Daughter From The Dark by Marina and Sergey Dyachenko translated by Julia Meitov Hersey (book review)

Alexey Grimalsky likes his life as DJ Aspirin. He rules the radio air waves by day and nightclub dancers by night. Women are accommodating and money is usually cash in hand. But this comfortable life is derailed the night he steps in to help a small girl. How could he not? She was alone in the dark, clutching a teddy bear. He lets her spend the night on his couch expecting her to be gone in the morning.

But then, a barefoot man comes to his door out of a storm and tries to claim her back but Alexey finds himself refusing. A decision he quickly comes to regret. The girl declares Alexey to be her father and the world twists to prove her words true. He cannot get rid of the strange child, no matter how he tries and she will not leave until she has learned to play a particular tune on the violin. An instrument she does not yet know how to play.

Most of the dangers that Alexey face are the depressing realities of life in a less than prosperous part of a big city. The turmoil that his ‘daughter’ brings to his life hardly seems treacherous at all. Indeed, perhaps it is all in Alexey’s mind or perhaps she is hypnotising him or maybe it’s an elaborate prank. But how did those thieves get torn apart in his apartment? Did the teddy bear move? Why is he always out of honey? Poor Alexey has obviously not read or viewed widely enough to know that bears are bad news and he should beware of a innocent seeming protector of a small child. Especially after what happened with that dog.

‘Daughter From The Dark’ is an unsettling story like all the best dark fairy stories are. The translation manages to smoothly bring the feel of the night time Russian streets into English. Fans of Robin Sloan’s ‘Sourdough’ and Charlie Jane Anders ‘All The Birds In The Sky’ will enjoy the confusion of our normal world with an ambiguous otherness that seeps in around the edges. Those looking for a ‘true’ fantasy novel that focuses on the magical will be disappointed and possibly put this book down. Those that persevere will be rewarded with a disconcerting sense of unease and a need to look carefully at stuffed animals and scurry past dark alleyways.

LK Richardson

January 2020

(pub: Harper Voyager. 304 page hardback. Price: $26.99 (US). ISBN: 978-0-06291-621-1)

check out website: www.harpercollins.com

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