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The Wise and the Wicked

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Ruby Chernyavsky has been told the stories since she was a child: The women in her family, once possessed of great magical abilities to remake lives and stave off death itself, were forced to flee their Russian home for America in order to escape the fearful men who sought to destroy them. Such has it always been, Ruby’s been told, for powerful women. Today, these stories seem no more real to Ruby than folktales, except for the smallest bit of power left in their blood: when each of them comes of age, she will have a vision of who she will be when she dies—a destiny as inescapable as it is inevitable. Ruby is no exception, and neither is her mother, although she ran from her fate years ago, abandoning Ruby and her sisters. It’s a fool’s errand, because they all know the truth: there is no escaping one’s Time.

Until Ruby’s great-aunt Polina passes away, and, for the first time, a Chernyavsky’s death does not match her vision. Suddenly, things Ruby never thought she’d be allowed to hope for—life, love, time—seem possible. But as she and her cousin Cece begin to dig into the family’s history to find out whether they, too, can change their fates, they learn that nothing comes without a cost. Especially not hope.

368 pages, Kindle Edition

First published May 28, 2019

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About the author

Rebecca Podos

5 books326 followers
Rebecca Podos' debut novel, THE MYSTERY OF HOLLOW PLACES, was a Junior Library Guild Selection and a B&N Best YA Book of 2016. Her second book, LIKE WATER, won the 2018 Lambda Literary Award for LGBTQ Children's and Young Adult. THE WISE AND THE WICKED, her third novel, was recently released. Her forthcoming books include FOOLS IN LOVE (Running Press Kids, 2021) a co-edited YA anthology with author Ashley Herring Blake, and FROM DUST, A FLAME (Balzer + Bray, 2022). A graduate of the Writing, Literature and Publishing Program at Emerson College, she’s an agent at the Rees Literary Agency in Boston by day.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 234 reviews
Profile Image for Samantha.
416 reviews16.7k followers
May 27, 2020
3.75 stars

Although I don’t read much YA contemporary these days, this had enough tropes that I like that I wanted to give it a try: contemporary fantasy, witches, and Russian folklore.

This ended up being an enjoyable mystery about the history of a family of Russian witches. The modern witch vibes were fun. Also, there was unexpected LGBTQ+ rep that I loved! The main character’s love interest is a trans boy (with frank discussions about binders, coming out, etc) and his sister is dating her cousin. Their budding romance is cute without taking away from the main plot and mystery. There’s a lot of good lines in here about the power of men, the killing of magical women, and how stories evolve over time with each side thinking they aren’t the villain. While I loved a lot of those things, it ultimately didn’t blow me away. The pacing was off at times, especially the end which was wrapped up suddenly and didn’t feel like an ending for a stand-alone. There’s no resolution. I’d still recommend this for those that like witchy things, but not necessarily for the plot overall.
Profile Image for Kat.
Author 8 books350 followers
October 10, 2022
This is an interesting little YA novel. Ruby, one of three sisters, has heard family tales passed down about how her mother and her sisters were sent away from Russia by their mother because their ability to (this is vaguely alluded to) sort of read tea leaves and predict fates for people got them marked for murder as witches. Lots of delightful Russian culture, folklore and wonderful story detail. The characters in this are great. It reminded me a little of “The Raven Cycle” with the quirky, small, intimate feel of it.

Every woman born into the family sees as a teen the manner in which she will die. When Ruby sees her fate (and it’s coming soon), she wonders if there is a way to change it, especially when the reading of the book where they record the predictions reveals her recently-deceased aunt was the only person they know of who defied fate. A slow and meandering fantasy tale that leaves you questioning where it’s going at times, but highly intriguing, and the details drew me in.

Profile Image for Acqua.
536 reviews189 followers
December 20, 2019
This book has my favorite m/f romance of the year, and maybe of ever. I can't believe I almost didn't read it.

The Wise and the Wicked is a contemporary fantasy story following Ruby Chernyavsky, a 16-year-old Russian-American girl from a "slightly magical" family in which every woman gets to know at which age she will die. Or so they thought.

I fell in love with this story right from the beginning because of Ruby. She is the youngest of three sisters, and her mother left them when Ruby was really young. Because of that and the burden placed on her by the family's magic, Ruby is really insecure and lost, and deals with that in a number of ways - from kleptomaniac tendencies to being closed-off and trying to believe that she's better than others to drown out her constant self-loathing. She's also self-centered enough to often misunderstand other people's motives; all of this makes her an easy target for manipulative people.
I love stories about difficult, imperfect girls, and I loved Ruby (even though she is well-meaning but seriously self-centered heterosexual representation), and her growth in this book meant so much to me.

