ARC Review: Dark and Deepest Red by Anna-Marie McLemore

Title: Dark and Deepest Red
Author: Anna-Marie McLemore
Series: N/A
Pages: 320
Publisher: Feiwel & Friends
Release Date: January 14th 2020
**I received an ARC of this book from the publisher which does not influence my review**

TW: contains a slur for Romani people

      “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.”

swirl (2)

Anna-Marie McLemore’s latest novel, Dark and Deepest Red, is equal parts magical and horrifying as the novel shifts between two timelines where young women are caught in a never-ending dance, unable to stop. In 1518 Strasbourg, France, a fever takes hold of the residents. First it is a small group of women, fallen under a spell that compels them to dance. As the frenzy continues, some of these women begin to dance themselves to death. With each passing day, more are brought under the spell, losing themselves while their families become desperate for a cure. Lala and her aunt have done their best to blend into this small town, have hoped they have hidden their Romani heritage deep enough in order to escape persecution. But as the townspeople grow more desperate to put a stop to the sickness and find someone to blame, suspicions turn to those who’ve never quite fit in.

Five centuries later, “the glimmer” has once again fallen over the town of Briar Meadows. This strange phenomenon overcomes the town every year, bringing about both innocuous and life-changing magic. This year pairs of red shoes begin turning up, casting a kind of love magic on their wearers. For Rosella Oliva, donning these red shoes has unforeseen consequences. They take hold of her, refusing to let go, forcing her dance and putting her life in danger. The only person who might help is Emil, a boy who has done his best to tuck away the parts of himself that others in his town once whispered about. He’s closed himself off from his own history, like the story of his ancestors once being blamed for a dancing plague. But in order to help Rosella, Emil will have to reach across centuries to find the truth of what happen to those before him.

Dark and Deepest Red explores various marginalized identities and how these have influence the way characters move about the world. McLemore’s stories are always unapologetically brown and queer and this one is no exception. McLemore has a knack for forcing their characters to see beyond the surface, to splay themselves open and prod all those little things they keep hidden from the world. Much like the dancing plague, these characters have been forced into a kind of dance where they must deny a part of themselves. I loved how McLemore uses these biases and turns them on their head, allowing their characters to turn powerlessness into a moments of cunning and strength. The story is a reminder than even one small act of defiance can have a ripple effect, how one small act may not be small at all, but may have ramifications that transcend time.

Plenty of parallels can be drawn from the two timelines in Dark and Deepest Red. Lala has learned to make herself more gadjo, non-Romani, tucking parts of herself away and folding herself into the circle of young women in town who are looked upon with envy rather than suspicion. Her aunt and her have explained away their brown skin with rumors of Italian nobility. Their proximity to whiteness has become their only defense against the prejudice shown to their people throughout the region. But there is always danger in their very existence, as it is for the trans boy they took in years ago. Alifair’s almost mysterious appearance from the woods has never been fully explained, but Lala and her aunt made him family when he had none. Lala knows that while loving Alifair may always have been inevitable, her love for him might also be his downfall. Scenes between these two range from beautiful to heartbreaking and I’m always in awe of McLemore’s ability to write love stories that both devastate and uplift.

Rosella, like Lala, has discovered that in order to keep the people of Briar Meadows from treating her family as less than (at least more than they already do), she has to make herself more like the girls around her. She may not be able to hide her brown skin, but she can dress like them and talk like them. The only other person who ever understood what it was like to be othered in this town was Emil, but that was years ago when they were both children and understood their place in the world a little less. For Emil, keeping himself from his people’s history has been a way for him to protect himself. Rosella has always been a reminder of the things he was only beginning to realize as a child, that the town he called home was only ever going to look down at his family and their culture if he shared too much. I loved that their story isn’t just about each other, but about who they are individually in relation to their ethnic identities.

Anna-Marie McLemore’s Dark and Deepest Red fused magic and terror into an enthralling tale that will leave you breathless with its piercing truths.

★ ★ ★ ★ ★

(5/5)

Twelve Days of…Latinx Book Recommendations: Day 5

This “Christmassy” series is brought to you by my love of books by Latinx authors and my need for all of you to read them. Every day for twelve days leading up to Christmas, I will be gifting you all with a recommendation of a book by a Latinx author, along with twelve reasons why you should pick it up. Hoping to have lots of fun with with series which I am not so subtly calling Twelve Days of… Latinx Book Recommendations. Simultaneously, I will also be posting a Christmas-inspired book photo of these recommendations on my Instagram, which you can check out here. Covers are linked to Goodreads. Feel free to sing this first part to yourself aloud.

