The Best Book Cover War (2020 edition) continues with Akala’s Young Adult debut The Dark Lady, the first in a brand new series. I literally started reading this the day I got it as it bumped it’s way right to the top of my TBR. I devoured the book in literally a day.
Henry White is a Black orphan who survives Shakespearean London by pick-pocketing with his two step-cousins Matthew and Mary, but he isn’t your average fifteen year old boy. He is imbued with magic powers that allow him to understand, read and translate any language at will. There are many that would take him and use his power for themselves. Then, Henry’s dreams begin to be haunted by The Dark Lady…
I know that’s a very vague kind of book synopsis but it’s all I can offer as to not spoil more of the story. It was more than enough to sell the book to me – I’ve never read a book featuring a main character in Tudor times that was black and then to layer that with the occult only added to the intrigue.
For the most part I really liked Henry as a main character. He is of poor heritage and only survives by living with Joan, a German Gypsy witch who often taps into his translating abilities. Henry doesn’t mind as he loves to read and learn and just like the great William Shakespeare, is himself a wordsmith. Scattered throughout are original sonnets and poetry of Henry’s own making which broke up the text. Henry does make stupid decisions a lot but I guess he’s only human.
The whole book is written pretty lyrically and was one of the easiest books to read. You can tell just how much Akala is passionate about language, Shakespeare and poetry as it exudes on every page. The story is very slow burning and is definitely a set up book for the sequel but I still enjoyed every page. There was a lot of things left unexplained and open so I hope that we get some of those cleared up in book two.
Only one part of the book made me feel uncomfortable but I think it was only included to provide a genuine historical experience. Animal fighting was of source of entertainment during this period and it’s inclusion here only made me feel sad – it wasn’t nice to read graphically about animals fighting to the death and then what happens to the animals who don’t fight…
Other trigger warnings include racism, sex work and gore.
This book comes out in April to coincide with William Shakespeare’s birthday and I couldn’t think of a better sentiment from such a big fan.