This retelling of a Russian folk story (352 pages) was published in March of 2011 by Tor Books. The book takes you to revolutionary and WWII Russia. Melissa read Deathless and loved it; it wouldn't be on our site if she didn't recommend it.
European fairytales are populated by wicked witches and evil giants. But Russian folklore has Koschei the Deathless, an immortal man — as elegant as he is evil — who woos and destroys young women.
This imaginative retelling of the legend sets the tale against the dramatic events of the 20th-century: the Russian Revolution, Stalinism, the siege of Leningrad, and the rise of modern Communism.
But that authentic history is sprinkled liberally with magic dust.
As we grow to care about our heroine Marya, we also meet bewitched birds that turn into men, house gnomes known as domovoy, a guardian of the forest named Leshi, the beautiful fairy Vila, and Baba Yaga herself. In this world, Tsars and Tsarinas rule the seven aspects of reality: life, death, salt, night, water, birds, and the length of an hour.
Desperate for a life filled with romance, Marya trades the reality she knows for the promise of Koschei’s kiss, and she pays a very high price.
The whimsy and poetry of Valente’s prose can make your heart soar — just before it breaks that same heart into bits with dark turns of the tale. As Baba Yaga reminds us, ‘Tscha! Life is like that.’
Psssst… We loved this book on audio narrated by voice actor Kim de Blecourt. She brings the characters to life with accents and voices that differentiate themselves, and the Russian names roll off her tongue like tart-sweet lemon drops.
Just you wait. Papa Koschei is coming, coming, coming, over the hills on his red horse and he’s got bells on his boots and a ring in his poket and he knows your name, Marya Morevna. — Catherynne M. Valente
Strong Sense of Place is a website and podcast dedicated to literary travel and books we love. Reading good books increases empathy. Empathy is good for all of us and the amazing world we inhabit.
This is a weekly email. If you'd like a quick alert whenever we update our blog, subscribe here.
We'll share enough detail to help you decide if a book is for you, but we'll never ruin plot twists or give away the ending.
This 30-page 2020 Reading Atlas takes you around the world with dozens of excellent books and gorgeous travel photos. Get your free copy when you subscribe to our newsletter.
Content on this site is © 2020 by Smudge Publishing, unless otherwise noted. Peace be with you, person who reads the small type.