Reviews of Dark Earth by Rebecca Stott

Dark Earth

A Novel

by Rebecca Stott

Dark Earth by Rebecca Stott X
Dark Earth by Rebecca Stott
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     Not Yet Rated
  • Published:
    Jul 2022, 336 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Katharine Blatchfold
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About this Book

Book Summary

A captivating novel about two sisters fighting for survival in Dark Ages Britain that casts a thrilling spell of magic and myth.

The year is 500 AD. Sisters Isla and Blue live in the shadows of the Ghost City, the abandoned ruins of the once-glorious mile-wide Roman settlement Londinium on the bank of the River Thames. But the small island they call home is also a place of exile for Isla, Blue, and their father, a legendary blacksmith accused of using dark magic to make his firetongue swords—formidable blades that cannot be broken—and cast out from the community. When he dies suddenly, the sisters find themselves facing enslavement by the local warlord and his cruel, power-hungry son. Their only option is to escape to the Ghost City, where they discover an underworld of rebel women living secretly amid the ruins. But if Isla and Blue are to survive the men who hunt them, and protect their new community, they will need to use all their skill and ingenuity—as well as the magic of their foremothers—to fight back.

With an intimate yet cinematic scope, Dark Earth re-creates an ancient world steeped in myth and folklore, and introduces us to unforgettable women who come to vibrant life on the page. A heart-in-mouth adventure full of moments of tenderness, this is a beautiful, profound novel about oppression and power that puts a female perspective on a historical period dominated by men's stories.

1

An island in the Thames, c. a.d. 500

Isla and Blue are sitting on the mound watching the river creep up on the wrecks and over the black stubs of the old jetties out on the mudflats, waiting for Father to finish his work in the forge. Along the far riverbank, the Ghost City, the great line of its long-abandoned river wall, its crumbling gates and towers, is making its upside-down face in the river again.

"Something's coming, sister," Blue says. "Look."

Isla looks. The wind has picked up. It scatters the birds wading on the mudflats. It catches at the creepers that grow along the Ghost City wall. It lifts and rustles them like feathers.

"Could be rain," Isla says. "The wind's turned."

It's late spring. There has been no rain for weeks. No clouds, just the baking, glaring forge fire of the sun. At first, after the long winter, the sisters had welcomed the sun coming in so hot. Dull roots had stirred. Flowers came early: first the primroses and bluebells in the wood, then the tiny spears of...

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Reviews

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The vividly developed setting underlays every part of the book, giving the story a magical feel. Londinium's decay serves as a counterpoint to the characters' lives, creating a rich juxtaposition between what has been lost to time on a grand scale and what the characters personally have lost. In Dark Earth, Stott tells a deeply personal story set amidst the sweeping tide of history. Moving and thrilling in turns, it is likely to be a favorite of readers who enjoy historical fiction and fantasy...continued

Full Review Members Only (576 words).

(Reviewed by Katharine Blatchfold).

Media Reviews

The Guardian (UK)
[Stott] has created something radically new and beautiful... This is a book that seeks to do for British myth what Natalie Haynes and Madeline Miller have done so brilliantly for classical literature: uncovering stories of feminine power that have been occluded by the male hand of history...

Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
Stott presents a diverse Dark Ages...The conflict at the climax of this novel is not a clash of arms but a battle between brute power and cunning, between selfish greed and communal strength. Stott fills holes in written history with magic, mythic resonance, and 21st-century wish fulfillment.

Publishers Weekly (starred review)
Stott concretely captures the brutality of the women's world, their deep resourcefulness, and the power of the stories that sustain and endanger them. This is a memorable achievement.

Library Journal
Stott's engaging story, conjured from a real-life archaeological find, casts light on a little-known time in the early European Dark Ages.

The Irish Times
A work of elegant historical fantasy with great intellect, curiosity, imagination and empathy that is utterly compelling ... Stott writes into the silences of the historical record as an act of revelation—what emerges are complex characters, with fascinating stories, who are enriched with a zeal for survival.

Author Blurb Imogen Hermes Gowar, author of The Mermaid and Mrs. Hancock
A magical and evocative book that so deftly explores an era of British history that has been overlooked too long, Dark Earth delights, transports, chills and charms in equal measure.

Author Blurb Katherine J. Chen, author of Joan: A Novel of Joan of Arc
At the heart of Rebecca Stott's Dark Earth are those things as old as time itself: the love between two sisters, the bonds that bring women together, the power of telling a story around a fire. Though Stott turns her expert eye back thousands of years, this novel pulses with the energy of a brave new world, a world as beautiful as it is dangerous, where a belief in myth and magic can save your life.

Author Blurb Lucy Holland, author of Sistersong
Rebecca Stott has written an eloquent and heartachingly poignant story of sisterhood that echoes across the centuries. Evocative and richly mythic, Dark Earth pays homage to the quiet triumph of women working together to build a better world...A truly beautiful book.

Reader Reviews

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Beyond the Book

Anglo-Saxon Law

Weathered copy of the Æthelberht law documentIn Dark Earth, sisters Isla and Blue attempt to claim protection from a warlord under the laws of sixth century England, while also hiding the fact that they've broken those laws. This part of British history was a time of transition, and the laws of the land were no exception to that. Starting in the fifth century, Germanic peoples immigrated to Britain. In the past it was believed they belonged to three tribes: the Angles, the Saxons and the Jutes — hence the term Anglo-Saxon. However, modern research has shown that these people were from a variety of groups, and much less unified than previously thought.

When they arrived, they found a land already populated by a diverse mix of native Britons, displaced Romans and former Roman ...

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