Daughter from the Dark by Marina Dyachenko, Sergey Dyachenko, translated by Julia Meitov Hersey
Category: Fantasy, Translated Fiction
First Publication Date: 11th February 2020
I received an advance copy via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.
Late one night, fate brings together DJ Aspirin and ten-year-old Alyona. After he tries to save her from imminent danger, she ends up at his apartment. But in the morning sinister doubts set in. Who is Alyona? A young con artist? A plant for a nefarious blackmailer? Or perhaps a long-lost daughter Aspirin never knew existed? Whoever this mysterious girl is, she now refuses to leave.
A game of cat-and-mouse has begun.
Claiming that she is a musical prodigy, Alyona insists she must play a complicated violin piece to find her brother. Confused and wary, Aspirin knows one thing: he wants her out of his apartment and his life. Yet every attempt to get rid of her is thwarted by an unusual protector: her plush teddy bear that may just transform into a fearsome monster.
Alyona tells Aspirin that if he would just allow her do her work, she’ll leave him—and this world. He can then return to the shallow life he led before her. But as outside forces begin to coalesce, threatening to finally separate them, Aspirin makes a startling discovery about himself and this ethereal, eerie child.
Daughter of the Dark is my first Dyachenko book and I am very, very impressed! The synopsis itself did not sound very interesting to me at first: mysterious girls with mysterious powers are a bit of an overdone trope (Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman and The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey come to mind), but this book truly takes the trope and makes it its own. The writing is so gorgeous and magical, dark and at times violent. There is something irresistible about this story, the mystery of it and how the reader is kept as much in the dark as Aspirin.
There is a fairy-tale feeling to the story, a mix of almost childish wonder and a more adult grittiness, keeping the reader on their toes the whole time. Alyona is strange and unknowable, and the world she comes from confusing and just as unknowable. Aspirin, on the other hand, feels like the kind of person you’ve met and did not particularly like, and he too despises himself, but still you feel for him and root for him. You can almost feel the pull Alyona has on him and how he makes the choices he makes, therefore getting deeper and deeper in trouble because of a little girl who does not quite like him.
This is not exactly slow-paced, but it’s very character-focused, sometimes almost mundane – and then suddenly it’s violently magical. The magic mostly happens off page and we never get all the answers, which makes for such an intriguing read. There is always the possibility that there was no magic at all. I adore this kind of dark fantasy focused on characters and with beautiful writing, so it’s no surprise this was a hit for me! I look so much forward to picking up Vita Nostra.