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Deathless (Leningrad Diptych #1)

4.07  ·  Rating Details ·  9,419 Ratings  ·  1,414 Reviews
Koschei the Deathless is to Russian folklore what devils or wicked witches are to western European culture: a menacing, evil figure; the villain of countless stories that 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 ac ...more
Audio CD, Unabridged, 12 pages
Published February 14th 2012 by Brilliance Audio (first published March 29th 2011)
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Anna Uprooted by Naomi Novik - an amazing take on slavic folklore and fairy tales.
Christina I'd not recommend it for young teens. The book has some complex, very adult sexual themes. [That said, I absolutely loved it, and neither in spite nor…moreI'd not recommend it for young teens. The book has some complex, very adult sexual themes. [That said, I absolutely loved it, and neither in spite nor because of those themes.](less)
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Community Reviews

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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
David "proud Gleeman in Branwen's adventuring party"
Deathless is a hauntingly beautiful novel that will stay with you forever!

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
Cait (Paper Fury)
I AM SO PROUD OF ME FOR READING AN ADULT BOOK!! I'm generally a disagreeable child when it comes to peering outside of YA. I need my crayons and my cupcakes. But Deathless was fantastically magical and intriguing and EVER SO RUSSIAN and I will call myself a fan.

Note: I listened to the audio. THE RUSSIAN NAMES WERE BEAUTIFULLY SAID. And the narrator was marvellous. Although I do confess that if I hadn't have listened to the audio I think I would've skimmed a lot. So very glad I did it this way.

Destini Mia~ ♕ Sassy Lassie
“Death, keep off, I am your enemy, and you will not deny me.”

Deathless is one of those books that consumes you at every moment, where it is in every one of your thoughts, and once you read the last word on the last page you say to yourself . . . I think I just read the best book of my life. I can see the crash from here. The hangover to end all hangovers. That is how powerful this book is. Five stars will never be enough for this story.

Deathless is the retelling of the Russian/Slavic folk
Richard Derus
Apr 30, 2013 Richard Derus rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Rating: 4.25* of five

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
Megan Baxter
May 19, 2014 Megan Baxter rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Magic in books often comes in a certain flavour. It has wonder, and awe, and power. It is sometimes threatening, it is sometimes homey, it is sometimes awe-inspiring. I'm not sure I've ever run into magic quite like this before, though.

Note: The rest of this review has been withdrawn due to the recent changes in Goodreads policy and enforcement. You can read why I came to this decision here.

In the meantime, you can read the entire review at Smorgasbook
I could have sworn I'd reviewed this book. I could have sworn I'd at least added it to my 'read' shelf! Either I'm crazy or Goodreads ate the review, which is all entirely possible.

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.

Mar 28, 2015 Carol. rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: fans of fairy tales, Valente
Deathless is

the silence at four a.m.

a warm day at the ocean, salt crusting like dried tears on my face

a glass vodka kept in the freezer, poured over a compote of cucumber in the middle of summer


Refreshing, magical, thoughtful, agonizing; Valente has re-written a Russian fairy tale into a complex love story. It begins:

“In a city by the sea which was once called St. Petersburg, then Petrograd, then Leningrad, then, much later, St. Petersburg again, th
Dec 23, 2015 David rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Stalinist house-elves, brides of birds, Baba Yaga's sister-in-law
In Deathless, Catherynne Valente ambitiously takes on the Russian tale of Koschei the Deathless, turning the traditional tale of the wicked bride-stealing Tsar of Life into a modern fable featuring one such bride, Marya Morevna, who learns to match Koschei in deviousness.

“The rapt pupil will be forgiven for assuming the Tsar of Death to be wicked and the Tsar of Life to be virtuous. Let the truth be told: There is no virtue anywhere. Life is sly and unscrupulous, a blackguard, wolfish, severe.
4 1/2 stars

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
Jan 25, 2016 Brad rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Breathtaking, quintessential Valente, making what might be a fairy tale into a gorgeously Russian love story between one unlucky girl stuck perpetually in the space of an hour who never got to marry the birds and the God of Life.

Of course, it never ends well, because she's conscripted into his eternal battle with Viy, Death, and regrets it, while simultaneously mastering Life in the middle of Leningrad during WWII, which ought to be considered one of the worst moments in human history.

