Koschei the Deathless is to Russian folklore what devils or wicked witches are to Western European culture: a menacing, evil figure, the villain of countless stories that have been passed on through story and text for generations. But Koschei has never before been seen through the eyes of Catherynne Valente, whose modernized and transformed take on the legend brings the action to modern times, spanning many of the great developments of Russian history in the 20th century.
Deathless, however, is no dry, historical tome: it lights up like fire as the young Marya Morevna transforms from a clever child of the revolution, to Koschei’s beautiful bride, to his eventual undoing. Along the way, there are Stalinist house elves, magical quests, secrecy and bureaucracy, and games of lust and power. All told, Deathless is a collision of magical history and actual history, of revolution and mythology, of love and death, which will bring Russian myth back to life in a stunning new incarnation.
©2011 Catherynne M. Valente (P)2011 Brilliance Audio, Inc.
This is one of the most heartbreakingly beautiful and sad pieces of writing that I have ever read, and I hope everyone else loves it as much as I did.
The character of Baba Yaga was with out a doubt my favorite character in this book. She is crass and powerful and wise and sarcastic. Everything that you would expect from an immortal sorceress that has lept from the pages of Russian myth.
I know this novel was intended to play on traditional folk tales, but it really did not translate to a full length book. Folk tales rely on repetition (series of 3s) and one-dimensional characters (defined by one exaggerated characteristic). That works in short tales. But in a long tale, centered on a theme of suffering and toying with conflicting relationships, it drags the story down. I found myself irritated with the main character's melancholia because I simply did not care about her. I really wanted to like this book, and stuck with it to the end mainly due to the beautiful prose, but it never delivered.
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