DAUGHTER FROM THE DARK by Marina & Sergey Dyachenko
translated by Julia Meitov Hersey
Harper Voyager, February 11, 2020
Daughter from the Dark is the latest offering from Ukrainian husband and wife team Marina and Sergey Dyachenko, translated brilliantly from the Russian by Julia Meitov Hersey. Their 2018 release, Vita Nostra, is one of the most bizarre, exhilarating, mind-bending things I’ve read, and while I cannot wait for the next installment of that series to be available in English, this standalone was a lovely treat in the meantime.
For those who haven’t read Vita Nostra yet, I’d argue that Daughter from the Dark may be a slightly more palatable place to start. It’s a shorter book, for one, and its ideas are much more easily digested. But that’s not to say that it’s a traditional, predictable book by any means – these are the authors of Vita Nostra, after all – and it’s not a simple book to summarize. But, roughly: it follows a DJ called Aspirin, who one night finds a young girl, Alyona, standing alone in the dark, clutching a teddy bear; she won’t tell him where she came from so he takes her home with him, and one she’s in his apartment, she refuses to leave. And also, her teddy bear might be a vicious monster.
Daughter from the Dark is thrilling and enchanting, and the dynamic between Aspirin and Alyona is nothing short of brilliant. The pace is slower and more meandering than that of Vita Nostra, but it wasn’t to the book’s detriment as the Dyachenkos excel so much at atmosphere. This is a dirty, grungy book, which paradoxically reads like a fairy tale, and that tension between beauty and horror is exactly what makes it so unforgettable. I can’t recommend this author/translator team enough to anyone who likes their fantasy light on plot and heavy on the sort of ideas that won’t leave you alone long after you put the book down.
Thank you to Harper Voyager for the advanced copy provided in exchange for an honest review.
You can pick up a copy of Daughter from the Dark here on Book Depository.