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By the author of Sharp Teeth, a novel of love, spies, and witches in 1950s Paris—and a cop turned into a flea

Will is a young American ad executive in Paris. Except his agency is a front for the CIA. It’s 1959 and the cold war is going strong. But Will doesn’t think he’s a warrior—he’s just a good-hearted Detroit ad guy who can’t seem to figure out Parisian girls.

Zoya is a beautiful young woman wandering les boulevards, sad-eyed, coming off a bad breakup. In fact, she impaled her ex on a spike. Zoya, it turns out, has been a beautiful young woman for hundreds of years; she and her far more traditionally witchy-looking companion, Elga, have been thriving unnoticed in the bloody froth of Europe’s wars.

Inspector Vidot is a hardworking Paris police detective who cherishes quiet nights at home. But when he follows a lead from a grisly murder to the abode of an ugly old woman, he finds himself turned into a flea.

Oliver is a patrician, fun-loving American who has come to Paris to start a literary journal with the help of friends in D.C. who ask a few favors in return. He’s in well over his head, but it’s nothing that a cocktail can’t fix. Right?

Add a few chance encounters, a chorus of some more angry witches, a strung-out jazzman or two, a weaponized LSD program, and a cache of rifles buried in the Bois de Bologne—and that’s a novel! But while Toby Barlow’s Babayaga may start as just a joyful romp through the City of Light, it quickly grows into a daring, moving exploration of love, mortality, and responsibility.

400 pages, Hardcover

First published January 1, 2013

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About the author

Toby Barlow

3 books167 followers
Toby Barlow lives in Detroit, Michigan. He is the author of Sharp Teeth, winner of the Alex Award in Horror, and Babayaga. He is a graduate of St. John's College in Santa Fe, NM.

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5 stars
284 (15%)
4 stars
635 (34%)
3 stars
636 (34%)
2 stars
236 (12%)
1 star
72 (3%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 352 reviews
Profile Image for D.M. Busek.
Author 5 books5 followers
October 7, 2013
As a Russian, I'm partial to everything concerning Baba Yaga. And I dislike it when she's used as a prop to describe something or someone completely different (Which happens almost every time they write about her nowadays). I'm not going to lunge into comparisons here; and anyway the witches in the book were done with gusto and credibility (if one may say so about witches). It's just that they had nothing to to with B. Yaga. She deserves a book of her own - and quite a different book it should be, e.g., with no US-French paraphernalia around.

The US side was most disappointing. I found the main protagonist rather bland in his overall gullibility of goodness. His sidekick was - in my perception - described as too sleazy to be a good guy, but whatever. The main point: If any one of them had dropped dead in the middle of the book, I'd had no regrets.

The best plot line of the book (which pretty much redeemed everything else in my eyes) was The Incredible Adventure of a French Detective, aka The Flea. Well done, masterfully interwoven with the main plot, funny and touching at the same time. Even the stereotypical Frenchness of the hero was sweet and not tasteless. I'd like to read more books just about him - Pink Panther style; maybe turning into different animals now and then; still working on his marital relationship etc. etc.
Profile Image for Kathrina.
508 reviews128 followers
August 18, 2013
This novel is an excellent example of how to use perspective as a tool for deepening your story. The shifting point-of-view not only provides additional perspectives on the events of the plot, but cuts to the heart of each character's commitment to the events. And the events are a bit madcap, which I loved -- Balkan witches and spells, Cold War espionage, homage to Fitzgerald, Kafka, some Dr. Who, maybe even some Christie (Hercule Poirot?) Vidot was my favorite character, not only because we are privy to his thoughts as he experiences life as a flea, but for the empathy we gain for him as a man -- even though we barely know him in human form. We learn his vulnerabilities as a man as he experiences his vulnerabilities as a flea. So beautifully done.

