Cover Image: Daughter from the Dark

Daughter from the Dark

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Member Reviews

I posted a review for this on Feb. 25, 2020. Sorry it took so long for me to update Net Galley.
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I really enjoyed the thrills of this book, just as in the title of this book the reader is left in the dark about where this mysterious girl came from. How come it seems that her stuffed teddy bear has powers, and why she is intruding on on DJ Aspen's life. It is a very mysterious relationship the two of them share. The relationship between Aspen and Alyona is maddening. As we traverse thought the book the magical dark realism is what drives the reader to keep reading on as fast as they can to discover how the two are related and where this girl came from as well as why she is doing what she does. Why Aspen? 
Aspen is self-absorbed, independent, and for lack of a better word, an ass, yet he rescues Alyona from the streets after a very interesting and unexplainable event that takes place in the alley outside of his apartment building.  As we traverse through the book the relationship between Alyona, a very intrinsic child, and Aspen a pompous, arrogant man is what creates this dark fantasy. A very interesting and original tale.
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This duo manages to write the most strange but utterly fascinating reads.   I've recommended to many of my colleagues to check this out.
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I received this book as an Advanced Reader's Copy (ARC) through NetGalley. I received this copy free in exchange for my honest review.

This is a translated work from a Ukrainian husband and wife team.  I will admit up front that I think due to cultural differences, some of the book really was baffling to me.  There are social graces or norms, that are probably normal in the Ukrain, but are odd to a US reader.  For example the interaction with the teenagers in the first chapter had a lot of cultural nuances I felt I was missing.

Aspirin is a DJ and he finds a 10 year old girl, Alyona, on his doorstep. She says someone is looking for her. She won’t talk to him though and he leaves her, then he runs into some teenagers about a block away, who chase him with their dog. He goes back for the girl,  as they flee she tosses her teddy bear back into the alley and it kills the dog. Aspirin takes her home, he really doesn’t know what is happening or what else to do with her.  In the morning she refuses to leave.  Claiming that she is a musical prodigy, Alyona insists she must play a complicated violin piece to find her brother.  And her is where it gets a bit more confusing.  I think she is an Angel, but who she is, is never fully explained.
Be aware there is a lot of cursing, like every other word.  Also there are very violent scenes when Alyona’s teddy bear defends her.

This book took me a long time to read. I put it down and came back to finish it almost 4 months after I started it.  I really couldn’t relate to the characters in the story line wasn’t as enthralling as it sounded in the description. I don’t think that it’s because of the authors, I think that it had to do with the translation. I feel like there was some sort of heart missing from the story. It was an OK story plot wise, and I like some of the interesting factors.
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Wow...where do I begin. This book was strange and mind boggling. I loved how engaging it was, even when I was trying to figure it out (still haven't). It was like some kind of weird horror/fantasy fairytale story. With all the music and strangeness of Alyona it made me think of a modern day Pied Piper. Definitely recommend if you like the strange and compelling, it definitely wasn't what I expected and strangely fulfilling.
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Thank you to NetGalley and the authors for allowing me to read and review this book. I wanted to read this book because I read and enjoyed Vita Nostra, the authors' previous novel. Like Vita Nostra, this book takes place in Russia and involves magic and mystery incorporated into everyday life. But unlike VN, the magic of this book is just mysterious enough to keep the reader intrigued without being so abstract that it's impossible to grasp. The premise of a girl appearing out of nowhere and a young man taking her in was enough to get me reading, but I stayed for the world building and slow build of the relationship between Alexey and Alyona. I loved that Alyona perfectly balanced the line between young girl and immortal being. Also, the entire concept of Mishutka was genius and funny. The authors (and translator) did a wonderful job of describing Alyona's magic and music, and Alexey's initial frustration, anger, acceptance, and then love for the girl. There's a lot to unpack here thematically: the girl coming seemingly out of nowhere to save her brother; the cruelty of the world toward toward something lovely and perfect; Alexey being tasked to care for someone he doesn't understand, while hating and then loving her; music as power; the final chapter with the barefoot man. A great book club book that is sure to lead to lively discussions.
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This story was way disturbing for me to read. What happened to this twelve year old girl was horrific and I ended up having to put this book down many times before I could finish it.  I do not think that this book is for the weak at heart and there are a lot of disturbing themes within its pages. Setting the actual story aside I will say that the pacing was done well and the characters man you couldn't help but feel for this child.
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Thanks to Netgalley for allowing me a sample of this book, in exchange for an honest review.