My favorite character, however, was Dov.
I haven't felt this strongly about an m/f romance in so long, and that's because so many male love interests in novels (especially, but sadly not only, in YA) come in three formats: "rude", "overprotective" and "personalities are for losers".
And Dov feels real in a way so many characters don't. He's sweet, and maybe a little too trusting, not because he doesn't understand that people can hurt him, but because he chooses to see the good in others - and in a genre so full of brooding boys, this is so refreshing? He is funny without his sense of humor being at the expense of the main character, which I also value a lot.
I could feel how much Ruby felt lighter during their interactions, how she let her closed-off façade crack with him, even when she was still hiding a lot from him. Their scenes were just... the chemistry. Everything was too much for me and I often had to put down the book because I had a bad case of Feelings™. I must be getting old.
(*Acqua, sitting on a pile of villain romances, tearing up*: but he is so KIND)
Dov is trans and Jewish, and this is one of the very few books I've read with a trans boy in which said trans boy gets to come out on his own terms. Not because of some naked reveal scene, not because he was pressured, not because he's asked, and that was a beautiful scene.

Many scenes in here worked for me specifically because of the writing's attention to detail. I loved the witchy early spring atmosphere, sure, but the way the author focused on objects, and small details in people's rooms - everything felt real and deeper, as bright as this cover. When I think of Ruby, I don't see her in a blank space, I also think of odd ice cream flavors and science books; when I think of Dov, I see aquariums and fish drawings and hitchhiking butterflies (...that scene); all these small, not plot-relevant things about them made me feel as if I knew them, and made them memorable.

I also really liked reading about Ruby's relationship with her sisters, who raised her, and Cece's storyline. Cece is Ruby's cousin, and the two are really close while still hiding things from each other, because sometimes the truth is too heavy for you to talk about it with your family. Cece is a lesbian and in a relationship with another girl, and I really appreciated that this book talked about how a family can be homophobic in subtle ways even when nobody is a blatant bigot and there are other queer people in it. At its heart, The Wise and the Wicked is a story about intergenerational trauma and the weight of traditions, how they can bring comfort as well as stifle people, and how sometimes you just need to let some of them go.

Now, onto my main and only complaint: this book doesn't work that well as a standalone. I know the author has plans for a sequel, but we don't actually know if it will happen (because publishing), and while this doesn't end on a cliffhanger - it ends at what I'd consider a calm point for both the characters and the romance - it's clear that Ruby's arc isn't complete, and some plotlines, like the podcast one, were left without a conclusion to a level that goes far beyond "ambiguous ending", as for example the one in Podos' previous novel Like Water was. It's not disappointing and I don't feel like I was left without an answer I needed, but without a sequel some parts of this felt somewhat unnecessary.
Profile Image for Shannon (It Starts At Midnight).
1,138 reviews1,009 followers
May 28, 2019
You can find the full review and all the fancy and/or randomness that accompanies it at It Starts at Midnight

This is going to be a review in Three Acts. Because I had three very distinct experiences while reading this book, so... seems legit I guess.

Act One: Oh Crap I Might DNF
Okay I hate DNFing, we know this. But Val suggested I call it quits, because she didn't love it, and honestly when Val tells me to DNF something I really need to listen because every time, I regret not listening, and here we go again. The problem was, I was woefully disconnected to the characters, especially at the beginning. Ruby's obsession with her cousin was high key creeping me out, and I just kind of... didn't like her a ton? She did grow on me as the book went on, at least.

The thing in the first 1/3 or so is, nothing seemed to happen. Ruby's great-aunt died and I was kind of underwhelmed like... cool, an ancient lady that I have no emotional connection to died, so that's sad, but I wasn't exactly full of feels. The plot seemed a little stagnant- you knew there was a family secret and such, but the stakes just weren't there.

Act 2: Things Are Picking Up!
So I started to get a bit invested! This was good news! It still wasn't setting the world on fire for me, but at least I was starting to feel a little bit of concern for Ruby, and the plot/secret thing were being fleshed out more, so I ignored Val and kept on keeping on. There was some romance, a sisterly bond that was getting more developed, and the cousin thing started to be less creepy and more sisterly/friendly.

Act 3: Are You Kidding Me with This End?
Okay here's where I get ragey. I was bored, then things were a little interesting, and then the end of the book infuriated me a lot. To the point where I kind of regretted reading the book. First, the ending was way too quick for the overall slow pacing of the book. But mostly, I was mad because... I'll put this in spoiler tags, though Idk if it's actually a spoiler, but let's just be safe okay? Okay.

Bottom Line: Parts of it were good, and I enjoyed that Ruby had a lot of character growth, but other than that I was kind of underwhelmed. And salty about the end bits.

Profile Image for Ashley Blake.
Author 12 books3,962 followers
March 25, 2018
I had the honor of getting an early read on this book and oh, oh, the world is going to love this beautiful story.
Profile Image for Madalyn (Novel Ink).
494 reviews825 followers
June 4, 2019
This review originally appeared on Novel Ink.

I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

From page one, The Wise and the Wicked swept me into a world of ancient Russian fairy tales, long-hidden family secrets, and a main character trying to make sense of the world and her place in it. The writing was immersive, the characters were interesting, but the main, glaring issue with this book that I was left feeling unsatisfied when I flipped the last page. All of the threads of a five-star book were there for me, but the ending felt so clumsy and harried that it truly affected my overall enjoyment and rating.