And Barlow writes phrases that so unexpectedly arrow to the heart. He's a poet, first and foremost, which makes this novel glow beyond the excitement of the crazy stream of events. I picked a few lines that had that effect on me: It is a moment after Andrei has been informed that his brother is dead -- "A door unlatched in his heart and Andrei felt something slip out; he wondered if he needed it." (p. 312) This particular death is unusual, to say the least, and only a phrasing like that could describe the particular form of grief that Andrei must feel. It is perfect.
This novel does what I had hoped
The Night Circus might do (and didn't). It is mysterious and dynamic and sensitive and witty and wise. It is a fast train you'll need a running jump to catch, and you won't know where you're going 'til you get there. And you'll be different going home.
Profile Image for Suzanne.
428 reviews220 followers
October 5, 2013
Detroit may be a mess, but at least they’ve got Toby Barlow and that’s quite an asset.

Babayaga should probably more properly get a 4.75 or 4.8 on Suzanne’s Almost Impossible to Get a 5-Star Rating System, because it didn’t change my life or anything, but I did enjoy it very much. I think I’m rounding up because I am so happy that this book proves conclusively that Barlow is not a one-hit wonder. See my review of Sharp Teeth for thoughts about his debut effort.

Babayaga is a thoroughly amusing ride, set in Paris, 1959, with multiple characters and story lines.

These include the ancient Elga and the always youthful and beautiful Zoya, two Russian witches who’ve hung out together for ages, through thick and thin. Together they “had crisscrossed the borders of countless countries in the span of more than two centuries. They had ridden in private locomotive cars to aid in the looting of conquered cities, and they had trailed dying asses in retreating caravans, trudging past corpses through snowbound passes. There had been exotic palaces, expansive suites, and countless garbage pits where they were forced to dig for mildewed scraps of sustenance.” But they’ve had a falling out, and now Zoya is running one step ahead of her former friend and mentor’s vengeful pursuit.

Then there is the detective Vidot whom Elga turns into a flea. (You really don’t want Egla pissed off at you.) I loved his spunk. Never mind that his murder investigation was interrupted by this unfortunate event, he’s going to beat this thing! He’s going to find his way home, solve this mystery, and get back to his own body and his beloved wife Adele, even if he finds out in the meantime some things about his domestic situation he’d rather not know, and even if he knows his time is limited.

Clocks are at the ticking, beating heart of this book: mantel clocks, dismantled clocks and biological clocks (the life-time kind, not the baby-making kind). For Vidot as a flea, time moves much too fast, for the witches very slowly. But the concept of time, whether it’s fast or slow, and its relationship to mortality, is contrasted with the importance of how we use it. And all of this is set again the backdrop of the Cold War and the always lurking dread of “the great A-bomb annihilation,” which would make time pretty much irrelevant for everyone concerned.

American transplant Will is feeling disillusioned about his advertising career as he contemplates how he is spending his life. He’s been in it mostly for the experience of being in Paris, which he loves. But the work’s value he doubts: “The whole cultural mechanism of manufactured emotion: it had torn down, abused, and then reconstructed the way people lived. Before movie romances, he wondered, how did people kiss? . . . now, movies, television shows, radio programs, billboards, and advertisements all swamped, swarmed, and buzzed about them, blinding their eyes and drowning their ears, telling them what to feel and how to act.”

And then there’s the priest Andrei. When he thinks about his brother Max’s fate, who had his humanity, if not his life, taken at a young and happy age, Andrei doubts the value of time and a long life: “If all men could vanish there, thought Andrei, in the moment of pure satisfaction, aglow with good fortune, fiercely confident in their futures, then the benevolence of God’s grace would be much easier to acknowledge. Instead, time had rolled on, washing through that barroom door, taking not only his brother away but all of them, the miners, the gamblers, the witches, and the priest, all torn out into the driving river of war and waste, so many now lying enmeshed in unmarked mass graves or freed to the skies in the steady smoke that wafted through the camps’ barbed wire. We assume so much, thought Andrei, and forget how little we are promised." And while Andrei believes himself to be not a good priest, his reaction and aid to a fellow human being who is suffering was the single most touching moment in the book.

