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Genre: Fantasy, General Fantasy
Based on and transforming traditional Russian folklore, this is a marvelously original story. Valente is an inventive storyteller, and her take on Koschei the Deathless and Marya Morevna is fascinating, especially since it’s interspersed with events of the 20th century, including the siege of Leningrad. While this is a challenging read at times, it’s also an immensely rewarding one.
Marya Morevna is a young Russian girl who, at the beginning of the book, sees three birds (transformed into men) come for her three sisters. She decides then and there that when her time comes, she will see what kind of bird her man is so she will know what her future holds. Unfortunately for her, her future holds Koschei the Deathless, the Tsar of Life — a terrifying figure from Russian folklore.
A child of the Russian Revolution, Marya encounters Stalinist house elves, undertakes quests from Baba Yaga, marries Ivan the Fool and all the while, her life is entangled with that of Koschei the Deathless, to whom Marya will bring death. (TOR, Apr., 352 pp., $24.99)
Reviewed By: Natalie A. Luhrs
Published: April 2011