Vasya knows the spirits and traditional folklore creatures are real – she speaks to them, feeds them, harbours them in exchange for their protection. But there are other creatures too – and one in particular who threatens their village, their lives and much much more. Vasya must fight alone against an enemy no one else believes in, under increasing pressure from her family and the fanatic priest who is determined to abolish old superstition, especially when he hears a voice speaking to him from the darkness…
I A D O R E D this book!! Hooray! It feels so good to start of the year with two glowing reviews! It’s out very recently, and is a retelling of a Russian fairytale which I didn’t know beforehand. Thankfully it’s spoken at the beginning of the story, and you can see the parallels as they occur. But gosh! This book has pretty much EVERYTHING that I love – and in no way did it disappoint. I got a kindle review copy free but I’m going to have to buy it too because it’s so lovely – and gosh, that cover!
Vasya is a terrific heroine. She’s feisty, determined, and takes after her mother (who is sadly dead, but sounds awesome.) She is very much alone in her knowledge and decisions throughout the book, and she often does not know what she SHOULD do, but manages to get along nevertheless. I really liked her! There is a nurse character who is a sort of surrogate mother to her as well, and this is one of the most important relationships in the book, which I enjoyed and was refreshing.
The plot was just MAGICAL. Though I do not know the original story, it expanded so far beyond what we heard at the beginning of the book. Sometimes I find retellings too limited or too straight, where here it felt like Arden really made the story her own rather than just paying homage.
I loved the world that was created: Russia in the snow, rural Russia, traditions and families and customs. It wasn’t an easy world: the people were beset by hunger and poverty and loss as well as demons, but it was extremely clever how the natural and supernatural worlds were tied together and moved in sync. The setting felt like the perfect balance between fairy story and the real world. I loved it.
I really really loved this book, and it’s a perfect wintery read for January. I’d really, really recommend it to anyone who likes bears or fairy tales or Russia or nightingales or stories or books or words. I like all those things, which was why I was so excited to read it, and why I was so glad it didn’t disappoint. Thank you, Katherine Arden, for such a wonderful literary experience and I look forward to seeing what you write next!
Thank you so much to Netgalley and t0 Del Ray publishers for the review copy, it was a delight.