My rating: 4 of 5 stars
First Published: January 10th, 2017
Publisher: Del Rey Books
Recommended Age: 14+
Pacing: Pretty slow
Genres & Themes: Adult, Fantasy, Russian Culture and Folklore, Religion, Family
After Vasilisa’s mother dies, her father goes to Moscow and brings home a new wife. Fiercely devout, city-bred, Vasilisa’s new stepmother forbids her family from honoring the household spirits. The family acquiesces, but Vasilisa is frightened, sensing that more hinges upon their rituals than anyone knows.
And indeed, crops begin to fail, evil creatures of the forest creep nearer, and misfortune stalks the village. All the while, Vasilisa’s stepmother grows ever harsher in her determination to groom her rebellious stepdaughter for either marriage or confinement in a convent.
As danger circles, Vasilisa must defy even the people she loves and call on dangerous gifts she has long concealed—this, in order to protect her family from a threat that seems to have stepped from her nurse’s most frightening tales.
This is the perfect book to read during wintertime, when there is snow falling from the sky and everything feels like magic.
Because this is such a magical and atmospheric book. I am glad the sequel just came out, since I could not see myself reading it under different weather conditions.
I knew close to nothing about Russian culture and folklore, so this was my introduction to the latter. Actually, I had heard of Ivan and Baba Yaga – but that is all and I was ashamed of myself, therefore I am happy I was able to learn some things from this book.
You’d think that after having read more than a thousand books I wouldn’t still be this impressed and in awe when encountering beautifully-lyrical writings styles with vivid imagery in my reads. But I am, and the truth is, it’s not easy to write the way Katherine Arden does. She will fill your mind with wonder and feed your imagination.
This is not a book you will read in one single sitting or even in one single day. It’s slow-paced and contains very little action as well as a limited amount of settings, but that’s okay. I did not mind, seeing that I can fall as hard for stories that are character-driven as the other sorts. In fact, I love that we see Vasya grow up into a strong, adventurous and courageous young woman.
I would easily have given it a five-star rating had it not been so heavy on religion, but I understand that religion was and still is important to Russian culture. Furthermore, without the religious theme, this story would have been much shorter and less developed. On the other hand, throughout the story, I wished for Father Konstantin to make his disappearance once and for all, because he was trouble.
Thank you, Katherine Arden, for writing this book. It is a diamond among semi precious stones.
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