Tanja Berg's Reviews > Deathless

Deathless by Catherynne M. Valente
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's review
Jul 04, 2012

really liked it
bookshelves: kindle, fantasy
Read from July 05 to 08, 2012

I'm confused. The book is all done and I'm left with a "huh, what was THAT all about?". Normally that would tick me off majorly, but not this time. Although I don't really understand the purpose of it all, it was good. The language was descriptively flowerly and cloying like rich chocolacte. I'm all bloated after reading this book.

"In the deepest, most hidden room of the Chernosyvat, whose ossified cupolas shone here and there with silver bubbles and steel cruciforms, Koschei the Deathless sat on his throne of onyx and bone."

"And so Olga went gracefully to the estates of Lieutnant Gratch, and wrote prettily worded letters home to her sisters, in which her verbs built castles and her datives sprung up like well-tended roses".

Writing a synopsis is very difficult, because as mentioned, I'm not really sure what went on this book. It begins in Petrograd (which was St. Petersburg before and Leningrad after), where Marya sits in a window and sees her sister's future husbands as birds, dropping out of trees and cropping up as handsome men. This was of course a clear indication that this book would be extraordinaly different. I've heard of frogs turning into princes - but birds? Never. The bird-husbands really want Marya, but she's too young, so they each settle for her older sisters. Marya has been ear-marked for someone else, for the Tsar of Life, Koschei. He comes to hear too, as a bird, as an owl, dropping out of a tree and whisking her away to Bunyon, his country. There is a perpetual war going on with the Tsar of Death, but that is not all of the problems that Marya will face. I'm not sure she realizes, but she's caught in a pre-determined story. Her predecessors sit in a factory and weave soldiers for the war. So the question is whether Marya will manage to change history, to be different.

This vivid fantasy is set against the cruel backdrop of communism and world wars. The need to conform with the party, to be a comrade, to obey, never question and never considering the world which was before. It's a distinctively Russian tale and reminds me just a tiny little bit of Mercedes Lackey's "Firebird". It's so different from anything else I've read in ages. There is no set script, no given "recipe" and the read thread of logic which exists in even the most ardent fantasy tale gets very frazzled, worn and entangled in this story. I enjoyed the strangeness of it all and this is a book I'm very happy I read. Eventhough I'm not quite sure what to make of it.
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13.0% "This is a refreshingly unusual story. :)"
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04/22 marked as: read
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