The several story lines weave around not only feuding Russian witches, determined flea-detectives, expatriated account execs, and reluctant priests, but an advertising agency that leaks corporate files to the CIA, mistaken identities, pharmaceutical companies doing research on mind-melding substances, spells, curses and abductions, a cash-strapped literary journal (is there any other kind?), jazz musicians-petty criminals, magical chickens, and Zoya falling in love, a major departure and significant inconvenience, as this is a woman who doesn’t like to be slowed down by sentiment.

The story’s juxtaposition of the swift and the slow, the vast view and the intimate, is part of what keeps it from being just a silly, goofy tale.

Vidot himself realizes toward the end “how absolutely large and great one very small thing can be, and how, with sweet, tender vigilance, one can take these small, fleeting moments and build them into something eternal. This is all we are at our best, he thought, tiny instances accumulating up into a greater whole. There is nothing magnificent in this world, he thought, that is not born from an act so slight as to go wholly unnoticed. We must be especially attentive to see them, and to remember to perform them, he thought, yes, that is the crux: we must simply pay attention."
Profile Image for Washington Post.
199 reviews22.6k followers
August 6, 2013
"Babayaga" has a convoluted and densely populated tale of intrigue, murder and witchcraft set against the backdrop of Cold War espionage in 1950s Paris. It borrows some interesting and surprising history about the CIA’s covert involvement with the Paris Review. It's lighthearted and cartoonish, yet the novel asks not to be taken too seriously. This is its most fundamental mistake, from which all its others spring: Even if a novel is a rip-roaring yarn or a bonkers comedy, one can feel whether, beneath all that, it feels it deserves to be taken seriously — and comedies that feel they deserve to be taken seriously are, in fact, much funnier than ones that don’t.

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Profile Image for Antonia.
12 reviews
October 12, 2015
When all is said and done, this just isn't a good book. The writing is boring and overwrought, and never rises above disappointing. Save yourself the time and instead of reading this, read literally anything else about Baba Yaga that's not written by a man. I was hoping for something with depth and imagination, and instead was left with something bland and unappetizing. The title had me interested - I'll give a chance to anything connected to Baba Yaga, but she's merely used as a prop for a sagging story. The plot is all over the place and suffers from overused stereotypes and contradictions in tone. There's not much depth to this book, or the characters in it. By the end, there's little to care about.
Profile Image for Steve.
962 reviews94 followers
October 10, 2014
Okay, I'm done with this one, into the abandoned book pile. The writing wasn't bad, but I'm over halfway through and I just don't care about any of the characters, except maybe the police detective that was turned into a flea (yes, seriously!). Maybe I'll come back to this one someday...
Profile Image for Olga.
416 reviews12 followers
February 29, 2020
Oh, boy...
Done, finally. How could I not grab this: Russian folklore, Baba Yaga, Paris, murder mysteries, spy thriller... Dark comedy, action, sex, intrigue. It was supposed to be amazing. I was anticipating another "Good Omen" or a Tiffany Aching adventure. But...
Oh well. There will never be another Terry Pratchett.
Unfortunately, I found this book to be tedious, way too convoluted and overpopulated.
Maybe it was the narrator who did not give it justice despite his attempts at the French, Russian and British accents.
I have a hard time understanding why I lost interest pretty quickly, and finished it after several fits and starts. Being relieved at finally finishing a book is not a recommendation.
Possibly, I had never developed any true connection or feelings for any of the characters.
The Parisian policemen, CIA agents masquerading as advertising execs, Russian priest, and the witches themselves. Somehow it was all too much, too twisted, but not too thrilling, or humorous, or emotional.
But I finished it.
Profile Image for Marijana ☕✨.
466 reviews87 followers
November 26, 2020
Predivno je kada te oduševi roman za koji niko nije čuo, od koga ništa nisi očekivao, koji si pritom dobio na poklon od brata vešca i koji ljudi, sudeći po recenzijama, vole da mrze.
Ovo je bilo veoma zabavno putovanje, neko bi rekao i krupan zalogaj zbog brojnih sastojaka i likova, ali na svu sreću, Barlow ume da piše.
Istočnoevropsko veštičarenje pomešano sa magijom pariskih ulica, sve to začinjeno suptilnim humorom, tajnim agentima, džezom i romansom – to je ukratko Babayaga. Detaljnija recenzija je na blogu: https://viewfrommyshelf.wordpress.com...