As far as characters go, I thought the Chernyavsky family and their complex dynamics were fascinating, if not explored to their full potential. Ruby, our main character, was a little forgettable, but overall easy to root for. Who doesn’t love an angsty teen with plenty of reason to be angsty? I loved Ruby’s sisters, Dahlia and Ginger, and I honestly wish the sister relationship played a larger part in the story. I much preferred their dynamic to Ruby’s dynamic with Cece, her cousin, who is the main secondary character in the story. It seems like Ruby only has negative things to say about Cece in her internal monologue (not all of them deserved), so I didn’t quite understand why Ruby seemed so… obsessed with her cousin? However, I did appreciate the queer rep Cece brought to the story, as it’s often harder to come out to people who you trust with your life than to casual acquaintances. Ruby’s mother and aunts and great aunts are all, for the most part, not great, to put it mildly. I liked the way the author was able to explore morality through these characters, but none of them got a true redemption arc– which, I guess, is somewhat realistic, but didn’t make for the most satisfying reading experience. I did love the Chernyavsky magic and the strong sense of family folklore. Stories about where you came from are part of every family, and I thought that was incorporated beautifully into this book.

Outside of the Chernyavsky family, there are seemingly endless side characters thrown into the story, but the standout was the love interest, Dov. His family, the Mahalels, end up playing a pretty large part in the plot, but what I liked best was Dov’s relationship with Ruby. This is a book that doesn’t focus too heavily on romance, but the romance that is present is definitely swoony. Also, I am a cis woman, so please take my thoughts with a heavy dose of salt, but I absolutely loved the trans rep in The Wise and the Wicked. (More trans love interests in YA, please!) It was such a pleasant surprise to see a trans character in a story that deals so heavily with the idea of inheriting gender-specific abilities and curses, but it makes so so much sense. I thought it was very well done.

With so many good things going for it, I fully expected this to be a new favorite. However, as the ending drew closer and closer, the plot resolutions started feeling more and more rushed. I’ll keep it spoiler-free in this review, but the *~big showdown~* was left pretty open, but I thought certainly we’d get more resolution by the end of the book. Not so. In fact, when I finished this book, I legitimately did a double take to make sure I hadn’t missed a chapter. The ending was THAT abrupt. Here’s the thing: contrary to the popular opinion in the online book community, I LOVE an open ending. However, what I can’t get on board with is an abrupt ending. This abrupt ending truly soured my entire reading experience with this book and left me both confused and unsatisfied. Just something I think everyone should know going into this story!

Overall, though The Wise and the Wicked did me dirty with the ending, I did truly love the story at the heart of this book. If you can deal with the abrupt ending, I’d still recommend picking it up! (Also, if you have read this– let’s please discuss the ending, because truly, wtf.)
Profile Image for Jennifer.
1,843 reviews
May 26, 2019
I would classify this book as YA contemporary combined with magical realism.

The narrator of this book is 16 year old Ruby (3rd person POV). She comes from a family where the women have powers. At a certain point in their lives they will have a vision of when they will die.

This was an original story with a pretty cover. There is some romance in the book. But to me it wasn't the main focus.

Ruby had two sisters. But I honestly I did not feel like we saw enough of them for me to really know them. Her cousin was in the book much more and I really liked her (Cece).

But overall I really struggled to finish this book. There are lgbt themes. But it was fairly PG IMO.

I thought that the premise was interesting. I enjoy reading about psychics or people will abilities. The idea of people seeing their time of death was a good one. But I didn't love this book. There were a lot of stories told in italics and I didn't really enjoy these. Because of the 3rd person POV I felt disconnected from Ruby. And then the book just ends, with no real conclusion.

Thanks to edelweiss and HarperCollins/Balzer + Bray for allowing me to read this book.
Profile Image for Ashley.
570 reviews62 followers
May 16, 2019
I loved this book so much from the beginning all the way up to maybe 80% of the way through. The story and concept were so interesting and nothing like what I've read before.

I'm obsessed with slightly witchy stories set in a contemporary setting, and this is exactly that. The pacing was amazing, the romance had me itching for more, and the complicated family situation felt very real to me.

The only problem I had with the whole book was the end (no spoilers!) It really was slow (but in a good way) for most of the beginning/middle, but at the end it flew into overdrive so fast. It felt like things were moving too fast and we didn't get to see as much as we should have? I really wish we had maybe another 50/100 pages to flesh out everything that happened?

I get that it was the climax and the pace in general needed to pick up, but I feel like we missed out on some important information/context. Who knows, maybe we'll pick right up after the end of the first book in the sequel and all my questions will be answered?
Profile Image for Enne.
718 reviews112 followers
August 18, 2019
4 stars
TW: attempted murder, underage drinking, death
Rep: trans boy LI, (two) lesbian major SCs, Russian-American family (and MC)

The Writing
The writing in this book was very atmospheric and felt very fitting to the setting. I especially loved the descriptions of the different houses and the detail that went into all of that. I felt transported into the small town and it felt very homey and creepy at the same time and I loved that so much.

