Cover Image: Dark Earth

Dark Earth

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Member Reviews

I was really excited for this novel because it was set in Britain during the Dark Ages. However, I could not connect with the characters. I also thought that the writing  and dialogue was very clunky. Thus, Dark Earth had potential but was not executed well. Still, I recommend this for fans of The Lost Queen!
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Thank you so much to NetGalley and Random House for the digital copy of this captivating and feministic novel! It was written by an author who is also a historian, and this expertise really shows within the pages. Rebecca shows an accurate description of Dark Ages Britain, but also puts her own magical spin on it. She brings to life a bygone era, but injects into it living myth and folklore, and it creates a world that you cannot help but fall in love with. You will also instantly connect with the sisters who are fighting so hard to be heard and seen here.

Isla and Blue are our protagonists, and they live in the exile encampment of The Ghost City with their father, who is a blacksmith accused of using dark magic to create his metalworks. He is controlled by the local warlord to only make weapons for him. The girls, however, lived a childhood where they ran amuck-- Blue finding her calling within nature, and Isla silently learning smithing from her father; which was, of course, forbidden to women. Everything changes when their father suddenly dies, and then they themselves are enslaved by the cruel warlord himself. Hope seems to be lost until they find bands of rebels like themselves, and these brave women decide to fight back against the system that has pushed them to the shadows all these years.

This is a beautiful and inspiring read-- and it has a deep root in history as well as folklore. These elements weaved together create a lyrical but factual fantasy that is not too far from the world we know. As such, it is easy to get lost in. The magical realism gives enough of an escape that it doesn't feel bogged down by the patriarchy, and Rebecca gives us a group of women to cheer for and relate to. I really enjoyed this novel. It was hard to put down, and a very quick and easy read. I also enjoyed that actual artifacts and dig sites inspired bits of the lore-- so I was learning as I went along! I recommend this to Medievalists of all ages!
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I grabbed this PURELY for the cover.

Rebecca Stott put ALL the effort into writing this. The research and time that must've been extensive. She weaves historical fact with fiction beautifully. Whenever a name came up, I instantly looked it up. Which I love doing. 

This book is set after the Roman Empire, a time period that has hardly been written about, so this was extra exciting. It's interesting how little information there is out there regarding this era. Especially about Londinium.

A fair warning: this book is rather slow. There's definitely no plot, and the characters are the main focus point. This reads mostly from Isla's point of view, but I kinda wish there was more of Blue. With such a strong emphasis on sister bonds, it threw me off slightly to only have one side.

The writing is beautiful, albeit choppy. It reads like a fairytale, but when Stott changes scenes, it's ended abruptly. I'd been so drawn into the story and then immediately brought out of it.

There was a little surprise for me towards the end. In the form of a sapphic relationship. Hehe. They brought me so much joy. It was instant love, but I didn't mind at all.

Overall, it's a beautiful, stunning book. I'm real happy I read this!
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I wasn't OMG amazed by it, but I've given it out with some success since it's publication.  A 2nd round purchase for most libraries
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Dark Earth follows two sisters, Blue and Isla, living in Dark Ages Britain. Blue is able to practice medicine and has some supernatural powers. Meanwhile, Isla is a female smith who knows the secret of forging the mythical swords known as firetongues, a valuable skill that the men from the settlement would kill her for. When their father dies, they are abruptly thrust into peril. To hide their father’s death and escape from their island, the sisters must work together to find sanctuary. 

This was a stunning read. The author chose a fascinating but obscure time in history for the setting of this work – post-Roman Britain. It's clear that the author did extensive historical research, and I appreciated the immersive  worldbuilding and details included about the setting, the culture, lifeways, and the interactions between the physical and spiritual worlds. Myth, legend, and lore were incorporated so thoroughly into this story in a meaningful way that added depth to the plot and the characters. I especially enjoyed the Roman (Sun King) ruins and the role they played in the world of Dark Age Britain. The novel did not have much plot, but the worldbuilding made 

Though this work didn’t have much plot, I still found it to be a compelling read. However, I will say that I found the the character development lacking throughout the novel. 4 stars.
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Dark Earth is the story of sisters finding their way through life in the Middle Ages. It is a great fictionalized tale for history-loving readers. It walks the line between low fantasy and historical fiction, taking place in a historic civilization.