259 reviews13 followers
September 12, 2013
Originally posted at http://blogs.slj.com/adult4teen/2013/...

Innocuous Will Van Wyck was working at an advertising agency in Paris in 1959 when his life lost its sanity. Will always knew, vaguely, that his ad agency was actually a front for the Agency, which has infiltrated all of Europe as part of its Cold War strategy. Then he meets Oliver Ames, archetype of the carefree American, who drops CIA connections, hidden guns, and other seeming non sequiturs into casual conversation. Poor Will is confused even before he meets Zoya, the gorgeous witch who steals his heart. Zoya has just left her married lover–left him impaled on an iron fence, in fact–a crime that has captured the attention of French Police Inspector Vidot. A tightly orchestrated chaos follows, while Barlow spins readers through both horrific, dark places and raw, magical love scenes. With the comic effect used so well by Terry Pratchett and Christopher Moore, Barlow laces fantasy and mystery into an unpredictable, highly imaginative story that treats a chicken with the same serious attention as a dangerous crone. The babayagas, witches of Old Russian folklore, have their say in free verse segments that punctuate the narrative. Those familiar with Barlow’s debut, Sharp Teeth (HarperCollins, 2008), will recognize the deep gravity the author infuses into his crazed plots. No one, even the smallest of fleas, remains unchanged in the end. Teen readers will find this a page-turner, as Barlow never allows the suspense to lag in any of the multiple story lines. Smart, sophisticated teens who gobble up Joe Hill or Neil Gaiman novels will enjoy Toby Barlow’s writing just as much.
Profile Image for Jason Ip.
5 reviews24 followers
April 17, 2013
Babayaga was quite the ride -- a tale spun from the dark dredges of superstition mixed in an east european cauldron of mysticism with a dash of unqreuited end-of-the-world kind of romanticism and bloody intrigue. The ensemble of characters come armed with varying weapons, indicative of the colourful archetypical characters readers can identify with that are deconstructed as the story flies apart at its seams. From a spurned spellweaving hag capable of devastation after revenge against a youthful caster, equally armed with earth-shattering whispers, to the craven ad man lost in a series of lies and coincidental confrontations with a slick stranger -- they all stumble into the crosshairs of the CIA, the witches, the corrupt police, the weapon brokers and the scientists. These mysteries, encounters and unusual scenarios are frequent and exciting -- brought to life by the wicked and outrageous adventure that deliciously bubbles into that heart-stopping climatic battle filled with bodies, bullets, traps, charms and hilariously timed nudity.

From the classic ‘rat chases the owl’, fly/flea on the wall narrator and the Romeo and superpowered Juliet -- there’s a very organic and enjoyable element of surprise that supersedes our natural expectation of how we would typically read this story (despite the very clear, snow-paved path that is the story’s end).

The book in this sense is: a fun romp, a dark comedy, and/or a bat-shit crazy adventure that I’d suggest to those who appreciate the grounded witchcraft without the flying broomsticks.
Profile Image for Robin.
826 reviews22 followers
June 26, 2018
Babayaga, the wise and terrible old witch from Russian folklore, is living a low-profile life in Paris in 1959. Known as Elga, she made a long journey during the war, escaping Stalin’s brutality while gleaning the spoils of war by helping advancing generals and by employing witchcraft as needed. As in the Russian fables, Babayaga has sister witches who are also called Babayaga. In this story, just one survives: Zoya, an eternally beautiful witch who relies upon men to keep her kept in luxury, until it becomes necessary to kill them. Her high-profile lifestyle is in conflict with Elga’s desire to remain undercover, especially when Elga is implicated in Zoya’s crimes. One plot line follows this conflict, and another follows investigation of Zoya’s most recent, and rather inept, murder. Spells, counter-spells, potions, and a young witch-in-training carry the plot in unusual directions.