The Plot/Pacing
The plot felt like it was a bit all over the place for me, which is really my main complaint with this book. The build-up to the climax felt like it didn't raise the stakes quite enough, and I thought the climax sort of felt like it came out of nowhere. Also, the pacing of the romance felt really weird to me?? Like I didn't really feel the chemistry between them and it felt like it came out of nowhere?? But you get used to it, ig.

The Characters
I really wanted more from these characters. I didn't really feel like we saw much development from anyone who wasn't the main character. And while I really enjoyed what we did get from the main character, I felt like there was a missed opportunity to explore her character further that just,, didn't happen and I wish it had.
I would have also liked the side characters to have been established better because I know that they're important to the main character, but they're not necessarily important to me, as the reader.

The World
LISTEN, the magic in this world is inspired by Russian folklore and I thought this was one of the best uses of Russian folklore that I've ever read and, as someone who's Russian, I don't say that lightly. Although there were times where I found myself wishing that the author went a bit deeper when it came to the history of the folklore/magic itself, I do get that not everything can be done in a 350-page book, so I didn't really have a major problem with it.
For the most part, I really loved the way Russian fairy tales were used and I honestly found myself wishing I was a part of this magical family even though seeing when you die sounds quite horrifying, not gonna lie.

I have been looking for books that feature Russian-American characters for literally ages and when I found out that this one had Russian-American queer people, I got even more excited. Overall, I really enjoyed this book. I would also like to know if there's going to be a sequel because the way this story leaves off feels very,, unfinished, you know??
Anyways, I would like more Russian-inspired stories set in a contemporary setting, thank you.
Profile Image for Jessica.
1,161 reviews80 followers
May 28, 2019
Put a book in front of me with any type of fairy tale aspects to it, and you can pretty much guarantee that I'm going to read it. When I saw that The Wise and the Wicked was based around Russian folktales, my heart was so happy. I love a good story with folktale roots. It's probably no surprise at all that I was very excited to read this book.

To be honest, I actually really loved about the first 70% of this book. It was a little slow, sure, but I could feel that pull back to the old stories and it kept me going. It was also so refreshing to read a book with such lovely queer representation in it and, thank goodness, one that wasn't completely built around romance. I'm all for a good romance, but it's always so nice to read a book where it isn't the most important thing ever. In fact, this story is mostly based around family. Around the secrets that they keep, the love that simmers beneath the surface, and about doing whatever you can to protect one another. Ruby and her sisters felt real to me, and I was invested in them. I always love when a family dynamic has some ruts along the road. Ruby and her sisters felt like a real family, because it wasn't always all sunshine and rainbows but the love was definitely there.

However as the book progressed it became more and more evident that things weren't going to be completely wrapped up. I won't lie, I felt concerned because this book doesn't show any inkling of having a sequel. It's true that there were some plot gaps in the first part of the book, but I let them go because I was so enjoying spending time with Ruby and her family secrets. I figured that things would be explained eventually, and the slow burn of this book wasn't really bothering me. The closer I got to the end, the more I realized that I wasn't going to get my answers. There are a lot of portions of this story that are told in flashbacks and in podcast listening form. I liked them at first. As I realized that the end wasn't going to be cleaned up though, I started to resent them for taking up story that could have been used to further flesh out the characters and the plot. I really hope there's another book after this one, because the ending is frustratingly incomplete.

Still, there's a lot to love in The Wise and the Wicked and so, like I mentioned above, I'd definitely read the next book. Dev is a great male character. It's so nice to see a sweet boy instead of a brooding one. The idea that words passed down over time can be twisted to meet the needs of those telling them was fascinating. I also loved that Ruby was unabashedly in love with a science fiction story podcast. Her addiction to the story that was unfolding in her podcast, matched against the very unbelievable story that was unfolding around her, made for a beautiful parallel in the book. If only this story had been a few chapters longer, and finished explaining some of the things I desperately wanted to know, I would have fallen completely in love.

If you enjoy stories with a slow burn, a lot of heart, and a kind of fairy tale feel to them, you'll love The Wise and the Wicked. I'll just be over here hoping that there's more Ruby coming, very soon.
Profile Image for Emma.
1,226 reviews99 followers
August 13, 2021

"You're a kid, Ruby. You think a small, happy life is this terrible, wasted thing, like I did. But you'll grow up. You'll learn too."

The Wise and the Wicked started out strong for me and seemed to lose its appeal toward the end. The story is atmospheric and character-driven as it follows Ruby's journey to uncover her family's secrets. The pacing is slow but works for the story. My curiosity about Ruby's family was strong enough to keep me reading until I felt invested in Ruby. The odd part of the pacing, though, was that the last 25% or so felt very rushed yet also incomplete. There are many threads that the story had been slowly exploring for a majority of the book only to suddenly throw in some action and call these things "resolved." It just didn't quite fit with the rest of the story, which was frustrating.
Profile Image for Katie Hanna.
Author 6 books108 followers
September 15, 2019
This was (and remains) in many ways a brilliant story, but that ending was just Not For Me, folks. Not For Me, at all.