♬On the fifth day of Christmas, my favorite Latinx blogger gave to me, a recommendation for…♬

Blanca y Roja by Anna-Marie McLemore

      “The biggest lie of all is the story you think you already know.
    The del Cisne girls have never just been sisters; they’re also rivals, Blanca as obedient and graceful as Roja is vicious and manipulative. They know that, because of a generations-old spell, their family is bound to a bevy of swans deep in the woods. They know that, one day, the swans will pull them into a dangerous game that will leave one of them a girl, and trap the other in the body of a swan.
      But when two local boys become drawn into the game, the swans’ spell intertwines with the strange and unpredictable magic lacing the woods, and all four of their fates depend on facing truths that could either save or destroy them. Blanca & Roja is the captivating story of sisters, friendship, love, hatred, and the price we pay to protect our hearts.”

Reasons You Need to Pick This One Up:

1. It’s Blanca y Roja, friends, because it’s Latinx
2. Family curse
3. Sisters trying to save each other
4. Snow-White and Rose-Red retelling
5. Addresses colorism
6. Character who deals with painful menstruation
7. Four unique POVs
8. Soft and hard characters
9. Non-binary LI
10. One fairy tale like romance
11. One slow burn romance
12. Gorgeous prose

Have you read this one? Are you planning to read it? Which fairy tale would you like to see retold by a Latinx author?

Can’t-Wait Wednesday: Dark and Deepest Red by Anna-Marie McLemore


Can’t-Wait Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Tressa @ Wishful Endings where bloggers share which upcoming releases they’re most looking forward to. Join us every Wednesday and watch your TBR list multiply.

Stop me if you’ve heard this before. I love Anna-Marie McLemore’s books! Jokes aside, McLemore’s novels always dazzle me, always enrapture me, always makes me feel like they’ve cast a spell on me. Dark and Deepest Red is their fifth novel and it sounds just as magical as their previous ones and I cannot wait to dive in. Cover is linked to Goodreads.

 width=Title: Dark and Deepest Red
Author: Anna-Marie McLemore
Series: N/A
Pages: 320
Publisher: Feiwel & Friends
Release Date: January 14, 2020

      “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.”

Are you participating in Can’t-Wait Wednesday or Waiting on Wednesday? Is this book on your TBR? Be sure to leave a link to your post in the comments and I’ll visit!

The Friday 56: Blanca & Roja

The Friday 56The Friday 56 is a weekly blog meme hosted by Freda’s Voice. Join us every Friday and share an excerpt from a book you’ve been reading.

Rules:

*Grab a book, any book.
*Turn to page 56 or 56% in your eReader.
*Find any sentence (or a few, just don’t spoil it) that grab you.
*Post it.
*Add your (url) post here in Linky. Add the post url, not your blog url. It’s that simple.

**Be sure to leave a link to your Friday 56 post in the comments!**

“The ache bloomed into pain.

I tried to get out of the room before I doubled over.

‘You okay?’ Yearling called after me.

I stumbled to the kitchen window.

A thick slice of moon hung in the sky, the outer edge hard and solid, the inner light translucent, like an orange segment. Halfway between last quarter and crescent.

Es la luna, mija, my grandmother said every month when this happened. It pulls at you.”

Anna-Marie McLemore’s Blanca & Roja, is one of the most beautiful books I’ve ever read. It combines two of my favorite kinds of stories: magical realism and fairy tale retellings. One of the most unique aspects of this novel is McLemore introduces a character who has really bad periods (as shown in this excerpt) and I loved how open and honest this portrayal is. You can read my review of this one here. Cover is linked to Goodreads. Excerpt from page 156.

From the Goodreads Synopsis:

      “The biggest lie of all is the story you think you already know.
      The del Cisne girls have never just been sisters; they’re also rivals, Blanca as obedient and graceful as Roja is vicious and manipulative. They know that, because of a generations-old spell, their family is bound to a bevy of swans deep in the woods. They know that, one day, the swans will pull them into a dangerous game that will leave one of them a girl, and trap the other in the body of a swan.
      But when two local boys become drawn into the game, the swans’ spell intertwines with the strange and unpredictable magic lacing the woods, and all four of their fates depend on facing truths that could either save or destroy them. Blanca & Roja is the captivating story of sisters, friendship, love, hatred, and the price we pay to protect our hearts.”