I remember the day I fell in love with books. Fell so hard there was no going back. Oh, there had been special friends up to this point – The Milly Molly Mandy series, Tove Jansson’s Moomins and Enid Blyton’s The Magic Faraway Tree adventures – but none of these evoked the full range of emotions I experienced while reading Meredith Ann Pierce’s The Darkangel.
It may have had something to do with my age at the time. I was twelve. Suddenly all the boys I had grown up with, climbed trees and dug for pippis in the lake with, were behaving strangely when I was around. And it was different for me too. The easy talk was gone. They were on one side of the fence and I was on the other. Part of me wanted the old days back. Part of me was excited about this new world filled with uncharted emotions.
Or, it could have just been the fever.
I read The Darkangel when I was sick (why is it that books seem to take on a special meaning when read during a raging illness?). I remember being in my bed, kicking off sheets soaked in sweat, pulling them back up in fits of shivering, and all the while sleeping and reading in turns until I reached that bittersweet last page.
Whatever the cause – whether I was ready to enter the world of young adult fiction, or whether I was simply delirious – The Darkangel delivered what I needed at the time, and I will never forget the power it held over me. The funny thing is, I mostly read contemporary or magical realism novels these days, but when I reread the trilogy (yes! there are three in the series – and they are all fantastic), I’m still affected in the same way and the writing is just as magical as it ever was.
I hope there’s a special book that sparked off your love affair with reading – if so, I’d love to hear about it.
The Darkangel summary: Aeriel is kidnapped by the darkangel, a black-winged vampyre of astounding beauty and youth. In his castle keep, she serves his 13 wives, wraiths whose souls he stole. She must kill him before his next marriage and comes into full power, but is captivated by his magnificent beauty and inner spark of goodness. Will she choose to save humanity or his soul?
Why I loved it: The writing is beautiful and the world-building in this book is so original and spellbinding. Although this is technically a vampire book, it’s a complete departure from the usual vampire fare (not that I’m opposed to a well-told vampire story, mind) and weaves together a complex world filled with witches, magical lions, mixed cultures and unlikely champions. And at the heart of it – a quest! Not a predictable one though. Aeriel resolves her problem in a way that is both unexpected and compassionate. I’m looking forward to handing this down to my children one day.
Aeriel finished the weaving by late afternoon – a long piece of pale gold cloth finer and thinner and lighter than breath. And then she took the steps to the gargoyle tower. She knew they could hear her quiet step on the stairs because they had begun to give little moans and yips of anticipation at her approach. And when she emerged onto the circular terrace of the tower, the gargoyles descended from their platforms and strained toward her against their chains. She caressed each of them in turn: patting their rough reptilian hides, ruffling their fish-scales, or feathers, or fur.“Run fast,” she told them; “fly far, far off where he cannot find you if I fail.”