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3.99  ·  Rating details ·  17,081 ratings  ·  2,681 reviews
A glorious retelling of the Russian folktale Marya Morevna and Koschei the Deathless, set in a mysterious version of St. Petersburg during the first half of the 20th century. A handsome young man arrives in St Petersburg at the house of Marya Morevna. He is Koschei, the Tsar of Life, and he is Marya's fate. For years she follows him in love and in war, and bears the scars. ...more
Paperback, 352 pages
Published June 20th 2013 by Corsair (first published March 29th 2011)
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Arianna M I've just read The Bear and the Nightingale (Katherine Arden), which is a little less magical realism, but still well written and in the vein of Russi…moreI've just read The Bear and the Nightingale (Katherine Arden), which is a little less magical realism, but still well written and in the vein of Russian fairytales.(less)
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Average rating 3.99  · 
Rating details
 ·  17,081 ratings  ·  2,681 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
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
Apr 02, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"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 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 i
C.G. Drews
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.

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; either case is entirely possible.

Either way, I'm glad that I hadn't reviewed this book right 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.

Dec 31, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: the-holy-grail
“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/S
Victoria Schwab
Aug 22, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
One of the strangest, hardest, most magical books I've ever read. ...more
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
Re-Read 7/13//18:

Valente is always worth re-reading IMHO. And other than making a few grand sweeping comments about birds and husbands, I have nothing to add to this marvelous piece of literature. The land of the dead versus the land of life in Russia. Mythology versus societal upheaval. Love, love, love, and none of it innocent.

Just like Russia. ;)

Original Review:

Breathtaking, quintessential Valente, making what might be a fairy tale into a gorgeously Russian love story between one unlucky gir
This book is beautifully written but try as I might, I probably couldn't tell you what it's about. It feels like a series of stories, some eerie and some not, twisted up into Russian history where it's hard to tell what's real and what's not. The characters don't even feel like characters, just part of a set and not people that I got to know. But again, the writing is breathtaking and I feel small pieces of this story will stick with me. ...more
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
Richard Derus
Jul 03, 2012 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 gre
Mar 23, 2012 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
Simona B
Feb 05, 2017 rated it really liked it
"And how long would she have to wait now for some other scrap of the naked world?"

Not an easy book, but a mesmerizing one for sure.

Megan Baxter
Jun 08, 2013 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
Mayim de Vries
“The future belongs to the dead, and the makers of the dead.”

It is a problem when you read a love story and you don’t like the story, the love disgusts you, and you cannot stand the heroine. If also the context or historical setting is unacceptable, only language itself is left to save the book. Most often: it is not enough.

The beginning is promising: little Marya Morevna, daughter of twelve mothers, spends the war in communist Leningrad dreaming of a magic husband. In “Deathless” Ms Valente mov
Nenia ✨ I yeet my books back and forth ✨ Campbell
You know I'm all about that "girl falls for the sexy villain" vibe ...more
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
Feb 07, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: fans of dark fantasy with Russian motive.s
If a novelist wrote a true story about how things really happened, no one would believe him, and he might even be punished for spreading propaganda. But if he wrote a book full of lies about things that could never really happen, with only a few true things hidden in it, well, he would be hailed as a hero of the People, given a seat at a writers’ cafe, served wine and ukha, and not have to pay for any of it.

Catherynne M. Valente, indeed, has written about things that really happened
Viktoria Winter
“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
Aug 20, 2013 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.
Wish I could write a decent review of this book but I have no idea what happened for most of it (sorry Goodreads friends!) From other reviews I can see that Deathless dives into Russian mythology. Unfortunately I literally have no clue what happened for most of the book, and by the middle half I flipped through the remaining pages just so I could mark it as read and count it toward my Goodreads reading challenge (trying to be honest about my motivations and lack of comprehension here). Catherynn ...more
You humans, you know, whoever built you sewed irony into your sinews.

On the face of it, this seems to be a very simple fairy tale story albeit with astonishingly gorgeous prose. Valante's wordsmithing is art; I think I ended up with over 50 bookmarks. Also, the delicate story within a story within a story is so precise that it could be easy to ignore or miss without the relevant prerequisite knowledge about the history of Russia.

This story does not wander, it is cyclical. It embraces a nev
Feb 17, 2014 rated it liked it


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
✩ Yaz ✩
5 - ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

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."

Deathless is unlike any other book I have read before; it is utterly mesm
Nov 18, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
“Did everything that had magic have teeth?”

“Deathless” is a novel that brought my reading life to a skidding halt. It took me over three weeks to read this text, only because I had no desire to ever pick it up. I am still too young to need a colonoscopy but I thought of scheduling one rather than picking up this novel again. Before you ask the obvious question, I finished it because it was a book club selection and I have read every book since the club’s inception. Got a streak to keep, ya know!
Jul 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Slavic folklore is just as interesting and rich as any other and Catherynne M. Valente knows how to bring it to life.

We enter this magical world in 1918, when the protagonist, Marya, is just 10 years old. And we leave it, in the same place (though everything has changed) in 1952.
Marya lives in a house in Petrograd (which is Leningrad, which is St. Petersburg - the name usually telling you when you are there as the city has been renamed in different periods throughout Russian history). Since "th
Brittney ~ Reverie and Ink
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
Feb 21, 2016 rated it it was amazing
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 & got
Feb 15, 2012 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
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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

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