Marya Morevna has seen her sisters married off one by one, to men who are secretly birds. When her own bird finally comes, he is not a bird at all, but the Tsar of Life Koschei the Deathless. Carried off into a world of house spirits forming committees, rifle imps, and magical firebirds, we see Marya grow first through adventure, but then through the harshness of bitter war and the aches of bittersweet love.
Catherynne Valente's Deathless is ambitious, taking a classic Russian folk tale and intertwining it with the history of its native land through political upheaval and war. Thankfully this ambition works, crafting a story with lush language and magical magnificence that contrasts starkly and poignantly with the harsh realities of Leningrad during WWII. Valente utilizes the fantastical elements and the grim backdrop to say some very meaningful things about love, life, and death. While interested readers will want to brush up on their Russian folklore before reading, these same readers will find their extra effort very rewarding.
And if you finish the book by March 11th, you can stop by Boswell Books and discuss it with the store's fine Sci-Fi Book Club at 7 pm that night!
Tim @ Central
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A beautiful and multi-layered retelling of the Russian folktale of Koschei the Deathless, set during the Communist Revolution and WWII; with mythological figures reflecting the politics and struggles of that period. Clever and precocious Marya Morevna captures the heart of Koschei, the Tsar of Life, and is seduced away into his world of magic, as well as his war against his brother, the Tsar of Death. As she explores what it means to be Koschei's bride, Marya encounters such varied creatures as collectivised house gnomes, Party Chairman Baba Yaga, living buildings, shape shifting birds, imps made of rifles, firebirds and a dragon who hoards the paperwork of death orders. But the real world and the magical one begin to collide as Marya's heart becomes torn between the wondrous Koschei and Ivan, an innocent soldier, during the siege of Leningrad. Check catalog for availability.
Clark @ Washington Park, May 17 2011