Will, an American from Detroit, ostensibly works in international advertising in Paris, but his company is a cover for the CIA. Such scenarios during the Cold War are historically true. He trades secrets with certain special clients among his eccentric “regular” clients, ever vigilant that such information not fall into Soviet hands. He’s befriended by Oliver, ostensibly a writer, who seems to be a friend in line with Will’s work agenda…or perhaps just the opposite. Meanwhile, in a nearby laboratory, someone is developing and testing drugs to manipulate, kill, and/or drive others insane. In this part of the story, not unlike the witches’ story, it’s difficult to discern truth from lies, and to tell the “good guys” from the “bad guys.” Part of what makes this book interesting is the subtlety with which characters are developed. With just a couple of exceptions, none of the characters seem purely good or evil, which makes them more believable.

Lastly, there is a love story, as the worlds of the witches and mortals collide. Another noteworthy detail about this book is that although there is plenty of violent action, it is not portrayed in a prolonged and grotesque manner. It’s graphic but succinct, and sometimes even amusing. I usually cannot stand violence in books but Barlow portrays various battles and outcomes without lingering heaviness, a skill that I appreciate.

Barlow uses poetic language throughout the book, which makes it a joy to read. Some short chapters are witches’ songs, actual poems that are chanted by the witches and reflect their collective backgrounds, experiences, obsessions, and motivations. Here’s a quote to illustrate Barlow’s writing:

“Andrei paused, listening to the rumbling as it grew. Rising, falling, shaking, and vibrating in its timbre with occasional loud cracks, it sounded more metallic than thunderous, and more organic than the gears of any farm machinery. Finishing his rough estimation, the priest grimaced, realizing the probable cause. ‘You will have to excuse me,’ he said, reaching for his coat...”

And where does the priest come into the story? He’s related to the enchanted rat; but perhaps you’d better just read the book yourself. Babayaga will appeal to anyone who enjoys good character development. People who are interested in witches and don’t have too many preconceived ideas about them will enjoy this tale. Those who like detective stories with a touch of odd romance will enjoy the book too. Even if you don’t usually read mysteries (which I don’t), I recommend giving this book a try.
Profile Image for Oriana.
Author 2 books3,302 followers
March 28, 2021
Says Emily at Word Bookstore: Babayaga is a sort of magical realist detective novel set in the middle of the twentieth century in Paris, with witches, ad men who are actually spies, and the most incredible monologues from an inspector-turned-flea. Yep!

^^In truth I have no idea how long ago I read that endorsement and to-read-ed this book, or how long its been lurking on my actual physical shelves, but when it leapt into my hand scanning my options a few months ago, I just went with it. And what a great choice! Nice and hefty, wild and wheeling, full of good language, luxuriant descriptions, utter bizzarity—yes, yes, yes. Here we have delights like a sly young witch impaling a buffonish paramours who has overstayed his sweaty welcome up on a high city gate, a dapper American ad exec in Paris being led around by a crafty French secret agent (maybe), an ancient malevolent witch in a dank basement lair chock-a-block with mouldering spell ingredients, both a police inspector and a sexual aggressor turned into very appropriate dirty animals, an internationally weaponized hallucinogenic drug trade, a hapless priest retired to a country barn which becomes the site of an extremely magickal showdown, a little girl and her fowl, a wily jazz trio, and on and on and on. A fair bit of confusion, some very macabre machinations, and overall a lot of joyful hijinks.

Truly just the thing for pandemic (or, probably, any) winter evenings.
Profile Image for Nicholas Whyte.
4,627 reviews177 followers
April 2, 2020

The basic plot is about an American innocent in Paris in the 1950s who gets mixed up with some ancient Russian witches who have a typical tendency to kill people (and the Russian priest whose life is mixed up with theirs). But the brilliant bit is a plotline about a police detective who is turned into a flea at an early stage of proceedings, and spends most of the rest of the book hopping from place to place gathering information - about the witches but also about his own domestic situation. The adventures of Inspector Vidot are rather glorious, and more colourful than the rest.
Profile Image for Earnest Painter.
Author 1 book6 followers
January 13, 2014
The idea of Baba Yaga is intriguing. When I looked up the word – or name – it seems that it has the same meaning in many of the Slavic languages. She is what we would know as a witch, an old ugly hag of a witch with nothing but wickedness in her heart. This is what I read as a kind of preliminary study for reading this novel. My previous experience with the name is from a children's book called Babushka Baba Yaga, a title that caused a Bulgarian woman I know to giggle when I asked her what it meant. She told me that it was a grandmother witch. And in every source I could find, be it Russian, Bulgarian or anywhere else, the original Baba Yaga is known for being very old, very ugly and eating children.

