The dark lady by Akala

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Henry is an orphan in Elizabethan era London, living in the slums, getting by day to day as a thief, hiding a secret gift. Having been taken in by friends years earlier, Henry uses his gift in the shop his guardian runs - translating books from any language into English. His rough life has daily struggles, which are increased due to his heritage. Experiencing racism on top of the threat of death if caught stealing, Henry longs for a simpler life. Then, a break-in goes wrong when the homeowner, the Duke, returns home early. Suddenly, Henry's life is incredibly different.

The Dark Lady is a YA historical fiction, full of magic and mystery, sonnets and cruelty. Historical London is depicted throughout the novel, with many of the senses being engaged - sight, smell and touch. While the author researched Elizabethan street slang, the use of it felt forced, and the sonnets composed by the lead character feel the same. The novel is written simply, and the characters are not entirely relatable. Particularly in their choices and reactions, especially the main character Henry. While the story moved along fairly well, there was only really one scene that had much life and action. The rest of the novel didn't really go anywhere, making it difficult to find it engaging. This was a difficult book to review, as it has not really lived up to the potential of the story.

Themes: Historical Fiction; Fantasy; Magic; Historical London; Racism.

Melanie Phillips