As you can see, these books have been re-released with new covers (above), which are very different from the covers of the books I bought ten years ago (below).
The Darkangel out of the school library when I was in third grade. I loved the summary on the back and was determined to read it. Unfortunately, my reading skills weren't quite up to the challenge of reading this fantasy book written for kids much older than me. So I reluctantly returned it to the library, having only read maybe twenty pages; I returned it early in the morning when the librarian wasn't in the library yet so that I wouldn't have to admit to her that she had been right, that it was a little too old for me.
But I certainly didn't forget about. When I got to sixth grade, I went back to the library in search of it. It wasn't there. I figured it must've been one of the books the school library borrowed from the public library, but they didn't have a listing for it either. A few years later, our town library networked their catalog with those of the other libraries in northwest Ohio, and I went back to check the other libraries. I searched both Darkangel and Dark Angel. I got a few hits for the latter, but none of them were the book I sought (but I did get a hit on a VC Andrews book that I did read).
I checked library catalogs intermittently throughout high school, but never with any luck.
And then, in my junior year of college, I took an adolescent literature course. One of our last assignments was to read a book--any book--from the YA/teen section of the university library, a section I hadn't paid much attention to prior to that class. We had to talk to the class about the book, why we'd chosen it, and whether we'd use it as a class book (why/why not). A week before the book had to be read, I went browsing. I'd fallen out of touch with the world of YA books, so I wasn't sure what I'd find. I had three books in my hand--a biography, a science fiction book, and a general fiction book--when I decided to make my decision without going through the last few shelves. And that's when I glanced at the shelf, and there it was: The Darkangel by Meredith Ann Pierce.
I took Pierce's book home, and read it all that night in front of the fireplace. And the next day, I went to work (at the university bookstore) and ordered the other two books in the trilogy, feeling at once excited and silly for not realizing that it was a trilogy. (I'm drawn to trilogies, so I should just assume that every book I pick up is the beginning of a trilogy.)
I'm inclined to think that fans of Robin McKinley's YA books will also like Pierce's, even though this is a strange kind of fairy tale, in which the darkangel of the title is a kind of vampire that sucks souls instead of blood, and he has to collect thirteen souls--his brides--to take to his witch-mother in order to complete his transformation. Aerial, our heroine, is a slave to the woman he takes as his twelfth bride, and she volunteers to be his thirteenth, knowing of nothing else she could possibly be suited for.
It becomes Aeriel's mission, both in the first book and through the rest of the trilogy, to save both herself and the vampire; she knows he's not beyond redemption yet.
This is one of the trilogies on my shelf that I don't ever plan to part with.