This book takes it in a new direction. There are two Baba Yagas. (In the folklore I read about, there were sometimes three, all with the same name. In this book they each have a different name, and the name Babayaga seems to become a noun rather than a name.) One of Barlow's Baba Yagas is the typical hideous old woman that would first come to mind. The other, though, is a young (looking), sexy woman who can't help herself from misbehaving. (Killing lovers = misbehaving) He eventually tells each of their stories, in a Vampire Lestat historical style. Coincidentally, we had a cold snap while I was reading this book and reading about the horrible winters in Russia was particularly effective sitting on my sofa with a throw over myself.

The two fellows that happen upon them are as delightful as the witches are mysterious. Both are from the U.S. (the book takes place in and around Paris, France) and both from the Midwest. One is happy-go-lucky with a cocktail in his hand and the other is more of a brooding, romantic type. Not a Louis the Vampire kind of brooding. Just a confused and accidentally in love kind.

The characters are fun and I very much enjoyed reading the book. I looked forward to it while I was working, even. I suppose that the one thing I could say about it is that it's slightly predictable. Not terribly so. I was reading until my eyes wouldn't stay open, so it had to have something unexpected to keep me hooked. It's just not the dark, sinister book that I thought it was going to be.

All in all, though, I'd very much recommend this book.
Profile Image for Jennifer.
Author 3 books186 followers
August 21, 2013
This historical fantasy set during the start of the Cold War in Paris featuring a CIA sting, a vengeful witch, a star-crossed couple and a earnest detective who becomes transformed into a flea was all kinds of inventive, but ultimately failed for me because I thought the author struggled to keep the many moving parts of this novel working in tandem. The characters of Elga, Zoya and Will were fully developed and fun to follow, but Oliver remained as big of a cipher as the sketchy pharmaceutical company he was spying on for the CIA. Besides some thin characterization, pacing was a problem and there were far too many convenient coincidences. It was hard to believe that Vidot the detective flea would always find himself in exactly the right place at the right time. I also ended up skimming or skipping most of the witch's songs (written in verse and reminiscent of Tolkien's elf ballads, which I also find tedious). But kudos to Barlow (author of the far better Sharp Teeth) for upsetting my reading apple cart with an unusual setting and interesting characters that gave my imagination a workout. This novel is nothing if not unique and if you're looking for something different, then like Vidot the flea, you're in the right place.
Profile Image for Charles.
440 reviews46 followers
October 26, 2013
I haven't entirely worked out what I thought about this book. I more or less have a loose collection of reactions. 1. At the beginning if the book it seemed like he was describing a Paris of 1920 not of 1946. 2. I had a hard time accepting Zoya's rational for being the short, fat guy's mistress. I could not see him providing anything she wanted - but then following that line of reasoning - What did she want? 3. I thought Will was a well crafted character - but to be that innocent about a tie to the CIA - come on. 4. Oliver is one of those characters that are always presented as so irresistible and I find to be someone I'd avoid like the plague. 5. The French cop was interesting as were the rat and the chicken.
This kind of madcap farce style doesn't amuse me and only engaged me at a simmer. On the other hand there were sentences sprinkled throughout that were gems. There were paragraphs of observation, self reflection and philosophy that were very good, very gripping. I know nothing of Russian witches and learned nothing. Too bad.
Profile Image for Boris Feldman.
721 reviews42 followers
September 29, 2013
When I was a child, the neighbor across the street was what one might politely call a "hag." Shriveled. Mean. VERY scary. We all called her "the Baba Yaga." Perhaps, I thought, that was her name. Little did I know that this was a term from Russian/Yiddish folklore about Eastern European witches. Not until I began reading stories to our children about Baba Yaga did I learn that my childhood horrors were part of a centuries-long literary tradition.

