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

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Synopsis:

A girl who’s been forced to hide her Romani heritage for fear of mistreatment or worse stands against a town determined to persecute her for a deadly fever that is taking over Strasbourg in 1518. Lavinia Blau whispers the names of her Deities and mourns the loss of her parents and culture as she walks among people that call her witch and worse. In the small times that she finds peace she finds love in the arms of Alifair, the apprentice of Tante Dorenia who is a trans boy. The two know that people like them are killed without a blind eye but with so much danger pressing in they can’t help but find their way back to each other every time.

In the Present, Rosella and Emil (descendants of The Oliva’s and Blau’s) fight to save Rosella from the dancing fever of the shoes and to uncover the secrets and things they have feared the most about their pasts. The two storylines intertwine to make a beautiful fairytale re-telling of Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Red Shoes” with historical nods to real events that happened on our side of reality.

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My Thoughts:

First off I would like to thank Edelweiss for this ARC in exchange for a review but WOW. Where do I start with this review? It’s 3am and the author’s note just sent me into tears of love for this novel in its entirety. This was my first book by Anna-Marie McLemore’s and they did NOT disappoint. The queer representation, most importantly the trans rep, meant everything to me and the way that it was done was nothing short of beautiful. Alifair’s character was unapologetically trans and was respected and loved for who he was inherently and not for the name given to him at birth. There was a moment where Alifair makes a declaration and I feel it would impact so many trans readers living with gender dysphoria in a positive light.

I had never heard of the fairytale story that this was based on but now that I’ve read this novel I’m definitely equal parts intrigued and horrified. My ankles hurt after reading this, just going to be honest. The writing was gorgeous and full of Romani influence, the author shed their heart and soul into the story and it shows. The prose was done so well and the transitions felt like watching water wipe away a scene. This was just a really well crafted story and reading about the research the author did in preparation for writing this novel has me beyond impressed.

At times I felt that we didn’t even need Emil and Rosella’s POV because I was so into Alifair and Lala’s story and what they were going through but the balance was there. If I could make any criticism it would be that sometimes I had to go back and re-read certain passages in order to catch a change in the scene but other than that i just let the story take me and drag me it did. In the best way of course.

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Wrap-Up:

I would absolutely recommend this novel to any readers looking for a story featuring LGBTQ+ Characters of Color and a beautiful story to fall into. There is one scene where a character is outed, multiple scenes of discrimination and slur against Romani so please be aware of those before you start reading. I didn’t expect to enjoy this novel the way I did but I would have devoured it in one sitting if I didn’t have to adult. Go pick this one up.

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