Title: Dark and Deepest Red
Author: Anna Marie McLemore
Genre: YA, Fantasy
Published: January 14th, 2019 (Feiwel and Friends)
Synopsis: 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.
Thank you to the publisher, Macmillan (Feiwel and Friends), and Edelweiss for providing me with an eARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.
In this retelling of The Red Shoes, a dancing fever strikes Strasbourg in the year 1518, and amidst accusation of witchcraft, the blame turns to the most easy targets – Lavinia and her aunt who are Romani in hiding. Five hundred years later, the fever strikes again, and this time, the victim is Rosella Oliva, whose family is famous for the red shoes they make. But the shoes that have sealed to her feet seem to be leading her straight to Emil, who, unknown to her, is related to Lavinia, and uncovering the truth of past events may be what decides if Rosella will survive the dancing curse.
I haven’t actually read the original story of The Red Shoes, but I’m definitely going to be checking it out soon. It’s rather hard to review this without giving away too much, but what I liked best was the narration and setting that gives the story the perfect fairytale feel, mixed with a touch of history. The Romani angle was an interesting addition to the tale. It alternates between past and present timelines as Emil and Rosella begin to realize that there was more to the dancing fever five hundred years ago than has been passed down in stories. Personally, I liked the historical timeline better as the narration style fits it better, and the story itself was more interesting as well compared to the present day plot. That, and magic in a contemporary setting has never been my favourite.
It was a little confusing when the perspectives switched between chapters, especially since there are two in present time and only one in the past timeline, and it gets hard to remember where exactly things left off. However, this book does a marvellous job at dealing with many heavy topics, such as the Romani living in fear of persecution in the sixteenth century, and even in present day to avoid judgement, and it’s lovely how both Emil and Rosella learn to embrace their heritage regardless of if it making them different from the people around them, which is a really important message that was very well presented.
To be honest, I wasn’t really expecting a happy ending for Lavinia’s tale, but it’s really nice that it worked out! I really liked the resolution of her story and the last few chapters where she faces the members of the church and people in Strasbourg were very amusing. Overall, an interesting retelling, if a little slow in pace, which really only comes together in the second half of the book. I’ve never read any of Anna Marie McLemore’s books before, but after reading this, I will be adding a few to my TBR. I would definitely recommend this fun, magical retelling.
Dark and Deepest Red released on January 14th, 2020.
Do you plan to read this book? Let me know in the comments below!