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Vita Nostra

(Метаморфозы #1)

4.06  ·  Rating details ·  11,542 ratings  ·  2,313 reviews
The definitive English language translation of the internationally bestselling Ukrainian novel—a brilliant dark fantasy with "the potential to be a modern classic" (Lev Grossman), combining psychological suspense, enchantment, and terror that makes us consider human existence in a fresh and provocative way.

Our life is brief . . .

While vacationing at the beach with her moth
Hardcover, 416 pages
Published November 1st 2018 by Harper Voyager (first published 2007)
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Anna Richey From what I understand, the English translation was first released a couple years ago but only this year was released by a professional publisher. I h…moreFrom what I understand, the English translation was first released a couple years ago but only this year was released by a professional publisher. I hope English translations of #2 & 3 come out soon!! I really enjoyed #1.(less)

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Average rating 4.06  · 
Rating details
 ·  11,542 ratings  ·  2,313 reviews

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Start your review of Vita Nostra (Vita Nostra, #1)
Jan 18, 2019 rated it really liked it
This book is like Harry Potter, but if it was written by Kafka.

Watch my full review here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5FMfo...
At the start of this novel, 16-year-old Sasha Samokhina is on a seaside vacation with her mother, where after a few days she finds herself stalked by a mysterious man with pale skin and dark glasses. She is eventually confronted by this stranger, who entreats Sasha to wake up at 4 am every morning, go to the beach, take off all her clothes, and swim to a buoy and back. She reluctantly agrees to this strange task, and as soon as she's back on shore that first morning, she starts to vomit gold coi ...more
Nenia ✨ I yeet my books back and forth ✨ Campbell

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I've been wanting to read VITA NOSTRA ever since the English translation was released and I heard about the dark magic school premise. This novel is part of a trilogy that was originally published in Ukraine, and it's one of the strangest, most fascinating, most inevitable books I have ever read. It actually reminds me a lot of R. Lee Smith's book, SCHOLOMANCE. The pacing is very slow and you just have to bask and immerse yourself in the
Dec 06, 2018 rated it it was amazing
How is this baffling, esoteric, paranormal weirdness also the most accurate depiction of higher education I've ever read? ...more
Nov 19, 2018 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Tatiana by: Barnes and Noble sci-fi blog
Who in the world wrote this book's blurb, comparing "Vita Nostra" to, of all things, Katherine Arden’s "The Bear and the Nightingale"? I know they both are set in Russia, but what do they really have in common? Snow? Don't be fooled, and if you want to pick up "Vita Nostra" because you liked "The Bear and the Nightingale," just don't, ok? If you need another fix of Russian bear, fur hats and balalaikas nonsense, Leigh Bardugo can supply those. "Vita Nostra" was written by Russian authors, about ...more
ELLIAS (elliasreads)
Feb 24, 2020 rated it it was amazing
There are concepts that cannot be imagined but can be named. Having received a name, they change, they flow into a different entity, and cease to correspond to the name, and then they can be given another, different name, and this process— the spellbinding process of creation— is indefinite: this is the word that names it, and this is the word that signifies. A concept as an organism, and text as the universe.

I don't think there's a word in this entire universe that can be spoken, th
Nov 30, 2018 rated it liked it
I have SUCH conflicting thoughts about this book because it was crazy and interesting and groundbreaking and suspenseful and fucking weird and lacking antagonists and personality and structure and chapter breaks but it's so intriguing and different and beautiful and gross and almost too smart and then maybe not smart at all and enthralling and annoying and I want to clutch it to my chest and throw it at the wall at the same time AHAGAHSGAHSDGASGASDGJASHDGASGH ...more
K.J. Charles
Good Lord, this book is incredible. It's about a teenage girl who goes to a school to learn magic, but you can stop right there because this is not YA, nor is it the usual story again. The induction is viciously cruel, though not as cruel as that of her classmates, the school is baffling and terrifying, the magic is near-incomprehensible (deliberately), its purpose unclear, its results not what you expect.

An extraordinary imaginative feat, beautifully translated, and incredibly compelling. I wo
Dec 03, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: loved-it, arc, fantasy
Sometimes a book is so custom-made for me that I am unsure whether I can reasonably recommend it to anyone or if the reading experience was incredible just because the book hit all my favourite things. This is one of those times. Combining some of my greatest loves in fiction: dark fantasy, inspired by Russian literature, set in the middle of nowhere with plenty of snow, combining boarding school tropes with unconventional storytelling, this book was everything to me.

This book follows Sasha, who
May 31, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Verbs in the imperative mood, Russian-speaking Potter fans, Tolstoy-loving fantasy fans
This is a most unusual novel, especially for Western readers. It's strange and thoughtful and dark, full of psychological twists and turns, metaphysical tangents, and the desperately humorous shenanigans of young adults carrying on at a grim Russian boarding school that is turning them all into... what, they do not exactly know.

I described Marina and Sergey Dyachenko's novel The Scar as "swords & sorcery if written by Fyodor Dostoevsky." I don't think I'm stretching the Russian-lit analogy too m
Spencer Orey
Dec 15, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Weird in the best of ways, a bit scary, and bizarrely magical, this book somehow captures the experience of what happens to you in college better than anything else I know.

It's cliche to say that fantasy can deal with big issues better than standard fiction, but this one really gets at the experience of your world getting shifted around by education. And then it adds some big weird things on top that somehow enhance the message. I haven't read anything quite like it since Lev Grossman's Magician
Mara YA Mood Reader
Jul 15, 2020 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: kindle-owned
Complete nonsense. I pushed through to the end and highly regret the time I have wasted in my life reading this. And that is all I care to say about this book.

