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The Dark Lady

Written by Akala

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The Dark Lady Review

Adventure Stories Debuts of the Month Fantasy / Magical Featured Books for 13+ readers Featured Books for Young Adults Historical Fiction Poetry Star Books Personal Social Health Economic (PSHE)

An exhilarating Elizabethan adventure featuring a London boy of Beninese heritage who has a magical gift for language

March 2022 Debut of the Month

Ablaze with atmosphere and adventure, Akala’s The Dark Lady is a radiant, resonant tale of magic, a missing mother, and treachery in Elizabethan London.

Fifteen-year-old Henry lives in poverty in the care of a pair of apothecary sisters. A skilled thief and writer of sonnets, he has an additional extraordinary gift — he “can close his eyes and read languages”. Letters become “colours, shapes, sounds and musical notes. Always a different pattern emerged and it was endlessly beautiful”. And, with brown skin inherited from his absent Beninese mother, Henry is subject to racism, with England’s insularity and prejudice pertinently portrayed — the rhetoric of foreigners “stealing jobs” is all too familiar.

At the same time, there’s a seamless interweaving of Black history. For example, Henry is amazed to learn about Juan Latino, “a son of slaves who rose to become a professor of Latin at the University of Granada”. Then there’s reference to John Blanke, the famed black trumpeter from Henry VII’s court.

Caught in the act of burgling a wealthy duke, Henry’s language magic earns him a seat at the duke’s opulent table, and grants him an audience with historic figures like Dr John Dee and his idol, Shakespeare. With a wicked sense of humour and pride, Henry is an enormously endearing young man, not least when he rubs his fine clothes and fancy talk in the face of a bigoted baker who previously refused to serve him. With the action never letting up, a succession of betrayal, intensifying dreams and discoveries about his mother steer Henry towards a land across the sea. Simply fabulous.

Joanne Owen

Other Info

A natural storyteller with a vision of his own. The Dark Lady, Akala's debut novel for teens, will enthuse and entertain teenagers and young adults, showing that reading is a true super-power.

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The Dark Lady Synopsis

A pickpocket with an exceptional gift. A prisioner of extrordinary value. An orphan haunted by dreams of the mysterious dark lady.

Henry is an orphan, an outsider, a thief. He is also a fifteen-year-old invested with magical powers. This brilliant, at times brutal, first novel from the amazing imagination that is Akala, will glue you to your seat as you are hurled into a time when London stank and boys like Henry were forced to find their own route through the tangled streets and out the other side.

The Dark Lady Press Reviews

'An exhilarating, magic-laced adventure' - The Observer

'A pulsating read' - S Magazine (Sunday Express)

'Authentic' - The Financial Times

'One of the most highly anticipated books...the acclaimed rapper/poet takes aim at the historical novel with this inventive page-turner set in a vividly realised Elizabethan London' - i newspaper

'Akala's debut novel for teenagers and young adults is going to be a bestseller - remember where you read that first!' - The Voice

'The brilliant, at times brutal, first novel from the amazing imagination that is Akala, will glue you to your seat' - BellaNaija

'This brilliant and at times brutal debut from the award-winning rapper Akala will have you glued to your seat' - Bishop Stortford Independent

'Brilliantly atmospheric debut YA novel...The Dark Lady is a compelling rollercoaster of a journey. It's incredibly atmospheric, you feel transported to the sights, sounds and smells of Shakespearean London, all thanks to the incredibly engaging storytelling of Akala. It's full of guilt, revenge and a little bit of magic, the perfect combination for this sophisticated YA historical novel. You simply won't be able to put this one down. Cue the sequel!' - ReadingZone

'I devoured the book in literally a day...You can tell just how much Akala is passionate about language, Shakespeare and poetry as it exudes on every page.' - Elf Councillor Blog

'It's a supernatural adventure story...It's beautifully researched, rich with historical detail and real events...Mostly, I enjoyed the sense of Elizabethan London as it rises, redolent, from the pages, and the story, which has plenty of twists and turns and enough magic to draw in every reader.' - BookBag

'Written with the kind of lyrical dexterity and power that one would expect from Akala, The Dark Lady references the Bard's sonnets as well as crafting an uncompromising of street life in Renaissance England' - All About Ipswich

'The kind of lyrical dexterity and power that one would expect from Akala, painting an uncompromising picture of street life in Renaissance England. The Dark Lady will enthuse and entertain teenagers and young adults, showing that reading is a true super-power.' - The British Blacklist

'This debut novel is a fantastic read... find yourself gripped with the characters...This is a book you won't be able to put down!' - Young Writers

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All versions of this book

ISBN: 9781444942972
Publication date: 03/02/2022
Publisher: Hodder Children's Books an imprint of Hachette Children's Group
Format: Paperback

Book Information

ISBN: 9781444942972
Publication date: 3rd February 2022
Author: Akala
Publisher: Hodder Children's Books an imprint of Hachette Children's Group
Format: Paperback
Pagination: 320 pages
Suitable for: 13+ readers, YA readers
Genres: Adventure Stories, Fantasy / Magical, Historical Fiction, Poetry, Personal Social Health Economic
Recommendations: Debuts of the Month, Star Books

About Akala

Akala is a leading hip-hop artist and rapper, who was named Best Hip Hop Act at the MOBO Awards in 2006. He founded ‘The Hip Hop Shakespeare Company’ in 2009 to engage young people with Shakespeare. He has featured on TV programmes across Channel 4, ITV2, MTV, Sky Arts and the BBC speaking on wide ranging subjects from music, youth engagement and British/African-Caribbean culture. He published a collection of short stories Doublethink in 2015 and a graphic novel Visions in 2016. Hip and Hop is his first children’s book. Follow Akala on Instagram here.

More About Akala

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