Review & Paint: Dark and Deepest Red – Beautiful But Flawed


Dark and Deepest Red by Anna-Marie McLemore

YA Historical Fiction, Contemporary, Magical Realism
Publisher: Feiwel & Friends
Release Date:
Jan 14th, 2020
Page Count: 320 (hardback)

Rating: 7/10


What I Liked


🌹  The subject of learning to navigate life with an identity that people might not accept or understand. That you might not fully accept or understand.

🌹  The Strausbourg storyline about the Romani and the dancing plague was something I wasn’t familiar with; it’s interesting and educational and I wanted more of it. And I seriously love the author’s decision to tell the 1518 chapters in present tense and the modern chapters in past tense.

🌹  The description of forests. And nature in general. Just…UGH, my heart. I’m convinced Anna-Marie was a magical woodland creature in a previous life. “They’re one body…Something can be one tree, and a whole wood.”

🌹  McLemore has a way of taking small moments–small, seemingly inconsequential moments–and giving them incredible significance and texture. Nothing is without meaning. Even when there’s not much happening with the plot, you still feel like you’re being pulled into the extraordinary.

I read the book a few weeks ago, and there are parts of it I don’t really remember, but I do have a very vivid memory of red shoes dancing along a reservoir edge; wolves slipping past trees; Alifair stripping off his shirt and daring Lala to deny who he is; and so forth. Flashes of images that burn into your mind. And that, my friends, is pure magic.



“We’re aspen trees, you and I”


What I Didn’t Like


🌹  I was never super invested in Rosella and Emil’s storyline. Partly because the 1518 setting was more interesting, but mostly because I didn’t think too much of Rosella and Emil as characters. I loved some of their scenes, which are gorgeous and awash with colour and imagery, and I could appreciate and relate to a lot of their struggles (trying to fit in with your community, deliberately ignoring your family history). But as characters they felt kind of bland. And, I don’t know, I just wanted an entire book of Lala and Alifair.

🌹  The connection between the 1518 storyline and the modern day storyline felt clunky, especially at the end. And the last few legs of the story’s journey didn’t feel very satisfying.

🌹  Emil/Rosella’s chapters end up explaining the message of Lala’s story near the end, which veers too close to spoonfeeding and takes away some of the depth of the ending.

Overall, it’s a beautifully flawed story about self-acceptance and coming to terms with your cultural roots, and the special kind of freedom and power that they offer. It’s my first experience with Anna-Marie McLemore, and though I doubt this is the book that people would recommend from their bibliography, I got a good taste of their style and…I’m a big fan.


(Review copy provided by the publisher for an honest review)


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Jess @ Jessticulates January 25, 2020 - 6:58 am

Lovely review! 2020 needs to be the year I finally read Anna-Marie McLemore, I’ve heard so many wonderful things about their work, so I’d really like to check this out soon. It’s such a common way to tell a story in historical fiction to have a past and present storyline, but I must admit I often find the past storylines a lot more interesting than the the present day storylines!

Kathy @ Pages Below the Vaulted Sky January 27, 2020 - 5:01 pm

Thanks, Jess! Glad to see I’m not the only one who’s been procrastinating on McLemore. πŸ˜› I’m DEFINITELY going to check out her previous books this year (hopefully all of them haha). They’ve got a style that’s so uniquely *theirs*–kind of dreamy but still so grounded in reality and everyday issues–and I absolutely love it

Tammy January 25, 2020 - 7:15 am

I had an ARC of this book and I gave it away, for some reason. Now I’m kind of sad I did that! Lovely art as usual, Kathy😁

Kathy @ Pages Below the Vaulted Sky January 27, 2020 - 5:31 pm

Hahaha well, I hope the person liked it! XD Thanks, Tammy!!

acquadimore January 25, 2020 - 1:33 pm

I’ve been hearing this isn’t their best one (which makes me sad) but I’m really excited still, because more McLemore! Their attention to detail especially when it comes to nature/forests is one of the things that stands out the most about their writing for me as well.
Great review – and art! aaaaa that’s so pretty – and I’m glad this made you want to read more from them!

Kathy @ Pages Below the Vaulted Sky January 29, 2020 - 9:05 pm

Ahhh I hope you enjoy it, Acqua!! One of my goals for this year is to go through the other McLemore books and I’m super excited. I can’t believe I’ve been procrastinating on them for SO long? I mean, they have such a lovely way of describing *everything*

Susy's Cozy World January 26, 2020 - 2:02 am

The art is amazing! 😍 I didn’t knew about this book but it seems an interesting read!

Kathy @ Pages Below the Vaulted Sky January 29, 2020 - 8:58 pm

Thank you, Suzy!! πŸ’• Definitely give it a try if you have the time! It’s kind of a retelling of the 12 dancing princesses, if you’re familar with that story

Susy's Cozy World January 30, 2020 - 1:11 am

When I was a kid I loved that story, so I have to give this a try!

Kathy @ Pages Below the Vaulted Sky January 30, 2020 - 2:14 pm


waytoofantasy January 26, 2020 - 7:39 am

Really loving this new format, Kathy! It’s to the point and concise. Also, love your artwork as always.

Kathy @ Pages Below the Vaulted Sky January 29, 2020 - 8:49 pm

Thanks Lisa!!! β™₯ And omg, this is probably be a bit early to say, but I think this format might be a lifesaver? I just copy-pasted my reading notes, along with a few edits, and the painting took less than an hour. AND ZERO STRESS. 😭😭

waytoofantasy January 30, 2020 - 3:50 am

Zero stress is always awesome πŸ™‚
I need to get better at taking notes while reading lol.

MetalPhantasmReads January 27, 2020 - 3:19 pm

Great review Kathy! I love your artwork that goes with it πŸ™‚ I haven’t read a book by her before but I do want to like this due to the retelling aspect. We shall see

Kathy @ Pages Below the Vaulted Sky January 27, 2020 - 5:37 pm

Thanks so much, Amanda 😭β™₯ Hope you get a chance to check it out! People have been saying this isn’t her best work, but I still liked it, so now I REALLY want to try her previous books.

MetalPhantasmReads January 30, 2020 - 2:58 pm

Yeah agreed! I have her debut novel on my kindle and that’s the other one I’m interested reading so fingers crossed πŸ™‚

Kathy @ Pages Below the Vaulted Sky January 30, 2020 - 9:22 pm

Ooh hope you like it! I’m still trying to decide which to read first. Blanca y Roja looks promising….. πŸ˜€

Sophie @ Me and Ink January 31, 2020 - 3:39 am

I loved reading your review!! I have been interested in this book (the cover was the first thing to grab my attention)!! I have been meaning to read Anna-Marie McLemore for a while, I especially want to check out Blanca And Roja !! Their writing seems amazing and lyrical!!
I loved reading about what you liked from the descriptions to the past!! It sounds like an unique story!! It is a shame you weren’t too invested in the characters though.
Lovely review and I love your artwork *all the heart eyes*!! <3

January & February 2020 Wrap-Up: Begone, Cursed Months! (Feat. Pretty Lights) – Pages Below the Vaulted Sky March 3, 2020 - 6:30 am

[…] My first venture into Anna-Marie McLemore and I wasn’t disappointed. Story-wise it’s nothing amazing, but I love McLemore’s style of writing and the way she approaches certain details. I’ll be working my way through her other books this year. [Review] […]

Dark and Deepest Red by Anna-Marie McLemore – Sometimes Leelynn Reads July 4, 2020 - 6:30 am

[…] Pages Below The Vaulted Sky […]


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