A modern Russian fairy-tale retelling about Baba Yaga and Vassilissa? There was no way I wasn’t going to buy this. Everything about it screamed PLEASE READ ME and I started reading it immediately.
That was three weeks ago, and I just finished it today.
The thing is, it wasn’t too long or too boring. It was just so beautifully written, so abstract, that my brain got too tired from just trying to imagine all the things this book shows us.
If you’re a writer trying to improve your prose, this book should be considered a manual.
Let me tell you, Russians LOVE to be abstract. They love metaphors that don’t actually mean anything, that can’t really be seen but envisioned, things that sound beautiful just to sound beautiful. This book did an amazing job at conveying that, and I cannot begin to describe the talent I am so insanely jealous of that can write that way.
The story itself had a very interesting premise, and was executed…fairly well. I say it like that because there were many points that felt so out of place I couldn’t help but go ‘this doesn’t make any sense!’. Not at the bizarre magics of Baba Yaga’s ‘store’. Not at the explanations of Night and night and the pieces of it. Not even, at any of the characters’ motivations or actions. I got all that.
What I didn’t get was the point of half the characters’ existences, aside from being there to move the plot that didn’t actually have anything to do with the plot. They were just…there. The random kid, the lawyers, even her father. Just…why? They felt so out of place that the whole thing became too muddled, and it didn’t start out that way. Vassa and Erg were great together. I loved the relationship between Vassa and her sisters. Babs and her henchmen? Perfect. And it should have stayed that way.
Another thing that really bothered me were the unnecessary splashes of romance. Vassa was weirdly attracted to our equivalent of Frankenstein. She’s 16 and he’s literally a giant monster-doll-thing she can’t talk to or see the face of and somehow she’s thinking of how she maybe like-likes him? And then Erg calls him her boyfriend? Where does that line of thinking come from? This isn’t Beauty and the Beast. He’s not wooing her. It was disturbing to say the least. It’s like the author wanted it to be more YA than MG and thought what better way to up the age group than add some romance. Ick.
Overall, I enjoyed reading the book, and I loved all the magic and description. If you’re looking for a lyrical but sassy tale of magical realism, this is the crème de la crème. Just be ready to ignore some weird stuff and not focus too much on the plot. Enjoy it for the beauty and the fun, and you won’t be disappointed.