I don't feel like writing a full review, but if you want my informal thoughts, or notes on content, comment below [or message me!]

*sadly & solemnly chucks this book onto the growing pile of "Russian inspired fantasy that I thought would make me super happy but instead ended up making me super mad"*
Profile Image for Marina.
912 reviews167 followers
September 23, 2019
I don't know guys, this books was interesting, but honestly I'm also sort of annoyed with it.

The Wise and the Wicked is Russian inspired. I am Russian. The main characters are a magically gifted Russian family that ran from Russia to escape people trying to kill them. The research is good, there were definitely little things that told me that Podos didn't half-ass her research. However, what annoyed me was her language choices. Again, for the most part it was good. But there was a mix up of plural vs singular usage for food terms, which honestly felt like a deliberate choice. Often English speakers refer to Russian foods that come in multiples, using a plural, even when referring to singular. So for example, blini - which are the Russian crepes - is plural, referring to multiple crepes. A single crepe is blin. Yet, a few times, Podos refers to a single blin as blini. Same with vatrushka (a type of cottage cheese pastry) except the opposite. She kept saying vatruska when referring to multiple vatruski. The reason I say it feels like a deliberate choice is because the rest of the references were very good, and she was using the correct word - and at least she didn't add an 's' to make things plural. But I don't understand why she would chose to use the wrong version of the word deliberately, unless it was to appeal to English speakers - but again, it's wrong.

The overall story is interesting and unique, I couldn't relate to Ruby too much, because she is an American first, Russian second. While I'm an immigrant myself, so my experiences have been very different. I don't just Ruby or Podo's choice of heroine, we can't all be the same. Just pointing it out.

Honestly, the story dragged for me. There wasn't much action and a lot of deliberation. And then it ends very abruptly.

The story does feature a transgender character, and lesbian characters, but as a cis-straight person, I'm not at liberty to judge their portrayals.

So while the story was rather interesting, I do have reservations about it and I need to read a few reviews to really make up my mind.
Profile Image for Claire⁷.
241 reviews
May 28, 2019
Although interesting enough to keep me hooked, the first half that included snippets of fairy tales, family stories, and a random podcast was still too slow, and the second half was... well, messy. There was an attempt at exploration of moral grayness and limits one is willing to go to survive, which I always find interesting, but in this case it was short, sloppy, and not very well done. Despite their backstories, the characters ended up bland and boxed into two standard categories. After a wild ride that is the second half, the conclusion is quite anti-climatic and unsatisfying, considering this book is labeled as a standalone.

The Wise and the Wicked isn't a bad book by any means. The novel is unique, atmospheric, and well-written. The slavic, poc, and lgbtqia (trans, lesbian, and bi) representations are lovely, and Dov's character is such a soft, wholesome character you can't help but fall in love with from the moment he is introduced.

*Thank you to HarperCollins and Balzer + Bray for providing an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.*
Profile Image for Kalie.
133 reviews31 followers
March 10, 2019
(3.5/5) THE WISE AND THE WICKED feels as if the collective works of Anne-Marie McLemore, Katherine Arden, and Laura Ruby were put into a literary blender and this is the result. I just wish I had enjoyed it more than I did. Still, I’d love to tackle this book again in the future as it improved for me greatly about half of the way through as I got settled into the story. From the magical realism elements and lore that spans generations to the inclusivity and focus on familial relationships, there is a lot in its favor. It’s definitely going to be one of those reads that sticks with me even if I didn't wholly love the journey.
Profile Image for Jacquelyn White.
30 reviews
January 30, 2019
A standout in YA magical realism genre. From the culture inspirations of Russia to the real life drama of growing up a teen in America this book has a authentic vibe with just the right dose of magic. 10/10 would recommend and can’t wait for book two.
Profile Image for Maria.
536 reviews42 followers
July 24, 2019
В аннотации к этой книге было написано, что это, мол, магический реализм про семью эмигрантов из России, а мне прямо больше и не надо ничего было, просто дайте две.

Семья Chernyavsky живет-поживает в Америке. В семье четыре поколения, и все они женщины. Мужчины там не задерживаются – зачал и свалил, да и мальчики не рождаются, только дочери. У семьи есть легенды, есть некоторые магические силы, а заправляет всем жесткая девяностопятилетняя бабка по имени Полина. Когда-то в начале 20-го века Полина и две её младшие сестры жили с матерью в лесу в Карелии, а потом что-то произошло, что мать испугалась и отправила дочерей через океан, а сама где-то там сгинула.

Это примерно то, что мы узнаем в первых главах книги. Дальше Ребекка Подос нам рассказывает и про суть магической силы Чернявских, и про причины эмиграции, и другие внутренние перипетии, но это уже спойлеры, писать не буду. Напишу про впечатления.

