Aeriel is a young slave-girl, who serves Eoduin, the pretty daughter of the town syndic. Being only 2 years younger than Eoduin makes them close friends as well as mistress and slave, and Aeriel very much looks up to the older girl.
One day Aeriel and Eoduin are on high on the mountains outside of town, picking flower nectar for a traditional drink for a wedding thats soon to be held in town. But while they are separately wandering on the mountain, a darkangel flies down - a luminous pale being with huge black wings - and captures Eoduin. The darkangel is a considered a mythical being, only talked about in scary stories told to young children, so when Aeriel returns to the village no one believes her tale, and some even believe that she has killed Eoduin.
With no one believing her, Aeriel decides to take it upon herself to return to the top of the mountain, wait for the darkangel, and kill him. But when the darkangel appears again, she is bewitched by his beauty and unable to carry out the deed. And so the darkangel carries her off to his huge abandoned castle, where she is to serve his 13 wives, who are all now emaciated soulless wraiths, (including the latest who is of course Aeriel's friend Eoduin). Aeriel's learns that when the darkangel takes his 14th wife, a year from now, he will finally have enough souls to become a full vampyre. And at that point he will join his 6 other vampyre brothers and they would conquer and divide the entire world between them. Aeriel knows she could be the only one who can kill the vampyre before he takes his 14th wife, if only she can bring herself to do it.
This is novel is an amazing blend of fantasy, fairy-tale and science fiction, in a very similar style and theme to the Narnia books. I thought it was absolutely beautiful, and I wish I had discovered it when I was still a kid, it's just the sort of thing I would have fallen in love with back then.
Aeriel is a lovely main character, she has a lot of complexity of emotion, which it great for a kids book. She is strong and courageous under pressure, and she perserveres in such daunting situations, but without ever becoming overly sure of herself. I also love how she stands up to the darkangel, even tho she is by turns enraptured and then afraid of him.
Although, like other reviewers, I wish there had been a greater depth to her relationship with him, as she never seems truly sure of her feelings towards him, and being that it's her feelings towards him that gives rise to the entire dilemma of whether to save or kill him - and save or doom the world.. well it perhaps requires a little more certainty in her emotions to make it a meaningful conflict and resolution.
I really think the book could have done with a glossary of terms, as there are several things that confused me right up until the end, such as the term 'day-month', which I now gather to mean that it takes a month for the day/night cycle (2 weeks night, two weeks daylight), but I'm still not entirely sure. But this is only a minor quibble compared to how much I really enjoyed the book, so hopefully it won't put off anyone else.
Would recommend this book for both children and adults aged 10 to 100+ and anyone with a love for fantasy and fairytales.