I got this book, but shortly after reviewing it, went to download a copy and was told it was no longer available, but they were still waiting on my review, so I got a sample from Amazon and will have to do my rating based on that.

The book was interesting.  I enjoyed the idea it presented from the very beginning that the world is not at all how we see it.  The main character DJ Aspirin meets an abandoned girl in an alley on his way home one night.  Shortly after he is attacked by a group of teenagers, and is saved by this girl and her stuffed bear.  The bear is more than it seems.

The writing was done well, even with the language barrier of needing a translator.  

I felt that the story could have been a little quicker to get started, but I think if I had been able to read more of the work I would have really enjoyed it.  I hesitate to give this book a review off of one chapter, as I only tent to do that with books I dislike, but I believe this book would have been a 3.5-4 star read if I had been able to finish.
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4 stars. Wow. I loved this one. The feelings that it gave me are still haunting me days later. It’s not for everyone: it’s pretty gritty, with cussing/profanity aplenty, general dissolution, and child abuse (that’s the reason for the mere four stars!). But it’s an absolutely haunting - yes, there’s that word again. It’s the best word to describe this book - meditation on selfishness and creation. The characters and events are fully alive, yet surreal. I hope that, someday, I can write something nearly as good.

I received a free copy from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
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I requested this as an audio excerpt since I hadn't tried that option before. I didn't know that you could get the entire ARC, but the sample was interesting. However, with the sample being the beginning of the book, it wasn't very interesting to me. It wasn't the best hook to pull me in, but I will try it if a digital version is available through the library.
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Do you want to read a book about a middle-aged DJ who hates his job, goes to a club, drinks and sleeps around with young women every day, while a 10 year-old girl refuses to leave his apartment or explain who she is, says weird stuff and plays violin all the time? Oh, and sometimes they are randomly attacked by teenagers, police or some strangers with absolutely no consequences to anything.

Well, this is a basic description of this story. I've never been this disappointed or shocked after reading a book. It serves absolutely no purpose. It starts out intriguing but very quickly becomes repetitive and boring. It has no plot, no character development, completely unrealistic decisions made by pretty much everybody, and a very weak and undeveloped fantasy element.

The protagonist Aspirin is the definition of a passive character. He is also a coward and a womanizer, rude to everybody, calls housewives "vacuum cleaners", threatens a music teacher to throw her down the stairs several times. He hates his boring radio DJ job yet does it for the money and likes telling everybody that he is the famous Aspirin.

The girl Alyona is not better. I read the whole book and I still have no idea who she is. The only two emotions she ever showed were condescension and anger for no apparent reason.

I gave this book a fair chance, went without any expectations, but unfortunately I can't say a single good thing about it. For me it was a complete waste of time.

Thanks to Netgalley and Harper Voyager for the eARC.
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Daughter from the Dark is a dark modern urban fantasy with a touch of horror by Marina & Sergey Dyachenko. First released in 2006 in Russian, this translation 11th Feb 2020 from Harper Collins is 304 pages and available in hardcover, audio, and ebook formats. It's worth noting that the ebook format has a handy interactive table of contents as well as interactive links. I've really become enamored of ebooks with interactive formats lately.

This is a difficult read to categorize. It slips between urban fantasy and horror with a weird nightmare quality that feels tense and unsettling at the same time. None of the main characters are wholly likeable including the 10 year old changeling, Alyona. She's creepy, manipulative, mad bad and dangerous. Her reluctant "rescuer" (?) DJ Aspirin is a slick ladies man, perfectly willing to use his position as a popular radio and club DJ to acquire and discard women in a series of meaningless one-night-stands and he doesn't rate his friends much higher. His entanglement with Alyona he reacts to only as it relates to him and his inconvenience. There are several scenes of physical and emotional abuse which would be more tragic except for the fact that Alyona isn't human (probably) and she doesn't seem to -have- any emotional range except inasmuch as it will get her what she wants (which is pretty diffuse from the information given in the book...she's either in this realm to find and save her brother, or kill everyone, or herself, or all of the above). There's a lot of narrative wrapped around music and a creepy vodyanoy(ish) secondary male character who is threatening and weird all at the same time.

