Skip to main content

Retro Friday Review: The Darkangel by Meredith Ann Pierce

Retro Friday is a weekly meme hosted here at Angieville and focuses on reviewing books from the past. This can be an old favorite, an under-the-radar book you think deserves more attention, something woefully out of print, etc. Everyone is welcome to join in at any time! I include roundups from participating bloggers in my weekly post.

I'd been hearing lots and lots about Meredith Ann Pierce long before I ever picked up one of her books. For the longest time I associated her in my head with a book called The Woman Who Loved Reindeer. And neither the title nor the cover did anything for me. But, as is so often the case, I had several friends who highly recommended her Darkangel trilogy. And they were persistent enough and vociferous enough that I finally picked up the The Darkangel (much more interesting title and premise) to give a new author and a new series a go. This was probably somewhere around ten years ago. And I'm still so glad I gave in and picked up the trilogy. That way I didn't even have to wait before diving into the second book. And this really is a series that builds upon each previous book until the final showdown is indeed something to behold. This was Ms. Pierce's first book, written when she was just 23 years old, but you would never be able to tell. It's a treasure trove of creepy ambiance, layered characterization, and suspense. First published in 1982, this is a real Retro Friday book, though the entire trilogy was fairly recently rejacketed nicely and released to (hopefully) a new crop of readers.

Ariel is a slave. Accompanying her mistress on a flower-gathering expedition, Ariel is dismayed when her mistress is abducted by the terrifying Darkangel--a vampyre who is destined to only come into his full power when he acquires his fourteenth and final bride. Yes, you read that right. He's got twelve of 'em locked away in his fortress and Ariel's mistress gets to be unlucky thirteen. But not if Ariel has anything to do with it. Somewhat taciturn by nature (and life status), she sets off in pursuit of her mistress, determined to fetch her back before the Darkangel drains her all but dry of life like his other wives, finds a fourteenth, and ascends to the dizzying heights of power of a seventh son and a full vampyre. Then he will be immortal and have truly left the last of his humanity behind. Unfortunately, Ariel herself is captured on her journey, and the Darkangel forces her into servitude to his bevy of wraith-wives. Soon Ariel begins to form a plan to kill the Darkangel and set the wives free.
His hair was long and silver, and about his throat he wore a chain: on fourteen of the links hung little vials of lead.
I remember reading that line and feeling chilled, wondering just exactly what he carried inside those little vials. This is a vampyre novel of a different kind from the sort you may be used to. The mythology is woven very densely here, as the title character himself is more of a icarus-vampire hybrid than your typical broody night dweller. Everything about this dark fantasy/scifi is slightly left of what you expect it to be, and I love it for that very reason. Ariel is at times shy, furious, fearful, and bold. Her captor is coldly indifferent, with his black wings and his all-but-dead heart, but with a multitude of reasons lurking behind his violent search. And once Ariel discovers the truth of his history, his family, and his existence, she becomes determined to go on her own quest to recover the one object that might release him from his terrible fate. She makes this decision on her own, in the face of his certain disapproval and the possibility of her own annihilation. She is strong and sympathetic and her motivations never struck me as weak or dubious. The world these characters inhabit is as frigid as the Darkangel himself. Craggy and desolate, it provides an excellent backdrop for each character's isolation. Plus, it has friendly gargoyles, crafty dwarves, and one incredibly terrifying Lorelei. And this is only the beginning. It gets endlessly complicated through the course of the next two books as the reader grows fonder of both Ariel and the Icarus. I adore the entire trilogy and highly recommend it to anyone tired of the same old paranormal rigmarole. This one is different. A keeper.

Reading order: The Darkangel, A Gathering of Gargoyles, and The Pearl of the Soul of the World


Retro Friday Roundup
One Librarian's Book Reviews reviews The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield

Linkage
Dear Author Review
Muse Books Review
3 Evil Cousins Review

Comments

  1. I've seriously got to stop reading your reviews. They suck me in until I am dying to read the books and then add them to my insane TBR pile! Oy.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Don't do this to me. This sounds really intersting and I need another book on the TBR like I need a hole in the head. :)

    ReplyDelete
  3. Get out of my mind! :)

    Just yesterday, I was pondering how much I prefer werewolves to vampires...Except when it comes to the Darkangel novels! Oh, the mythology! Oh, the allusions! I love rereading them.

