Title: Dark and Deepest Red
Author: Anna-Marie McLemore
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Historical Fiction/Romance
Star Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars
I borrowed this book from my local library and reviewed it.
Anna-Marie McLemore has been one of my favorite authors, ever since I read her debut novel, The Weight of Feathers. I’ve read all but one of the books she’s written, but this one might well be my very favorite. Full of lush, gorgeous prose, this book is actually two stories in one. It goes back and forth in time in Strasbourg, France. In 1518, Lavinia and her family, of Romani descent, are blamed for a mysterious plague that makes men and women dance, until they, quite literally, fall down dead. As rumors of witchcraft ensue, Lala must count on every one of her wits to write her own story. 500 years later, Emil, Lala’s descendant, finds himself lost in his own history. But Rosella Oliva’s family, known and renowned shoemakers, have always had a special way with shoes. When Rosella fixes red a pair of shoes that her own grandmother destroyed to spite a jealous, angry customer, they seal themselves to her feet. Drawn to Emil for her own reasons and his history, the two must solve a mystery that intertwines their lives over five centuries.
I loved this book; it’s definitely a contender for one of my favorite books of 2020. It might be my favorite in McLemore’s entire body of work. I love fairy tale retellings, but I especially adored the way that the story used Hans Christian Anderson’s ‘The Red Shoes’ for its backbone and basis. The prose was gorgeous, lush; more than once, I found myself going back and rereading lines. The pacing was breakneck, and though it took me a little getting used to, the going back and forth, it was so smooth as the book went on. One of my favorite parts of this novel was the real historical fact that the author used to frame her story. (A dancing plague actually did happen in the little French town of Strasbourg!) But I loved the characters, first and foremost, especially Emil and Rosella. I felt like they were sitting in my living room, telling me their magical, dark and bloody tale. I loved the setting of medieval and modern France; I felt like I could taste the magic in the Olivas’ family, and smell the sharp, bitter scent of Emil’s chemicals and compounds. This book might be one of my favorites of 2020, and I can’t wait to see what masterpiece she pens next! The bottom line: Gorgeous, dark, beautiful and tender, I loved Dark and Deepest Red! Next on deck: 19 Love Songs by David Levithan!