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


๐ŸŒนย  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.

๐ŸŒนย  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.

๐ŸŒนย  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.”

๐ŸŒนย  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


๐ŸŒนย  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.

๐ŸŒนย  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.

๐ŸŒนย  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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20 thoughts on “Review & Paint: Dark and Deepest Red – Beautiful But Flawed

  1. Jess @ Jessticulates says:

    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!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Kathy @ Pages Below the Vaulted Sky says:

      Thanks, Jess! Glad to see I’m not the only one who’s been procrastinating on McLemore. ๐Ÿ˜› 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

      Liked by 1 person

  2. acquadimore says:

    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!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Sophie @ Me and Ink says:

    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*!! โค


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