I’m in the midst of rereading The Darkangel by Meredith Ann Pierce. It’s the first proper fantasy novel I remember falling in love with–right around age 8. (I always read far above my grade level.) Although I read this book countless times growing up, it’s been many years since the last time I picked it up; it’s out of print, so you really have to hunt to find a copy. Nowadays, The Darkangel would probably be considered Young Adult, and it is written somewhat like a fairy tale with both sci-fi and fantasy elements.
There are two things that have struck me most in reading it again now. The first is surprise that I read this book at such a young age. It is by no means extraordinarily sophisticated, but even for the way I devoured books as a kid, I’m amazed I latched onto it as much as I did. Some of the themes, and most certainly some of the vocabulary, had to have gone way over my head.
But the second (and more interesting) thing that has struck me is just how influential this book turned out to be in retrospect. In it, I see elements of the types of novels I grew to love as I got older, as well as themes and story elements that have informed my own stories. I did not remember the book that way; I’m only seeing it now when something like a quarter of a century has passed since the last time I read it. There are allusions to old mythology and folklore; there are elements of sci-fi in a predominantly fantasy setting; there is a young heroine who takes matters into her own hands and tries to help those worse off than herself. Is it any wonder that I love Divergent or The Hunger Games? There are vampires who are more human than monster; there are terrifying creatures of night who feel and suffer as we all do; is it any wonder I love Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles or anything by Stephen King?
This whole affair has made me want to dig out other books from my youth and see what other stories informed the reader and writer I’ve become–apart from the most obvious ones, of course. I’d been wanting to reread The Darkangel for a long, long time, but I never expected the journey to be this fascinating.