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I name Catherynne Valente an honorary Russian. She has a Russian soul, somehow; otherwise how could she have written this book?!
This is a book about love. And life. Death. War. Loss. Hope. Despair. "Life is like that."
I grew up with these characters - in so many Russian folk tales, in so many Russian movies. The story is always the same. The evil Koschei the Deathless and Baba-Yaga, the kidnapped Marya Morevna (or Yelena, or Vasilisa), the brave Ivan who rescues her... These stories have been t...more
The Publisher Says: Koschei the Deathless is to Russian folklore what devils or wicked witches are to European culture: a menacing, evil figure; the villain of countless stories which 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 tw...more
Life is often full of beauty and joy. But life can also be cruel and painful at times. So it is only natural that the Czar of Life embodies both the wonderful and the terrible aspects of life. As a young girl, Marya Morevna captured the attention of the Czar of Life, the entity she's heard referred to in hushed whispers as Koschei the Deathless. And when Marya became a young woman, Koschei in turn captured her heart. After...more
Deathless is a book that denies easy classification into a genre. At first glance it's a fairytale fantasy. At a second its a historical fiction novel with fantasy elements. At another look it perhaps could be suggested to be a magical realism novel. All in all Deathless was a bizarre, quirky and fascinating novel to read.
Deathless, I have been told by a reliable source, is based on Russian mythology and fairytales - their folklore. I heard elsewhere before reading that Valente had embraced Rus...more
Undoubtedly this is one of the most brilliant things I’ve read this year. I’m coming to realize that that statement will probably apply to just about every Catherynne Valente I read. One of the major reasons that I didn’t review this upon finishing it was that I just had no idea how I was going to possibly say anything coherent about something so over the top amazing. HOW? How do I explain that this is one of the most seamless, meaningful unions of fantasy and reality that I’ve ever r...more
No seriously. It's a hacky thing to say but it's absolutely true. Valente is a really gifted writer. Her prose is stylish, lyrical and beautiful. But, this kind of story, this genre, if it can be called that, just isn't my thing. Modern day fairy-tales, magical realism, whatever you want to call it. I can only take that stuff in small doses, it seems. Super passive protagonists are not something I am a fan of either. And it's taken me a while to figur...more
This picture reminded me of Koschei and Marya.
This is how I'm feeling right now:
The book was full with many emotions. It took me to so many places. There was both happiness and sorrow. But it mostly made me want to curl into a ball and cry.
But I really enjoyed the story and the characters and I'm really glad I read it, that I could experience all that happened with the characte...more
Marya Morevna was just a young girl in St. Petersburg when a bird outside her window fell from a tree, turned into a soldier of the Tsar, and married her oldest sister. That was her first glimpse of the magic of Russia, but by the time her third sister had been married off to a third bird-turned-soldier, "the face of the world had changed," and the magic with it: the soldier-bird was in the Red Army, and the eleven other families who lived communally in her great house had all brought th...more
What she does here is assemble a patchwork of virtually every Russian folktale she came across, update the setting and stitch it all together with the magnificent golden thread of her prose. Certain portions of this book are practically edible, they're so good, and she does some humorous justice to that Grande Dame of folklore, Bab...more
This is magic that blends with real life, so that when a man in uniform comes with no warning to take you away from your life forever, it might be the secret police, or it might be Koschei the Deathless. The person informing on you within your own house might be...more
Either way, I'm sort of glad that I hadn't reviewed this book directly after I'd read it, because the review would have been a very different one. I'd had some time to dwell on the writing, the story and Valente as a writer and have come to some conclusions that I didn't immediately see when I'd first read the book.
That said, this book was a disappointment on a lot of levels. And yet it's the kind of book that makes me feel disappointed in myself for not liking it. It's certainly a book that ll but demands re-reading....more
The beautiful imagery of Valente's prose is perfect for bringing to life the many otherworldly events that take place in the book, yet it somehow doesn't take away the stark reality of the siege of Leningrad. In fact, the detached and alm...more
Deathless is a fairy tale about the death of fairy tales.
It shows the evolution of the world and how it turns from a magical view of things to a harsh reality brought on by war.
There's no suggestion that the entire story is in Masha's, our lead's, mind. She definitely travels beyond the veil into the realm of the magical, but as the world matures alongside her, that realm changes as well. The war intrudes, both a fairy tale war and the horrors of the siege of Leningrad....more
The story begins with a girl witnessing b...more
This is a magnificent, harrowing book. The story keeps echoing in my head long after I finished it.
I love how Ms. Valente uses both the post-revolution Russia and the communism-influenced magic world as her backgrounds. She does a good retelling, by using chains of words that feel so full and lyrical, and also inserting quotes of the real story. The dialogues tend to hit hard on exact place, some of them make me stop to think, and realise, well, yeah... it's true. Some of them are also... a li...more
but! this book absolutely picked up and in an incredible way. masha's character development was outstanding — one of the most rounded and relateable characters i've read. the way the story wove between the real and the unreal, between russi...more
Which is three ways to give you the same information – that I won the b...more
I was most intrigued by the seeming helple...more
As a young girl, Marya watches through the window as birds transform into military officers who proceed to marry Marya’s older sisters. “And so Anna went dutifully to the estates of Lieutenant Zhulan, and wrot...more