Do we love
May 18, 2016 Liz rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
After re-reading:
I re-read this novel, not because I liked it but because I wanted to recall the details to be able to point out what I couldn't stand.
Funnily enough, this time around the problem of cultural appropriation wasn't as much in the foreground as it was when I read this novel for the first time. I noticed other issues instead, and believe me, there are plenty for the book is not executed well.
My main problem with it still was the use of the Russian folklore in a manner I personally
Mar 27, 2016 Nanna rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Thank you to the GR friend who recommended this to me!

This was such a different read! so unlike anything I've ever read before and it left me breathless. This is the first book by Catherynne that I've had the pleasure of reading but I hope to read her other ones. It is a "hard" read in that it's unusual and a bit complicated but it's truly beautiful. & as someone who reads a lot of YA, it definitely is on another level.

I think you'll greatly enjoy this one if you like folktales, mystical &
Sep 01, 2016 Kai rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2015, underrated
"Her heart was so cold that she could hold ice in her mouth and it would never melt."

This is so hard to rate, for this was a stunning and breathtaking novel. Full and rich of a poetic language that leaves you sitting and thinking and forgetting about everything that is around you. It reads like a fairytale. Actually it is the retelling of an old Russian fairytale, but Valente worked a lot of her own magic to make this precious book such a gemstone.
And by the way, this cover and the title result
Viktoria (seelieknight)
“Oh, I will be cruel to you, Marya Morevna. It will stop your breath, how cruel I can be. But you understand, don’t you? You are clever enough. I am a demanding creature. I am selfish and cruel and extremely unreasonable. But I am your servant. When you starve I will feed you; when you are sick I will tend you. I crawl at your feet; for before your love, your kisses, I am debased. For you alone I will be weak.”

…is that…is that Alarkling!?


Unfortunately, it is not. Fortunately, it’s another boo


Seriously, for most of this book, I wanted it to stop. I reminded myself that you don't need a safeword for reading a novel, if you don't want it to go on, you just close the book, see, easy

Only it isn't easy when it's a magnificently written book and you've already lost your heart a little bit to the protagonist, then you're stuck, chained to the wall being whacked with birch switches…

I am reminded that fascism is aesthetic. The folk at the top who have control can only go on bel
Nov 27, 2012 Jonathan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Jonathan by: Nataliya

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
I suppose I should open this review with a disclaimer: this book has a 4.6 star average rating among my friends and a 4.16 rating overall, so clearly I'm an outlier here. Many of the critiques that I've read have focused on cultural appropriation, which is an issue I can't speak to, so on that subject: Katya's review and Liz's review.

My problems with the book predominantly lie elsewhere, but there is one aspect about this book as an adaptation that I want to address before moving on. In curiosit
Feb 15, 2012 Galena rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I really hate to give this such a low rating, but the book just left me cold. I had read the first chapter of it on and it seemed like it was going to be a really interesting book--I don't know much about Russian mythology and this seemed like an interesting way to test it out. But the rest of the book did not live up to the promise of the first chapter, in tone or characterization. I felt like the first chapter belonged in a completely different story from the rest of the book. I found ...more
You will always fall in love, and it will always be like having your throat cut, just that fast.

This is the story of Marya Morevna, who once upon a time in St. Petersburg stands face to face with the Tsar of Life and is swept away to a land of legend, of war, of magic, to become his bride, and later change the scales of battle for good.

It is a book where magic, folklore, legend and reality blend together effortlessly to tell a tale of love and sacrifice and all the things that could have been
Victoria Schwab
Aug 31, 2012 Victoria Schwab rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
One of the strangest, hardest, most magical books I've ever read.
helen the bookowl
I will do a full video review of this book on my YouTube channel very soon, but here are some of my thoughts.
This book is a retelling of Russian folk tales and in my opinion, it has everything that you can wish from a retelling. Even though I'm not familiar with every folk tales that were referenced, I still thoroughly enjoyed this story from start till end. This was such an amazing tale about Marya and her fate as a wife to Death himself.
I especially loved the beautiful writing and I often fo
Roshani Chokshi
Jul 28, 2016 Roshani Chokshi rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I first read DEATHLESS a couple years ago when Niv (Niv, why are you in 90% of my reviews...stop having a positive influence on my life...) gave it to me as a birthday present (wait, birthday or Christmas???). The first time I read it, I was in a book hangover for a month. Valente's prose is twisty and sublime. Almost to the point where it's inaccessible. DEATHLESS was one of those books where I couldn't just take it out and reread a passage I liked. DEATHLESS demands your full attention and you ...more
May 17, 2016 Giovanna rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
Spent some days rereading passages of books (old favourites) and this one had to be there.

