Charlotte Markham and the House of Darkling, by Michael Boccacino.
The light from the moon cast pale, sharp silhouettes that danced between the orchard trees. I wondered if there was such a thing as daytime there. The boys tried to race ahead, but I kept hold of their hands and struggled successfully against them. Despite the safety that had been assured to us by Lily Darrow, I did not trust anything about the place. If the former mistress of Everton was strong enough to turn back death, then I was obviously in no position to deny her something she had worked so hard to earn. It's not every day that the natural order of the universe becomes subverted, and if death could be turned back once, then perhaps it could be done again.
Synopsis of the story from the publisher:
When the nanny to the young Darrow boys is found mysteriously murdered, 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 yet dangerous place filled with enchantment, mystery and strange creatures who appear to be, but are not quite, human.
Everything comes with a price, however, and as Charlotte begins to understand the unspeakable bargain Mrs. Darrow has made for a second chance at motherhood, she uncovers a connection to the sinister occurrences back at Everton and enters into a deadly game with the master of Darkling, one whose outcome will determine not just the fate of the Darrows, but of the world itself.
The time period in which the novel takes place is never revealed, but I think it was in the 1700s or 1800s, as it does describe the suits and dresses that the characters wear; it could possibly be the early 1900s too. At times the novel had a "Willy Wonka"-type vibe to it, especially when the main characters first get to the House of Darkling, but it usually keeps its dark undertones as well.
Charlotte has seen the "Man in Black" three times before in her life, when her mother and father died and when her husband, Jonathan, was killed in a fire at their house. She suspects that this man is connected to Darkling, but she's actually wrong about that, for the most part.
I found this novel to be an interesting read, and it would be great if made into a movie, in my opinion. The ending is a little vague and leaves it open for a sequel, as well, though I'm not sure if one is in the works or not.
3.5 stars out of 5.
*Disclosure: I received an Advance Readers Copy (ARC) of this novel to review. The opinions expressed here, however, are my own.