Michele's Reviews > Deathless

Deathless by Catherynne M. Valente
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May 08, 14

bookshelves: folklore-myth-magic
Read in April, 2014

A fabulous re-imagining of the tale of Koschchei the Deathless from Russian folklore, a brilliant blending of the real and the magical, and a bittersweet love story (or is it two?). The descriptions of Koschchei's world are wildly bizarre, from buildings that breathe and animated guns to soldiers made of cloth and cars that turn into horses, but Marya Morevna has been preparing herself for the bizarre since the day she saw a bird become a man who asked for her sister's hand in marriage and met the "Stalinist house elves" that live in the walls of her house.

Valente's mastery of language is everywhere here, from the something as simple as bread and butter ("The crust crackled under his knife, and the slice fell, moist and heavy, black as earth. He spread cold, salted butter over it with a sweep of the blade, and scooped caviar onto the butter, a smear of dark eggs against the pale gold cream") to a fairy tale trope describing itself ("That's how you get deathless, volchitsa. Walk the same tale, over and over, until you wear a groove in the world, until even if you vanished, the tale would keep turning, keep playing, like a phonograph, and you'd have to get up again, even with a bullet through your eye, to play your part and say your lines").

Valente describes this book as "mythpunk" which is about right. A lovely, rich book that perhaps meanders a bit, but ought to be read slowly and savored.
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04/22 marked as: read

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