Тему Ребекка Подос, к сожалению, не вывезла. Во-первых, проработка «русского» бэкграунда у неё – полный фейспалм. То блины они с квашеной капустой едят, то Republic of Karelia какая-то (на минуточку, такое название было утверждено аж в 1992 году), то родившуюся в девятнадцатом веке мать Полины, ведьму из чащи, зовут Владлена – не иначе как в честь соседского мальчика Владимира Ленина. Даже вот как-то стыдно, и всё хочется спросить – ну как же так, даже Википедию не открыть, да?

Во-вторых, всё, что не касается семейной легенды, читать невыразимо скучно. И про сестер главной героини (зачем они там, какая у них роль?), и любовную линию, и бесконечные диалоги о долге перед семьей и силе. Не спасает историю ни трансгендерный персонаж, ни гей-пара – вообще закрадывается подозрение, что это дань моде, а не какой-то продуманный шаг.

В общем, задумка интересная, но реализация подкачала (такое ощущение, что я пишу эту фразу в каждом ревью на 2-3 звезды). Мечтаю как-нибудь почитать семейную сагу типа «Белых зубов» и «Короткой фантастической жизни Оскара Вау», но про поколения эмигрантов из России. Чтобы и жирные дореволюционные годы, и бегство от советской власти через Румынию, и железный занавес, и okroshka на квасе, и экзистенциальная тоска, как мы любим.
Profile Image for Simant Verma.
246 reviews87 followers
July 24, 2019
Full review: Flipping Through the Pages

This story is about Chernyavsky family who had fled from Russia and had long-hidden secrets. They were being hunted for their powers but now their power has weakened as they suppress them to keep themselves safe. Ruby lives with her two sisters and has grown up being told this story. The Chernyavsky family is predominantly women, with men appearing only to a point to father a daughter. When the girls reach teens years, at some point they see their Time in which they can see themselves at the age they will die. Ruby has been told since her childhood that the Time can’t be changed or avoided. But when her great aunt Polina dies at 95 years old, it was revealed that her death doesn’t match with what was written as her Time in the family’s record book. Ruby, with her cousin Cece, then tries to find out how was that possible and how can she change her own or her cousin’s Time. But in doing so, she discovers that her family’s secrets are way deeper than what she always thought.

Ruby is not a character that could be remembered for a long time yet I found myself rooting for her. She was an angsty teenager who wanted to dig up family secrets so that she can save herself and her cousin. Ruby and Cece’s relationship was wonderful and they kept me invested in the story. Though it was not smooth all the time, I appreciate how they tried to be as closer as they can and how much they loved each other. Cece’s representation also brought queer rep to the story which I really appreciate. Ruby’s sisters, Dahlia and Ginger were good characters but I wish the sisters relationship was explored a bit more? It felt they were just there for filling the role of Ruby’s mother.

There were multiple side characters but my favourite was Dov, Ruby’s love interest. I appreciate how the author has incorporated trans character into the story through Dov. We need more trans rep in YA! Dov’s family, the Mahalels, later played a big part in the story but what I loved was his relationship with Ruby. The romance was not in our faces and I loved how beautifully it was incorporated. Both the families had big secrets and I enjoyed reading how their relationship grew over those secrets. Though the romance was quite good, this story is mainly about family, secrets that bind them together, the love between them and the things they can do to protect each other.

The idea of Chernyavsky magic and the Russian family folklore was incorporated beautifully into this book. I loved how the author has talked about the idea that words and stories passed down over time can be twisted to meet the needs of those telling them. This magical realism story kept me interested from page one and I was engrossed in the world of Russian fairy tales, hidden family secrets and a character who is trying to understand the difference between the stories and the reality.

Lot of things are good in the story but what didn’t work for me and for most of the readers, I guess, was the ending. My kindle was showing I am at 80% but then I flipped the next page, boom.. story ends. That made me feel betrayed. I wasn’t ready for the story to finish on such a loose end. I generally don’t mind when authors leave a story with open end, but I felt, the ending of this story was abrupt and I certainly don’t like abrupt ending. This story needed an additional 50/100 pages to give us all the answers. There is no sequel to the story and that being said, the ending was a huge turndown for me which made me to instantly lower my rating, which otherwise would have been a 5 star read.

Overall, I truly enjoyed reading The Wise and the Wicked. If it wasn’t for that abrupt ending, this book would have been one of my favourites of the year. The story is really interesting. It is well written and queer representations are lovely. The mystery element keeps you hooked till the end. I would definitely ask you to pick it up if you like Russian folklore and magic realism.

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Profile Image for Inside My Library Mind.
642 reviews126 followers
June 10, 2019
More reviews up on my blog Inside My Library Mind

*I initially gave this book 3.5 stars but I lowered it to 3 stars after sitting down to write the review and getting frustrated

"We're Chernyavsky women, and the dark is scared of us."

Stuff I Liked
There was so much to like about this book. Matter of fact, if you follow me elsewhere online, you know I have been talking about how much I’ve been loving this one. And I was loving it.