Comes now this novel. A delightful transposition of several Baba Yaga's from Russia to 1950's Paris -- mixed in with spy tales and murder mysteries. The writing is delightful. The characters engaging. You will not read another book like this this year.
Profile Image for Martin.
440 reviews24 followers
July 20, 2013
There's a lot going on in BabaYaga, and if not everything fits together exactly perfectly, well who cares? Parts of this book seemed like a caper novel. It's kind of like a goulash. Or a jam session would be a better metaphor, since Barlow seems to like jazz. In a jam session, you throw ideas into the mix. It's charm is that it can mesh together . This was a fun book to read. I'm looking forward to his next book
Profile Image for Elizabeth Fagin.
111 reviews3 followers
October 18, 2015
Hmm, let's see.... A band of witches wandering the European continent over centuries, spies who could be working for the good guys or the bad guys or both, a trio of Black jazz musicians who don't mind providing some needed muscle, a mad Nazi scientist now working for the CIA, a rat and a flea who used to be men (did I mention witches?), an indictment of the advertising industry, and more. This mess of a plot line actually shines through in this very well written and entertaining book.
Profile Image for jilly.
155 reviews11 followers
August 16, 2015
ummm.. i enjoyed parts of the story a lot (Will, Zoya, Noelle and the Inspector,) other parts, less (Witches Song.) over all it was a good tale, but the end was a bit... dissatisfying for me. it bummed me out, to be honest.

edit - to be fair, i guess i'm too invested in my /edit
Profile Image for Donovan.
318 reviews30 followers
March 21, 2018
I confess that I was hoping for a more traditional mythological voyage (perhaps the title is not the most apt) but I was beguiled by the unexpected turns this story took and delighted by the author's insights into human nature. I'm sure it's not for everyone, but I enjoyed it more than anything else I've read this year and can honestly say it's not like any other story I've come across.
Profile Image for Jonathan Hawpe.
211 reviews15 followers
November 4, 2013
A highly entertaining collision of cold-war espionage hijincks, slightly melancholy Parisian romance, and a gritty style of supernatural witchery. Imagine Mad Men invaded by Gregory Maguire's Elphaba. If we had half-stars this would get 3 & 1/2.
274 reviews3 followers
March 8, 2022
Ein unterhaltsamer Roman mit immer neuen Wendungen, interessanten Personen und, obwohl von einem Mann geschrieben, meines Erachtens einer feministischen Weltsicht.

Die Hauptfigur ist eine Jahrhunderte alte Hexe, die sich immer neue Liebhaber sucht, die sie ausnutzt. Das ist ebenso fantastisch wie die Verwandlung eines Polizisten in einen Floh, andere Teile der Geschichte erinnern an eine Spionage-Parodie.

Bis auf die gelegentlich eingestreuten Hexenlieder, mit denen ich nichts anfangen konnte, hat mir das Lesevergnügen verschafft, obwohl ich normalerweise für Fantasy wenig übrig habe. Warum? Weil die Gefühlswelt der Hexe Zoya und ihres Liebhaber treffend beschrieben wird, man neben der Fantastik eine echte Liebesgeschichte verfolgt. Ohne Kitsch, aber mit tiefem Gefühl.

Das, finde ich, ist eine ganze Menge.
Profile Image for Elaine Bergstrom.
Author 24 books81 followers
July 30, 2017
I truly detested fleas before I read this book, now I know they are fascinating creatures...at least some of the time. Here we have a old crone witch who has lived for centuries, a young and beautiful witch, an undercover CIA agent posing as a ad man and an uptight police detective. When these lives intersect in Paris, things get very strange indeed. I loved the droll humor and the overall great writing. Finding this author was finding a gem.
Profile Image for Suzytornade.
282 reviews7 followers
March 22, 2018
C'est distrayant et bien enlevé, j'ai passé un bon moment, l'histoire sur les sorcières est assez originale et le rythme est soutenu ; maintenant ça ne restera pas probablement dans ma mémoire, pour moi c'est un bon livre de vacances.
Profile Image for Joanna.
1,740 reviews36 followers
May 11, 2023
Das Cover und der Rückentext dieses Buches haben mich direkt angesprochen und mich nicht mehr losgelassen. Deshalb war es ja klar, dass ich es mit nach Hause nehmen musste.