This book does a good job at entertaining readers as they learn about different skills and key players in that time period, and I enjoyed the few moments of jumping back in Isla and Blue’s lives.
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Dark Earth is a historical fictional story about two sisters and their father who were exiled to an island near abandoned ruins of a Roman settlement.  Their father is a blacksmith who makes legendary powerful swords for the king, possibly using dark magic according to local legend.  The sisters have been doing forbidden things for women: Blue communing with local plants and animals and Isla secretly learning the blacksmith trade.  When their father dies suddenly and the king and his evil son plan to enslave them, the sisters escape to the ruins where a group of women live.  There they must find a way to fight back and escape from the men who are looking for them.

This was an okay book but had a really slow start.  Another frustrating aspect of this book was that it was difficult to determine how long of a period events took place--was this a period of weeks or months or years?  Some of the action sequences could have used clearer descriptions of the events--I found myself rereading passages to try to make sense of the scene.  Overall, it was a pretty good book.  However, it would really help to have a working knowledge of Roman religious practices and paganism.  It is clear that the author knows what she is talking about but it felt like she assumed that the reader has this knowledge as well.  Still, I was interested enough to pick up another book by this author.
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I love reading historical fiction from women's povs, and this time period isn't one i've read about before. I was so intrigued and blown away by the setting and imagery. The writing was beautiful and felt very storybook in a way.
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I did not finish this one even though I was very excited about the unusual topic and the beautiful cover. The author had a very specific writing style that I think was meant to evoke the very different time and brutal atmosphere of a long-ago place. I really appreciate the effort but it unfortunately made the book confusing in parts and hard to pick back up again. I'm sure many readers will enjoy that feeling of immersion but this just wasn't the right time for me.
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This is yet another book I overall liked, but that I didn't walk away feeling strongly about in either direction. DARK EARTH is not a bad book. You can tell that the author did her research from the impeccable world-building that you can't help but drift into. Combine with the harsh realities of women during this time period contrasted and with a slight twinge of magic, you walk away with an appreciation of the book's feminist themes. I also liked the sisterly bonds between blood sisters Blue and Isla, as well as the community in the Ghost City of women at large. All that said, I didn't resonate with Stott's writing style for some reason I am not sure of. I liked the book, but there was never that moment that hooks me like in books I rate 4 or 5 stars. I also expected there to be a larger fantasy element in this one, but to me it mostly read like historical fiction. It would have been okay for me had I expected it, but alas. So this book falls into the "okay" pile for me ultimately.
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I requested this book as background reading for a review/article we ran on BookBrowse. Our reviewer rated it 5-stars. 

Beyond the Book:
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I did not finish this book. I tried to get into it but I had a hard time. It is well researched and well written, but it just wasn’t for me. Thanks for the opportunity to try it though.
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The premise of Dark Earth lies in the simple question of who left the brooch in the ruins of Roman Londinium. Stott's answer is two sisters are banished from their community after their father is accused of using dark magic to create his firetongue swords. He is then forced to develop his blades for the local warlord, Osric, to expand his kingdom. Isla and Blue, however, are left in a predicament when their father unexpectedly dies and leaves a firetongue sword unfinished. 

As a result, Isla and Blue leave behind their island to seek asylum from Osric and his cruel son, Vort. They are able to find safe haven with the local community of women, but the threat continues to loom from the outside. Isla and Blue, who were raised on the wilds of their island, decide to use their various skills to thwart Vort and his father and earn the right to live their lives.

Initially, the time period and setting of living outside the Ghost City of Londinium drew me to this book, I overall found that the characters left a lot to be desired. This book promised to be about the bond between sisters and while that was true to some extent, I felt detached and distant from the plight of Isla and Blue. There's a tricky balance in writing historical novels, especially about a time period that we really have no knowledge about, in that it can feel anachronistic or like a historical record. This had the latter problem. So, read this novel for its setting and capturing a difficult period, but do not go in with the expectations to be riveted by the characters and their conflict.
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Dark Earth is an incredibly captivating and unique historical fiction of two sisters living in England in 500 AD. 
Isla and Blue are both feared by the rest of their community. The sisters have been exiled with their father as a result of each having a talent or born with a trait that frightens their community, Isla born with eyes of two different colors and Blue who seems destined to a path as a Wiccan. Their father retains some power as he is the last Great Smith, able to create firetongue swords. Then the Great Smith dies and the sisters must figure out how to survive in a world that seems to hate the very idea of them. 
The story is told over 5 parts. I found so much of the story to be well-paced and exciting. There were some excellent action scenes and the descriptions were beautiful. But the end of the book seemed rushed. Suddenly the answer is seemingly dropped at the heroines’ feet and boom, everything is solved. I was disappointed in that aspect, but overall rated the book a 4 star for how magical the storytelling was.  
I had the pleasure of both reading an electronic copy and listening to an audiobook of Dark Earth. While the book itself is wonderful, and also contains a map that is helpful in envisioning the communities, I really have to credit the audiobook for really capturing my attention. The narrator, Hannah Morris’s, does an absolute superb job in bringing to life Isla, Blue and the rest of the characters, even the nefarious Vort. I blitzed through the audiobook in 2 days while working. 
Thanks to NetGalley and Random House for providing me with the e-ARC in exchange for an honest review.
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4 stars- This was out of my normal genre I typically go for but I'm so glad I decided to try something new :) i really enjoyed this one! thank you netgalley & the publisher for the arc, in exchange for an honest review.
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I thoroughly enjoyed this book! It’s a little bit fantasy/ a little bit historical fiction. I have never read anything set in this time period (AD 500) but the author managed to make it feel as though the reader is both 1500 years ago and yet somehow in the present. I find it hard sometimes to connect to anything that happened that long ago but I was definitely connected to these characters. 