First of all, I really enjoyed the writing. It’s very immersive and the author manages to create this really encompassing atmosphere right off the bat, which is why I was sure this book was gonna get a high rating from me. The book starts with a house and a family of women who may or may not be witches and you are sort of thrown into their family dynamics and secrets and it all makes for a really compelling atmosphere and setting.

The characters were interesting. I really liked Cece and I really loved Dov. I think they were really good characters and I loved how their dynamic with Ruby was explored. Cece is Ruby’s cousin and absolute best friend, and I really enjoyed how their relationship developed throughout and how they dealt with certain things that happen. I think close cousin relationships are really rare, and I love that it was included (although, I think it’s mostly because they’re Russian). And Ruby’s relationship with Dov was really pure and felt real (for the most part), so I really liked that. I also really loved Ruby’s sisters and I really wish they got more page time, because I really found them interesting and I would read a book about them.

And the novel had a lot of momentum. There’s almost a mystery element to it and it was a great driving force for the novel and the book really did keep me engaged and I feel like there was a lot in the book to keep you interested.

There’s also queer rep in here, which we always love! There is a prominent sapphic side relationship and also the love interest of the novel is a trans boy. So that was great to see!

Stuff I Disliked
However, around the middle, things started to annoy me, and the book I was loving started being just a meh read, for a number of reasons.

First of all, the main character, Ruby wasn’t my favorite. She isn’t a memorable character, but on top of that, her choices make no sense and she constantly said things that clashed with things she was doing and it was really frustrating.

On top of that, the event that triggers the unraveling of secrets and starts up the final revelation and resolution of the plot was SO UNNECESSARY. Like this is the event that stirs shit up and it makes no sense in the narrative. It could have had a point, with a simple alteration, but it was… a choice to do it and I just looked directly at the camera like on The Office when it happened.

Also, this has got to be one of the most unsatisfying endings I read this whole year. It was incredibly rushed and it was so messy and it made very little sense and I think it dumbed down what could have been a really complex narrative. On top of that, I really felt like the book was trying to give nuance to villians, and to say that people aren’t inherently good or evil, they’re just people, but it did the exact opposite. It was a very Middle Grade ending in terms of making things very black & white when it comes to villians (which isn’t a bad thing, I love Middle Grade, but that’s not what the book was trying to do, and it showed). And I just found the ending and the resolution kind of cliche.

To Sum Up
A lot of potential, and a book I initially loved, but that kind of went downhill for me. It was a really meh read for me personally, but I do think that it could be well-loved by other people. If the things I mentioned aren’t that important to you, then you might enjoy it more than I did.

I received this book from the publisher through Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own (duh)

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Profile Image for Karen • The Book Return.
263 reviews64 followers
May 29, 2019
Read this review and more on my blog.The Book Return Blog
Ruby and her sisters come from a long line of wise and powerful women. When their grandmother and her sisters fled Russia they lost most of their magical powers. Today only one of their great powers remain. The power to have a vision of their own death.
The cover on this one was what initially got me. It justs screams Russian folklore. It gives a great representation of what this novel is about.
The only type of magical realism that I really enjoy is when it is told through a lens of an old world fairytale with fairytales themselves woven into the story. 'The Wise and The Wicked' has this in spades.
I really loved the flow of the story as well as the characters. Podos did such a wonderful job of describing the characters and making each one wonderfully unique.  Ruby and her sisters were just amazing and the details of the story really gave me a vivid picture of what was going on.
One of my favorite elements of Ruby's story was the podcast about a time-traveling scientist. The podcast story is really well developed and I would love to hear more from 'Kerrigan Black'.
I am disappointed with the ending. The story ended on a huge cliffhanger with no resolution to the story. I don't mind an ending that's left up to the reader but this one is pretty extreme. This was foreshadowed a bit with the ending to Ruby's favorite podcast so it didn't come as a complete shock but I really hoped for more.
This was a fun read with a powerful feminine vibe. It had a 'The Rules of Magic' feel (which was actually mentioned in the story).
Read this review and more on my blog.The Book Return Blog
Profile Image for Christina Reid.
1,212 reviews75 followers
May 25, 2019
By day, they were the kind of people who seemed to belong in the house on Stone Road. Ruby went to school while her sisters worked the part-time jobs they could get without college degrees, scrambling to save for Ruby’s own (ultimately pointless) college fund. Ginger was an office assistant at a feed store, while Dahlia currently worked at ’Wiches and Wings, a butterfly conservatory and sandwich shop in one.

And then some nights, rare but constant for the last few years, they were different people altogether. Polina would come with a client, or one would follow. Always women, always in dark plain clothing, in stained pants and with no jewelry or lipstick. Often, their cars had out-of-state plates. They looked desperate, as though they would have walked through the woods all night to get here, if necessary. Ruby wasn’t sure how clients actually found Polina, or where Polina found them. Nor was she completely sure what went on after she was sent to her room, but she knew enough.