Hinweis: wer Informationen zur Figur der Baba Jaga sucht, wird hier nicht fündig werden. Der Autor interpretiert die Saga sehr frei, kreiert ein faszinierendes Bild der Hexen, aber eben nicht 1:1 aus den Erzählungen übernommen. Wer hier Präzision und Tradition schätzt, sollte dieses Buch nicht zur Hand nehmen.

Grundsätzlich gefallen mir die Einfälle Barlows. Das Buch hat Witz (vor allem die Stellen mit dem Floh, die fand ich grossartig) und Charme. Leider zieht sich die Handlung zu lange hin. Hätte der Autor die Handlung gekürzt, hätte das zu mehr Schwung geführt. So aber verlieren die Geschichte und auch die Figuren über die Zeit an Kontur, was wirklich schade ist.

Mein grösster Kritikpunkt war jedoch die Liebesgeschichte. Eigentlich hätte ich sie durchaus akzeptieren, wenn auch nicht mögen können. Aber für mich fühlte sie sich gekünstelt und unecht an. Es fehlte mir an Chemie, an Verbindungen zwischen den Charakteren. Mir erschloss sich einfach nicht, weshalb sich Zoja nach all den vielen Jahren ausgerechnet Will aussucht. Hier hätte es für mich sehr viel mehr Grundlagen und Gefühl gebraucht.

Das Buch ist für mich keine Enttäuschung, sondern eine leichte und unterhaltsame Lektüre gewesen, die jedoch besser hätte ausgeführt werden können.
Profile Image for Mary Claire Reynolds.
53 reviews1 follower
July 2, 2022
Slow at times, but full of delightfully written characters. I found myself rooting for most of them and enjoyed the character development.

The pov switches every chapter which sometimes overwhelmed the story for me. I think I might get more out of a second read. The way these chapters and seeming unrelated plot lines weave together is smart and satisfying.

Overall an enjoyable read full of magic, nods and winks towards history, and likable characters.
Profile Image for Lizy.
798 reviews21 followers
June 21, 2015
I'm giving up on page 207 of 383 because unless I've had 3x as much caffeine as I normally do, I can't keep my eyes open for more than ten pages at a time while reading this book.

It pisses me off because nothing's inherently wrong with this book. Honestly. It's not like there's poor grammar or a lack of action or nothing unique--it has all of these things. And Sharp Teeth, by the same author, was a phenomenal book. I just can't get into this one.

There were some minor things that irked me, though. First of all, this is a book that's a period piece. It's set in 1959. Yet there's no excessive attention to detail the way historical novels usually have, that remind readers on every paragraph that we aren't in 2015 or whatever. The setting and historical context aren't taken seriously.

Second, oh my god I could not stand Elga. As a character, I could not get a read on who she was or what she wanted, and she just seemed incredibly flat and awful. Every time she came in, I rolled my eyes. Her character is a farce.

Sane thing with Vidot, as I got farther along. At first I actually kept reading just to see what would happen to the flea man, but by the time he was floating on the air I was over it. It didn't make sense.

And while we're on the topic of bad characters I reached the point where I literally remembered Zoya as "the one with boobs" and that's kind of where I gave up.

On another note, I also didn't like the randomly interspersed witches songs. I thought they were way too random.

The book did have lots of good quotable material and fresh metaphors, which was its saving grace. Every time I'd decide to give up I'd reach a really great line, which is Barlow's strong point, imo. It just wasn't enough for me to keep going.

So, yeah. Giving up with this book and moving on to something else. Kinda disappointed, since Barlow nailed it with Sharp Teeth and this is just a mess. Maybe he should stick with free verse and let his strengths shine.
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