“Deeply Weird”: Craig L. Gidney on The Darkangel by Meredith Ann Pierce

“Deeply Weird”: Craig L. Gidney on The Darkangel by Meredith Ann Pierce

The Darkangel
and A Gathering of Gargoyles (Tor Books, 1984 and 1985). Covers by Kinuko Y. Craft

Facebook is a great place to discover vintage fantasy. I know, right? It’s not just old people and Bob Byrne talking about actors he recognizes. Earlier this month Craig L. Gidney (A Spectral Hue, Skin Deep Magic) caught my attention with this short post.

Before there was Twilight, there was The Darkangel by Meredith Ann Pierce, the original teenage vampire romance novel. The Darkangel was a deeply weird novel. It’s set on the moon, a locale which adds an extra eerie element. The moon is full of strange creatures, including gargoyles and a lorelei that lives in a pool of the moon. The heroine has agency, though she isn’t an Action Girl. The plot of the first book owes a great deal to the Bluebeard legend. The entire trilogy is dream-like. I wish more people knew about it. The novel turned me on to the dark fairytale fiction of Tanith Lee and Patricia McKillip.

He’s absolutely right. The Darkangel was nominated for the Mythopoeic Fantasy Award, and won the International Reading Association’s annual Children’s Book Award. It was followed swiftly by a sequel A Gathering of Gargoyles; both were published in paperback from Tor. A third novel, The Pearl of the Soul of the World, eventually appeared five years later to complete the trilogy.

The Darkangel Trilogy
(Magic Carpet Books, 1998/1999). Covers by David Bowers

Tor never published the final book. The Science Fiction Book Club released a three-volume omnibus in 1990, and Harcourt’s YA imprint Magic Carpet Books finally released the complete trilogy in paperback in the late 90s (see above).

The series remains popular among modern readers. Here’s an excerpt from the most popular review at Goodreads, Kathryn’s 5-star review from 2007.

The Darkangel… is a solid young adult fantasy worth reading more than once.

The Darkangel, once a mortal and not quite a vampire, must have 14 brides before he can come into his full power and immortality. He keeps his wives in his cold castle, wraiths without their souls, which he wears in lead vials around his neck. When the Darkangel steals away Eoduin, Aeriel, her slave and friend, vows to avenge her mistress and waits for the Darkangel to return.

But when the Darkangel comes back to claim Aeriel, she finds that he is too beautiful for her to kill. At first she thinks she too will become one of his brides but he scoffs at the idea, claiming that she is too ugly. Instead he has brought her to his castle as a servant; she is to weave the clothes for his brides and when he chooses his 14th and final bride it will be Aeriel that weaves the bridal gown. Below the castle, in deep caves, lives a little man by the name of Talb. A magician of sorts, he helps Aeriel survive her first few months…

‘The Darkangel’ is not the vampire story you might expect. Written years before a revolution was led by authors everywhere towards bodice-ripping novels that featured blood-sucking hunks, Pierce crafted an original fantasy with a vampire at its heart. More adventure and self-discovery than romance, this is a story of Aerial and her growth. Nevertheless the idea of romance is there; the pale beautiful face, the night black wings, the other worldly power, all elements that have followed the vampire into more modern settings.

But leave whatever vampire expectations you have behind you. The Darkangel is solid, finely wrought fantasy with hints of science fiction thrown in.

Here’s a look at the back covers for both Tor paperbacks.

Back covers to The Darkangel and A Gathering of Gargoyles

There’s still no digital editions of the first two books in the series, but it’s not tough to find them in paperback. Here’s the details on the paperback editions of all three books.

The Darkangel (Tor Books, 252 pages, $2.95 in paperback, July 1984) — cover by Kinuko Y. Craft
A Gathering of Gargoyles (Tor Books, 263 pages, $2.95 in paperback, July 1985) — cover by Kinuko Y. Craft
The Pearl of the Soul of the World (Magic Carpet Books, 301 pages, $6 in paperback, May 1999) — cover by David Bowers

See all our recent coverage of the best new and old fantasy series here.

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Eugene R.

Any fiction that turns a reader on to Tanith Lee and Patricia McKillip must be good. I recall seeing The Darkangel but not its sequels. More books for which to look!

Tony Den

Love the Tor covers. Reminiscent of mid 1980s Brit published fantasy covers.

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