At first I worried the book would feel too long but by the end I was hoping for more. The last bit where the author brings the story full-circle to the present time was ingenious. She humanized a time period that can seem so remote to modern day. 

I also loved the magical/fantasy element. It added some mystery to the story. I don’t think this book is for everyone but anyone who would like to learn a little about the time period while also reading a plot that felt very modern would like this.
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3.5 upward-leaning stars for this lyrical story of two sisters doing their best to survive in a time of turmoil and savagery in Dark Ages Britain. 
I loved that it's in a time and location that doesn't often get used as a setting and that it is obvious the author knows what she's writing about because it feels as realistic as any non-fiction book I've read on the era. It also employs beautiful language that brought to mind the few epics and stories I'm familiar with of the era. 
The story of Isla and Blue is one of two sisters as different as can be from each other but as loving and supportive as can be. The things they go through and how they grow to realize that they're stronger together is the strongest element of this book. 
You can tell that the author is a historian who loves what they're writing about because everything reads like beautiful descriptions of realistic scenes. She goes deep into the little details of what living in the era would have been like and it does a brilliant job of bringing the reader into the story. 
It also is a bit of its downfall as the abundance of details and the lyrical writing at times result in long passages that, while beautifully rendered, could have maybe been better said in fewer words to help the story move at a better pace. The pacing is what took it down for me. It sometimes feels like it's trudging through the marshes and getting stuck at a glacial pace when the story demands action.
Overall, I'd recommend this for when you feel like you want to fully immerse yourself in a world of traditions and beliefs that will slowly but surely win you over. 

Happy thanks to NetGalley and Random House for the opportunity to read and review!
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3.5 stars

While I found portions of Dark Earth to be amazing and I couldn't put it down, at the same time there were a lot of sections that dragged. I enjoyed the story of Isla and Blue, I loved the time period of post-Roman Britain with the different races in conflict, and I really enjoyed the magic. There were a few too many "Waiting" periods though, in which the characters weren't doing much.
A solid historical fantasy read, but not amazing, which I was hoping for.
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Absolutely beautiful. Rebecca Stott's prose is gorgeous, and she vividly evokes an age that is difficult to reconstruct from the spotty historical record. At once grounded in reality and infused with a dreamlike sense of fantasy.
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Dark Earth is a compelling blend of magic, mysticism, and history. 

I’ve read a lot of myth-like historical fiction novels/retellings (such as Kaikeyi, Sistersong, and The Song of Achilles) in the past year, but never one set in the Dark Ages—which also speaks to the extent of research needed to recreate a period of time with very shallow records of its existence. 

Stott’s language is undeniably beautiful throughout the novel. I loved her usage of figurative imagery to imbue the landscape and characters with wonder, which complemented the Dark Ages’ dearth of scientific knowledge. There is a distant tone that slightly removes the reader from the characters, but it didn’t affect my interest. 

Isla is an easy main character to connect with. Her relationship with her younger sister Blue is affectionate but often puzzling; for two girls who grew up isolated on an island with an angry father, they managed to hide a lot of talents from each other. How these talents were acquired was also a bit vague, so I think Stott could have added more of these scenes, which would also lessen the sisters’ disconnection from the reader.

In terms of the plot, I had expected it to be light, but I was still a bit surprised. There were little climaxes sprinkled throughout the novel, but the climaxes toward the end didn’t feel any larger, so a lot of suspense just fizzled out. I don’t mind character-driven stories, but I’d still be aware that the pace never really speeds up.

After reading the acknowledgments, I can still only imagine the time spent researching for this book. Overall, Dark Earth was a slow, quietly magical novel that explores a widely unexplored era of history.
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