A “superb” (The Guardian) novel about two sisters fighting for survival in Dark Ages Britain that weaves “a dazzling blend of history and fantasy” (BuzzFeed)
“Rich in history and folklore . . . Stott is astute on the use of stories to control others and maintain power. . . . Female defiance blazes through as her women reclaim this brutal period from the men.”—The Telegraph
The year is 500 AD. Sisters Isla and Blue live in the shadows of the Ghost City, the abandoned ruins of the once-glorious mile-wide Roman settlement Londinium on the bank of the River Thames. But the small island they call home is also a place of exile for Isla, Blue, and their father, a legendary blacksmith accused of using dark magic to make his firetongue swords—formidable blades that cannot be broken—and cast out from the community. When he dies suddenly, the sisters find themselves facing enslavement by the local warlord and his cruel, power-hungry son. Their only option is to escape to the Ghost City, where they discover an underworld of rebel women living secretly amid the ruins. But if Isla and Blue are to survive the men who hunt them, and protect their new community, they will need to use all their skill and ingenuity—as well as the magic of their foremothers—to fight back.
With an intimate yet cinematic scope, Dark Earth re-creates an ancient world steeped in myth and folklore, and introduces us to unforgettable women who come to vibrant life on the page. A heart-in-mouth adventure full of moments of tenderness, this is a beautiful, profound novel about oppression and power that puts a female perspective on a historical period dominated by men’s stories.
About the Author
Rebecca Stott is emeritus professor of English literature and creative writing at the University of East Anglia in Norwich, England. She is the author of Darwin’s Ghosts and Darwin and the Barnacle; the novels The Coral Thief and the national bestseller Ghostwalk; and, most recently, the award-winning memoir In the Days of Rain. She is a regular contributor to BBC Radio and lives in Norwich.
“Superb . . . [Stott] has created something radically new and beautiful, a book that retells a period of our national past that straddles the line between history and myth. . . . This is a book that seeks to do for British myth what Natalie Haynes and Madeline Miller have done so brilliantly for classical literature: uncovering stories of feminine power that have been occluded by the male hand of history. . . . Kazuo Ishiguro’s The Buried Giant feels like a useful touchstone for this book: it too used this dark period of history to illuminate profound truths about the way we understand ourselves, about the lies and misdirections inscribed in our record of the past.”—The Guardian
“At the heart of Rebecca Stott’s Dark Earth are those things as old as time itself: the love between two sisters, the bonds that bring women together, the power of telling a story around a fire. Though Stott turns her expert eye back thousands of years, this novel pulses with the energy of a brave new world, a world as beautiful as it is dangerous, where a belief in myth and magic can save your life.”—Katherine J. Chen, author of Joan: A Novel of Joan of Arc
“Evocative and richly mythic, Dark Earth pays homage to the quiet triumph of women working together to build a better world. . . . A truly beautiful book.”—Lucy Holland, author of Sistersong
“A magical and evocative book that so deftly explores an era of British history that has been overlooked too long, Dark Earth delights, transports, chills and charms in equal measure.”—Imogen Hermes Gowar, author of The Mermaid and Mrs. Hancock
“An ancient tapestry of legend brilliantly rewoven: hope, courage, men’s violence and women’s magic in an age of ruins and new beginnings.”—Francis Spufford, author of Light Perpetual
“Dark Earth skillfully imagines a past world where women must fight to survive in a society of feuds, violence and nation-building.”—Elizabeth Macneal, author of The Doll Factory
“A thrilling exploration of human kindness, ingenuity and cruelty, told through a tale of ancient London at one of its iconic points of destruction and rebirth.”—Alice Albinia, author of Cwen
“An impressive narrative set in the aftermath of the Roman Empire . . . Stott concretely captures the brutality of the women’s world, their deep resourcefulness, and the power of the stories that sustain and endanger them. This is a memorable achievement.”—Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“Stott builds a rich world from fragments of fact and mythic imagining. . . . The conflict at the climax of this novel is not a clash of arms but a battle between brute power and cunning, between selfish greed and communal strength. Stott fills holes in written history with magic, mythic resonance, and twenty-first-century wish fulfillment.”—Kirkus Reviews (starred review)