Review of ‘Dark and Deepest Red’


By Cynthia Bujnicki

Dark and Deepest Red by Anna-Marie McLemore
Feiwel & Friends
Image Credit: Edelweiss

In 1518 a strange sickness swept through the land, causing women to dance until they fall dead. Suspicion falls on Lavinia and her family. Centuries later, the sickness entrances Rosella causing her to dance in a pair of beautiful red shoes, bringing her closer and closer to Lavinia’s descendant Emil. Together they must find a way to save Rosella or else she will suffer the same date as those before her.

Published by Feiwel & Friends Dark and Deepest Red by Anna-Marie McLemore is a young adult fantasy retelling with an LGBTQ twist.

An interesting retelling. Capturing elements from Hans Christian Anderson’s classic fairy tale The Red Shoes, McLemore uses history to weave her fantasy inspired by the dancing plague of 1518.

The story unfolds through the eyes of three perspectives, two present-day and one from 1518. Capturing both worlds, the author highlights what the dancing plague was about, and the racism people from different cultures feel even in today’s day and age.

That connection to xenophobia is what drives the story, that being different is wrong, when it is not. By challenging that belief, the characters find the strength to be themselves and accept their culture others would have them repress or ignore.

Going beyond that, however, these two stories do not connect as much as the reader would hope. Rose made the shoes, but she has no connection to the plague of 1518, unlike Emil and his family. However, Rose is the one bewitched by her shoes; she is the one trapped. Rose becomes a plot device for Emil to learn about his past and accept his heritage, giving their arc of the story this perspective. In contrast, Lavinia’s arc is about living in fear due to her “exotic” features. Lavinia’s arc is about fighting the bigotry and prejudice in her homeland.

Nevertheless, while the connection between these perspectives is a bit of a stretch, it does offer readers a compelling read. They would not have been powerful by themselves, and by latching together, they make the story a whole. (★★★★☆)

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Product Details:

Pub Date: Jan. 14 2020

Page count: 320pp

Age Range: 13 & Over

ISBN: 978-1-2501-6274-8

Publisher: Feiwel & Friends

List Price: $17.99

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