Dark and Deepest Red, Anna-Marie McLemore – Book Review

Hello Humans!

Did someone say ‘medieval queers’?

Look I don’t want to linger on the intro I want to tell you all about the book!

Dark and Deepest Red

Goodreads Summary:

Summer, 1518. A strange sickness sweeps through Strasbourg: women dance in the streets, some until they fall down dead. As rumors of witchcraft spread, suspicion turns toward Lavinia and her family, and Lavinia may have to do the unimaginable to save herself and everyone she loves.

Five centuries later, a pair of red shoes seal to Rosella Oliva’s feet, making her dance uncontrollably. They draw her toward a boy who knows the dancing fever’s history better than anyone: Emil, whose family was blamed for the fever five hundred years ago. But there’s more to what happened in 1518 than even Emil knows, and discovering the truth may decide whether Rosella survives the red shoes.

With McLemore’s signature lush prose, Dark and Deepest Red pairs the forbidding magic of a fairy tale with a modern story of passion and betrayal.

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Having read pretty much everything Anna-Marie McLemore has written since Wild Beauty hit the shelves I knew some of what to expect from this book. I knew I’d find some amazing ownvoices writing, some great queer representation and a healthy dose of beautiful writing. I loved Blanca y Roja more than anything so I was really looking forward to Dark and Deepest Red – though doing my best to manage expectations.

I’m not usually a fan of books that use time skips – I tend to find that I only care about one of the time periods and then every jump feels like it’s getting in the way of the real story. I won’t pretend I’m completely cured of my bias – I still definitely preferred the historical aspect of this book to the modern-day portion – but McLemore manages to balance things. I think part of what helped this was that the two stories, though linked, are actually discussing different things, it isn’t just the people in the future working out what happened in the past, Emil has his own issues to work through – and the link to the past helps him to figure it out.

Anna-Marie McLemore’s writing remains some of my favourite ‘flowery’ prose. I know this kind of writing isn’t for everyone – and you may feel differently, but personally, I just love the way that she describes things, the way her sentences are constructed, the way she picks things apart and puts them back together again. It’s weird writing but it’s stunningly beautiful, like the feeling of reading a fairytale but it’s not hugely sexist.

Anna-Marie I’m working on a gay princess movie script please can we collaborate?

This isn’t to say this book is a happy go lucky cheerful fairy story, it goes to some dark and difficult places that some people may find difficult. What I like about their books is that they aren’t afraid to go into detail about some of the difficulties queer individuals faced/face – but it doesn’t feel as voyeuristic as it can feel in other books. I had a moment of panic that we were going to have a ‘revealing the bindings’ moment that I’ve seen done so poorly in other books – but McLemore writes with such care and consideration for the communities she is representing that it feels respectful even when it may be difficult.

I’ve spoken recently on the difference between representation in books and education in books. I genuinely feel like McLemore manages to do both, but the focus is on representation, so the characters feel three dimensional, their identity is not simply ‘the gay one’ but it is a huge part of their identity – it feels real even in a world where magic shoes exist.

I recommend AMM’s books all the time, to pretty much everyone I know, so consider this book firmly added to my ‘books I yell at people about’ list.

My rating: 4/5 stars

I bought this book myself. All opinions are my own.

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What say you? Will you be picking this up? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!


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