The book is translated from the original Russian and it -really- reads like literature in translation. It feels like a -very- direct translation (and furthermore it feels like the jaggedness of the translation was entirely intentional).

I found this an odd and unsettling read. I think it would appeal to readers of edgy urban fantasy/light horror. I'm not familiar enough with Russian folklore to know if this is a modern reinterpretation of a traditional fable, but it didn't ring any specific bells for me.

Weird, disjointed, discordant, disturbing, but well written. Four stars. I am glad it's a standalone. It was a little too creepy for my taste but I did enjoy reading it.
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I think I found a problem with these authors - their modern day stories don't do anything for me. I was spoiled by reading The Scar. The translation and the story behind that, merged with their interesting way of tackling the magic with the psychological insights remains one of my favorite fantasy stories. 

This was not only confusing but very ick territory for me.

The DJ of this story is abusive, crass, and frankly rude. At times he hits the girl - the strange, distant, and probably supernatural girl - and he makes her do some really sexist stuff. The girl is 12. Daughter or not, he was just a chore to read and the fact he was our focus through the story was disturbing.

The times the book made sense is where the main character literally info dumps in an internal monologue. Even still, you don't know if that is even the truth (it is, after all, his thoughts).

There are some very interesting pieces mixed into this book - that a song can channel rage, love, destruction and also control people without them knowing so. There is also a demonic bear that it was never really explained why it morphs into an actual creature or that people cannot see it become said creature except see the carnage afterward. 

I also noted that the same translator for Vita Nostra worked on this book. I don't really care for her, she is way too literal with her translations and frankly it hurts the story a bit. Again, I preferred the translator for The Scar and was happy to see that they used him again on another one of their fantasy stories (that isn't modern day).

I do like this duo but I think I'm going to sit out on more modern-day stories from them.
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The premise of this book sounded so intriguing. When I first started reading, I had a lot of trouble following what was going on, which I believe is the point. The problem was when I reached 1/3 of the way in and I still had no idea what was happening and no stake in any character. Again, the idea of this book is great but it just isn’t readable.
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"In this extraordinary stand-alone novel, the authors and translator of Vita Nostra - a "dark Harry Potter on steroids with a hefty dose of metaphysics" (award-winning author Aliette de Bodard) - return with a story about creation, music, and companionship filled with their hallmark elements of subtle magic and fantasy.

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."

Here for the teddy bear defense!
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I wanted to love this so bad but I just couldn’t. They story about the guy who picks up this little girl who is in trouble. Bring her to his house for safe heaven and just lets her stay so they can figure out what to do with her in the morning is a great concept. I think what through next off was how childish she was with the teddy bear and her mannerisms. I gave this book a 1-2 🌟 review but I think maybe it’s a good for someone out there but it wasn’t for me.
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The Dyachenkos, Marina and Sergey, are perhaps best known in the English-speaking world as the authors of Vita Nostra, a dark and compelling tale that mixes metaphysics and philosophy with urban fantasy in unique ways. Joined again by translator Julia Meitov Hersey, this new English translation of Daughter from the Dark returns readers to their dark and compelling way of telling stories, while swapping metaphysics for questions of creativity, music, and creation.

This is one that just demands to be read, compelling from the first pages. The story begins with DJ Aspirin meeting a young girl, Alyona, one night near his apartment. From the first moments of this encounter it is obvious that there is something dark and mysterious about her. The story is beautiful and introspective as it lingers in the interactions between Aspirin and Alyona, and dwells particularly on his seeming inability to remove her from his home or retrieve any agency over his own life. In this way, the story certainly has elements of horror to it, though I feel like it might be more properly described as a dark, modern fairy tale. One of the strongest elements of the story-telling is the strong characterization of Aspirin. We see the entire story unfold from his perspective and share in his own feelings of helplessness. The book also plays with questions of perception and identity and how we perceive ourselves, how others perceive us, and how we and others perceive the world and commonly observed events. There is an element to the writing and storytelling that feels almost whimsical at moments, but darkly so.