    (I own the middle cover + series.)

    ReplyDelete
  4. The Darkangel was one of the first YA books I got from the library when I first started YA and I'm so happy to see that you like it so much too.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Angie! This is a favorite of mine. I read the series in middle school and was obsessed (like, I may or may not have memorized that whole poem from the second book). So glad you did a review and are spreading the good word. I always feel guilty because I keep thinking I need to review this one myself - not nearly enough people have heard of it!

    ReplyDelete
  6. Anonymous5:40 PM

    It sounds really good, I generally don't dig vampire stories but this sounds different.

    :D
    Going to keep an eye open for it.

    I did my Retro Friday post too, on a book called The True Meaning of Cleavage(http://animegirlsbookshelf.blogspot.com/2011/04/retro-friday-8-true-meaning-of-cleavage.html) which I love. *grins*

    ReplyDelete
  7. Great reviews like the others I now want to read them and I have so very little time :)

    ReplyDelete
  8. Oh man, I haven't read that forever, but I still remember when Ariel learns to spin from love rather than hate or pity to make clothes for the brides. Such an evocative image in my head.

    ReplyDelete
  9. I picked up this series because it was highly recommended by a friend who also reads YA fantasy. I remember loving the second book but I can't remember the rest. Maybe I should do a reread so I can also post reviews on the blog.

    ReplyDelete
  10. You know, when I was at my parents' last August, I totally intended to bring this trilogy back with me, but somehow I never got to the box of books housing it! I'll have to get it through interlibrary loans if I want to reread it this summer!

    ReplyDelete

Post a Comment

You Might Also Like

Interview with Alexandra Bracken + Brightly Woven Giveaway!

I fell in love with the cover of Alexandra Bracken's debut novel--Brightly Woven--last fall and the scant synopses I could find at the time certainly piqued my interest. After managing to get my hands on an ARC, I found myself surprised and pleased with this unique fantasy. You can read my review here. As the release date approached, I invited Alex to participate in an interview and giveaway here on the site and, despite her crazy busy schedule, she kindly accepted. Enjoy! First things first: When did the idea for Brightly Wovenfirst hit you and what (if anything) did you know right off the bat? I remember the exact moment it hit me—what I was doing, who I was talking to, what song was playing on iTunes.  :)  I had just come back from Winter Break my sophomore year in college and was sitting on my bed chatting with my mom.  Sophomore year was pretty remarkable in terms of the insane weather that we had in Virginia (where I was in school) but it had also been a bizarre year in Arizon…

Blog Tour Giveaway | An Artless Demise by Anna Lee Huber

Today marks the release of An Artless Demise―the seventh installment in Anna Lee Huber's excellent Lady Darby mystery series. I'm happy to be participating in the blog tour with a giveaway courtesy of Berkley. This is a series I've enjoyed from the very beginning (you can read my review of the first book here). Be sure that Kiera and Gage are well worth your time, particularly if you are a fan of Deanna Raybourn or Tasha Alexander.

ABOUT THE BOOK Kiera’s return to London is anything but mundane after fleeing in infamy more than two years ago. While Kiera expected the whispers and murmurs inspired by her reappearance, she wasn’t prepared to receive a letter of blackmail, threatening to divulge the secrets of her past and implicating her in crimes she didn’t commit. A gang of body snatchers is arrested on suspicion of killing people from the streets and selling the bodies to medical schools, and Kiera is a perfect suspect for their crimes―after all, she was previously married…

E-book Alert | Life Without Friends by Ellen Emerson White

I have been waiting for this day for what feels like forever. If you've followed this blog for basically any length of time, you have heard me singing the praises of Ellen Emerson White. I am a devoted fan of her spectacular President's Daughter and Echo Company series. And you should read and own them and spread the good word immediately. But Life Without Friends. This book was the beginning for me. Beverly and Derek and Boston and the Public Gardens. From my review:
This book kind of ate me alive at fourteen, and I have reread it pretty much every year since. It has become what you might call a Monster Comfort Read. I have been buying up used copies of this previously out-of-print book for years now and sending them to readers I knew needed them. I am so delighted to let you know it's now available on Kindle for just $2.99 or free with Kindle Unlimited. And I really love the new Kindle cover (above left), while I will always be inordinately attached to the original cove…