Her sisters, with Polina’s guidance, did what their ancestors had always done. They helped people.

They welcomed them into this unextraordinary little house, listened to them, counseled them with the gift that remained to the Chernyavskys: the empathetic, righteous rage of women who knew what it meant to have everything taken away from them.

First impressions: I was immediately caught by the title, then knew that I had to read this after seeing the stunning cover and reading the blurb. Anything with folklore and magic is something I am eager to read!

I was so excited to get my hands on an e-ARC of this book, as the UK release date has still not been decided but the summary just sounds like perfection!

At first, I struggled a little with all of the names and the different characters, but before long I was racing through this. The prologue reads almost like the introduction to a fairytale and I loved the idea that the story could be very different depending on who is telling the story. Ruby has grown up being told that her family fled Russia because of being hunted for their powers, powers which have now weakened as they suppress them to keep themselves safe.

The family is predominantly women, with men seeming to appear for only long enough to father a daughter. At some point in their teenage years all of the girls have a vision in which they see their Time; they might not see their own death but they see themselves at the age they will die. Ruby has been taught that there is no way to avoid your Time and has accepted that her life will never become much of anything.

Yet, when her great aunt Polina dies at 95 years old, her actual death does not match what has been recorded as her Time in the family’s book of records, for the first time in known history. In trying to find out why and with the glimmering possibility of changing her own or her beloved cousin Cece’s time, Ruby discovers that the secrets her family are keeping run far deeper and colder than she had ever imagined.

Ruby is a realistic character and I loved seeing how her relationships with all those around her began to develop, especially in light of the fact that she starts the book resigned to the fate that she has seen in her vision of her Time. The gradual flowering of hope and disbelief as she digs down into her family history was almost painful to watch as she begins to wish for more and lets people around her get closer…but always with the knowledge of her Time overshadowing everything.

Dov was another favourite character even before his backstory is revealed, and I liked how down-to-earth he and Ruby are when discussing this past and what it means for them as they tentatively begin to explore a relationship. Dov’s family dynamic also challenges you as the reader to think about good and evil and how multi-faceted people and their decisions can be.

In reading this I was transported into a world very much like our own, but with an undercurrent of magic running through it, where folktales and fairytales become family history and choices are shaped by ancestral memory.

Immersive, thought-provoking and magical, this is one not to be missed!

When you knew your expiration date—or near enough—you knew what to expect out of life, what to hope for, and what not to hope for. As Polina had said, you knew who you would be, and so you knew who you were. Maybe it wasn’t the death you would have picked, or the years you would have asked for, but you made peace with your Time. You looked it in the face, and you were stronger for doing so. You certainly didn’t run from it. As if you even could.

Ruby’s first instinct had been right, of that she was certain; the story meant something. Fairy tales weren’t just important to her family, they were history. They were legacy. And this one had made its way from Polina to Evelina to Annie, falling into Cece’s and Ruby’s hands years later. Like the Chernyavskys, it, too, was trying its hardest to survive. There must be a reason for that.

And then there was Polina’s inscription. Remember this, Evelina: if time is a prize you want to win, you must prepare to lose. Time was exactly what she was after. She’d felt a secret clock ticking inside of her since she was thirteen, but what if it could be stopped? According to stories, the Chernyavskys had been powerful enough to do just that, once. And if Ruby could be strong enough—and smart enough—then she could save herself and Cece, too. She could take back what belonged to her, because judging by Polina’s thwarted fate, it had never truly been abandoned. And there was nothing she wasn’t prepared to risk to find it. She didn’t have much to lose in the first place.

What I liked: Ruby and Cece’s relationship, Ruby’s sisters and how so much character was denoted by just a few lines, the influences of folklore and fairytales, Dov as a love interest and how sweet he is!

Even better if: I think that this is meant to be a stand-alone, but the ending seemed very much like it could be setting up for a sequel! I would love it if there were to be a second book!

How you could use it in your classroom: This would be a great addition to any library catering for readers of teenage or fantasy books. Sections of this book could be used to spark discussions about the importance of family, the experience of immigrants, sexuality and transgender issues, etc.
Profile Image for Insiya♡.
191 reviews11 followers
November 18, 2019
From page one, The Wise and the Wicked swept me into a world of ancient Russian fairy tales, long-hidden family secrets, and a main character trying to make sense of the world and her place in it. 
Lots of delightful Russian culture, folklore and wonderful story detail. The characters in this are great. It reminded me a little of “The Raven Cycle” with the quirky, small, intimate feel of it. But that ending...What?!?!
Profile Image for Ophelia 💛.
395 reviews1 follower
May 1, 2021
Amazing idea, but such a weak plot and weak writing. Those endless descriptions over and over again and all those inner monologues! Ouf. Also so many predictable plot (can’t call it twists). I did foresee everything coming and skimmed the second half. Still it didn’t catch me by surprise.
This could have been so much better! I loved the folklore bits of the story! But in the end it got all twisted and there was this oh so evil person. What a bad ending.
I’m sad.
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