I can't speak of weaknesses, so much as things that didn't work for me in the story. This is a story that doesn't rush. It walks slowly through the narrative, allowing you to savor each scene. While this largely worked for me, given the overall feel and ambiance, there were a couple moments where I felt like maybe the pacing wasn't quite right. Not that it needed to be faster - not every story is an action-adventure! - but that maybe some more focus needed to be given to this over here, or perhaps a little less attention spent on that detail there. But it's hard to define exactly what I mean. While I think Aspirin and Alyona were well characterized, I didn't feel much emotional connection to either. While I think that's fine, it means that in the end this was a novel that left me thinking more than it did feeling. I like novels that make me think, but I tend to enjoy them even more when I'm left feeling and thinking.

Daughter from the Dark is a disturbingly captivating read throughout, forcing us to ask questions about identity, how we understand ourselves, and what is necessary for the process of creation. Perhaps what's more, it subtly nudges the reader to consider what one is willing to give up in order to create. This is another excellent read from the Dyachenkos!
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Daughter from the Dark was an exceptionally odd book and I really am not sure how I feel about it. When I say this is an odd book, I'm not exaggerating--there's weird characters, an uncertain plot, and a variety of other elements that make this book a tough one to decode. This is the second book I've read by Marina and Sergey Dyachenko, the first being Vita Nostra, a book that I completely fell in love with. Daughter from the Dark didn't quite live up to Vita Nostra, but I'm not sure if anything could.

The book starts with our protagonist, radio DJ Aspirin, who saves a little girl, Alyona (who carries a teddy bear) from the less-than-welcoming nighttime streets and from there things get progressively weirder. Aspirin is not exactly a warm and welcoming person, so he wants to find Alyona's parents and vacate his apartment so he can go back to his normal life. Unfortunately, Alyona is a bit stubborn and doesn't seem to have any plans to leave, especially when she begins to claim that Aspirin is her father, which of course only makes Aspirin angrier.

Alyona is trying to find her brother, which she embarks with the help of her violin and the aforementioned teddy bear, which trust me when I say this is a teddy bear that you probably don't want to meet for any reason other than a brief hello. Alyona is extremely stubborn and the type of person who decides on a goal and then refuses to budge from it for almost any reason. Her interactions with Aspirin are interesting to say the least, and range from hostile to completely amusing.

Aspirin, much like Alyona, is also pretty stubborn and doesn't particularly like when things throw themselves abruptly into his life (which I can understand and seems mostly reasonable). He's a bit selfish on the whole and can be a bit rude, but he's not really a bad person and is really just doing his best to make it through each day. I found him to be an intriguing character and I liked watching his relationship ad interactions with Alyona develop as the story progressed.

The pacing of Daughter from the Dark is definitely on the slower side and there aren't really a lot of major high-intensity moments that take over, save for maybe a small handful. However, there's something about the writing style and the curious uncertainty that inhabits this plot that made it really easy for me to keep reading . There were times when I asked myself if I really wanted to finish this book, but I can't say I ever actually seriously considered DNF-ing it because, frankly, I was just too intrigued to know what would end happening in the end. Marina and Sergey Dyachenko have a huge skill in knowing how to write weird stories with weird characters in a way that makes them utterly captivating and nearly impossible to stop reading.

Initially, I debated between giving this book three and four stars, but it's one of those where the more I think about it, the more and more I like it and am intrigued by it, so it's four stars from me! I fully intend to check out the few other novels from the Dyachenkos that have been translated soon, and I'm also going to keep my fingers crossed that one day the sequel to Vita Nostra will also be translated. If you like things a bit weird, a bit on the slower and calmer side, and that will keep you wondering, then I encourage you to pick up this book (or Vita Nostra!) and give it a shot. Plus, that cover alone is stunning!
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I picked up this book because I loved Vita Nostra, and Daughter from the Dark did not disappoint. I read it in two days (and I'm a PhD student who works 15 hours a week). This story is fantastical and while there are bits of it that are reminiscent of Vita Nostra, it is wonderful in its own right. The growth of Aspirin as he attempts to handle Alyona is gradual but inspiring and Alyona's journey heartbreaking but somehow beautiful at the same time. A speculative fantasy wonderland, this book draws you in and spits you out as something different, and hopefully a little better than you were when you went in.
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I received a free digital copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

So, the premises of this story but the execution was lacking for me. A lot of the story felt like it was missing. I feel like it needed more structure or background. 
The character arcs did not feel consistent for me. 
I loved the cover art though, it is absolutely gorgeous.
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