"I have come for the girl in the window", he said, and his eyes filled with tears."

I guess I have to write a review. I feel like I have to because of its beauty and at the same time I don't know how I can review it. How? Is it possible to sum up this book, this wonderful and haunting book with just a few words? The answer would be no. Go read it and then you will understand. Because see, there are books yo
Brittney ~ Her Bookish Things
I'm going to cough this one up to a "It's not you, its me."

What did I just read?

I honestly have no idea. Some odd attempt at a hades/persephone retelling... somehow mixed in tandem with Russian history/folklore (which sounds awesome, right?) I have no idea what to make of what I just read though.

The story started off with the appearance of a beautifully written fairytale. It is based off Russian folklore, after all. And then things got weird. And weirder.

Let me say this... I have no doubt thi
Jul 07, 2011 Debbie rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy, 2011, dead-tree
I have very mixed feelings about this book. On the one hand, I am sure this book was brilliant. On the other hand, brilliance didn't hold my attention very well. I think a major problem is that I didn't know the Russian folktale that this book was based off of, and I spent a good portion of the book feeling like the person at the party who wasn't getting the inside joke. I love fairy and folk tale retellings, but a great portion of my enjoyment of such stories is me seeing how the original tales ...more
Jul 01, 2013 Algernon rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2013
Hounds and hearthstones, girl, haven’t you ever heard a story about Koschei? He’s only got the one. Act One, Scene One: pretty girl. Act One, Scene Two: pretty girl gone!

Such a simple premise, but in the hands of Catherynne Valente it turns into a huge tapestry depicting most of the Russian / Slav mythological creatures and fairytales with a few fantastic inventions of her own thrown in the mix. Valente has absorbed all these stories and distilled them into something new and post-moderni
Jenny (Reading Envy)
After a recent reading given by the author, she said in answer to a question that this is her favorite novel she's written for adults so far. I can understand why - she's had a longtime fascination with folklore and mythology threading through her work, sometimes more explicitly than others. I felt more similar as I read this the way I did when I read some of her earliest novels - that she was a master of world mythology and I would never know as much as she did nor could I possibly understand/a ...more
Oct 23, 2015 Robyn rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Communist Russia meets fairy tale meets lyrical writing equals an absolute gem of a book. There's really not much I can say; just go read it for yourself!

One of my favourite passages from it, which I think illustrates the flavour of the story:

“The old order, it is good for the old. A farmer wants his son to be afraid of beautiful women, so that he will not leave home too soon, so he tells a story about how one drowned his brother’s cousin’s friend in a lake, not because he was a pig who deserve
Nina Rapsodia
Feb 09, 2016 Nina Rapsodia rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Todos, interesados en la fantasía
Recommended to Nina by: yaiza
Shelves: english
Explicar qué me ha parecido este libro es cosa muy complicada y trataré de hacerlo lo mejor posible. Quiero explicar primero los antecedentes:

a) A Yaiza le encantaba este libro, de hecho es de sus libros preferidos.
b) Yaiza hablaba muchísimo de él en 2013.
c) Yaiza me lo metía por los ojos.
d) Básicamente por Yaiza (aquí su Goodreads).

Entonces apenas pude conseguirlo lo compré para por fin leerlo. Y bueno, la experiencia ha sido buena pero con algunos peros.

El asunto es el siguiente. En la sinopsi
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Catherynne M. Valente was born on Cinco de Mayo, 1979 in Seattle, WA, but grew up in in the wheatgrass paradise of Northern California. She graduated from high school at age 15, going on to UC San Diego and Edinburgh University, receiving her B.A. in Classics with an emphasis in Ancient Greek Linguistics. She then drifted away from her M.A. program and into a long residence in the concrete and cam ...more
More about Catherynne M. Valente...

Other Books in the Series

Leningrad Diptych (2 books)
  • Matryoshka (Deathless, #2)

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“You will always fall in love, and it will always be like having your throat cut, just that fast.” 637 likes
“You are going to break your promise. I understand. And I hold my hands over the ears of my heart, so that I will not hate you.” 550 likes
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