she never pretended to be something she wasn't, which I admired. I didn't like Jackson at first but my love for him increased quite rapidly throughout the novel – he's a good guy and I really liked his caring nature that sharply contrasted next to the selfish, ruthless characteristics of Leo. UGH, LEO. He made me so mad throughout this book and there was this constant darkness reverberating off of him that hinted at the darkness he'd bring and boy, did he bring it. As much as I disliked him, he certainly added marvellously to the dark, gothic atmosphere that the book held. I didn't harbour any particularly strong feelings towards Beano, Lucie and Hat-Man Dan but as the story progressed but as the effects of Darkmere began to take its toll on them, I did find myself feeling increasingly worried about them as I did care for them, just not as much as I'd hoped to. 

That aside, I absolutely LOVED Elinor's extracts and I utterly adored her character. Her story was so heartbreaking and her voice just shone through the pages and I developed a strong connection with her. I absolutely loved Elinor. She was quiet yet incredibly fun, she didn't care much for marriage and reaching the high rungs of society, she cared for her best friend Nick and her books. I felt deep remorse and sadness for her situation and it was agonising seeing the change in her – and her sister, Anna – throughout the course of the novel. Only by seeing Darkmere through her eyes could I fully understand the despicable nature that had occupied Darkmere's walls. Her story utterly broke me and I wish there was a whole book about Elinor (and Nick WHO I LOVE SO FREAKING MUCH) because I loved reading about them so very much! The characters really brought so much to the story and the way the two centuries' stories were strung together made the novel so engrossing, so fast-paced, so uniquely wonderful as the story of Darkmere's disturbing history fell into place.

The last two things I want to mention are the romance and the plot. The romance in this book is definitely not the central focus in Darkmere which many people will appreciate, but there is some and it made me feel a plethora of emotions. Some romance is heartbreaking, some not-so-heartbreaking. There is one almost-romance that made me want to throw the book against the wall and sob because of how devastatingly tragic it was and there is another romance that is in the beginning stages and it's filled with love, understanding and a sense of belonging that had my heart chanting “ship ship ship”. The mixture of a sweet romance and a heartbreaking one were also combined flawlessly to leave the reader with a sense of hope despite being faced with despair. All the dark parts were balanced with light parts in Darkmere and I thought the two contrasts were paired together seamlessly, flawlessly.

The plot is absolutely incredible. There were twists and turns and subtle paranormal occurrences that set my heart on edge. There were cliffhangers and the book was heady with the scent of suspense. It was fast-paced and the switching between viewpoints made the book even more intriguing. I wasn't bored for a single second, I was constantly on the edge of my seat and I was just so completely immersed in Darkmere's turbulent, tragic history and in Kate and Elinor's struggles with the castle and the St Clouds. If you need a book to fall completely into, this is it.

Darkmere was captivating and enthralling. It was horrifying and mesmerising. The voices of a nineteenth century girl and a twenty-first century girl intertwined to bring to life the dark history that played out on Darkmere's grounds. The atmosphere of the book is chillingly dark yet simultaneously maintains the feel of a light summery contemporary. This book is composed of several different genres and the result is breathtakingly stunning! I felt terrified, haunted and thoroughly intrigued whilst reading this uniquely divine novel. I wasn't expecting to love this book as much as I did but I fell absolutely in love with – with the voice of young Elinor, the bloodied history surrounding Darkmere, the tense suspense between the group of 21st century friends and the undercurrent of horror that encompasses this novel. Darkmere will transport you to the crumbling turrets of a haunted castle perched on a cliff above a grey churning sea. You will fall absolutely in love with this book.

I give it: 4.5/5 cupcakes!
 "If home could be just one person, it had always been him."

I told you, I never imagined any of that in my future.”

I was in love with him. I knew it without question. Not because of any “falling” sensation or butterflies in my stomach or romantic music playing in my head. None of the things I'd read about in the novels I'd long since abandoned – just the engulfing whoosh of realization that I had always loved him. Always. There was no “falling” because I was already there.”

*Drug use
*Strong language used occasionally