Rebecca Roanhorse
I absolutely loved this book. Another reviewer described it as "like Harry Potter, but if it was written by Kafka" and I couldn't agree more, in the best way. Dark, clever, and with a wonderfully creative and original magic system that I wish I'd thought of first. It resonates so deeply as some kind of theological truth about creation that feels both specific and universal and I'm into it. The pacing is solid (hard to put down), the mystery at the heart of the book is revealed slowly but once I ...more
Ashleigh (a frolic through fiction)
Did I read this book? Yes. Could I explain this book? No. Did I enjoy this book? Ehhhhh….

I honestly don’t quite know my feelings on this one. I started out enjoying it, and for the most part did like following Sasha’s progress through this university, especially in relation to other people and how relationships changed over this time.

But this book is unconventional in multiple ways.

The first being the magic system itself (if you would even call it magic? They certainly never did, but then again
Helena Paris
Aug 10, 2020 rated it it was ok
Shelves: adult, dark-academia
Like The Magicians and A Deadly Education, which had similar tropes and themes...I wasn't too keen on this either.

When I was reading it, I was flying through it, but the minute I set it down, I had no interest in picking it back up again. It was just so WEIRD. I wanted to like it more than I did, but I can't even put into words why I didn't like it. The students were forced to attend against their will and practically psychologically tortured throughout this book, which makes it even worse than
Books with Brittany
Jan 20, 2021 rated it really liked it
Im not totally sure what I just read. But I liked it.
Mayim de Vries
Oct 24, 2019 rated it it was amazing
“Anything that is truly valuable is beyond material substance if you think about it.”

Among the people who write fantasy novels, there is a clear over-representation of the English-speakers. However, there are many talented writers of other nationalities; the Dyachenko duet, winners of numerous literary awards, is one of them. I think the Dyachenkos are at the moment a strong contender to dethrone the Andrews in my personal “married couples writing” hierarchy.

Alexandra Samokhina, an average teena
Mar 18, 2022 rated it it was amazing
Gonna do shrooms and reread this
Feb 13, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Vita Nostra is a dark and deeply provocative novel about psychological and metaphysical transformation that defies explanation even after you get to the end.

It is so compelling to read, with endlessly twisting turns that loop back as often as they split off or move forward. I wouldn't necessarily be able to explain it all to someone, but I'm confident it will keep my internal dialogue going for a long time.
Nov 17, 2018 rated it did not like it
GR friends have pointed out they can tell whether I am enjoying a book by how long it takes me to read it - so the fact it took me 8 days to complete 400 pages should tell you something (in comparison, I read the 500 pages of the far superior The Book of Strange New Things in less than 2 days). I'm not sure what even drew me to this book in the first place, since I don't read much fantasy (although this barely qualifies), so it must have been the Russian aspect ... or the VERY cool cover. I WASN ...more
Mar 28, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy
*** 4.75 ***

"... “There are words that are simply trash, refuse, they turn into nothing immediately after they are spoken. Others throw shadows, hideous and pathetic, and sometimes gorgeous and powerful, capable of saving a dying soul. But only a few of these words become human beings and pronounce other words. And everyone in the world has a chance of encountering someone whom he himself spoke out loud . . .”...

I don't think I can give the right explanation, and it is weird that the word "Expl
Caro the Helmet Lady
My opinion - great book, while I'm sure it's not for everyone.
My feelings - this was like a crush. There are not so many books I was feeling like I lived in. This one was like that. I even had dreams about it at night. In such cases it's really hard to express what you think about it, because you mostly feel it. So just some general thoughts after finishing it - I've seen many great reviews here on GR, so I'll allow myself to lazy around just sharing my musings about it. Veeery light spoilers a
Olivia (Stories For Coffee)
You ever read a book and think to yourself, “My brain is too fucking small to understand any of this.” That was me for the last 1/3 of this book.

TW: Use of the R & g*ps* slur, fatphobia
Jun 06, 2018 rated it it was amazing
The "world" as hypertext...a product of human language

Creation myths take various forms, one of which states the world does not exist until the the objects within it are given names. A corollary states that knowing and uttering a True name conveys control over that object or being. Persons capable of wielding this power have been called shamans, magicians, gods, and writers. This particular theme makes a frequent appearance in fantastic literature from Le Guin's The Word for World is Forest to R
Jul 21, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Just wow!

As usual I started reading this novel without having had a glimpse on the blurb or any review. I've heard that it was compared to a darker version of Harry Potter and therefore it seemed to fit the "the next ..." prompt of the challenge in the SFFBC group.

Weeeell ... okay, it could be described as 'Harry Potter' - but then it definitely needs the addendum "... if Harry Potter had been written by China Miéville".
Fortunately "Vita Nostra" is a class of its own without the need of a compar
Sep 04, 2020 rated it really liked it
I don't know what I think about this. I don't know how to think about it. Its familiar, but not. Likeable, but not always enjoyable.

I have no intention of writing a review more helpful than this. Some things just can't or shouldn't be explained.


Okay, I changed my mind. This book is weirdly brilliant in that you know you're reading something that is at times boring but still captivating. There were a few times when I felt a lesser differently minded person would DNF this but it he
Brenda Waworga
Aug 14, 2020 rated it really liked it
"Vita Nostra brevist est – Our life is short”

This book is so strange but yet so engaging at the same time.. when someone said this is a “Harry potter book written by Kafka”.. he is completely right

I think the translator did great job translated this Ukraine book, I love the easy to read writing style so much, we followed Alexandra Samokhina (Sasha) when she “forced” to enter this magical school, this school is not a normal full of wonder school… this school is terrifying and student need to lear
Feb 22, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
First coherent thoughts: A long book that never felt long, this is a dark and often frightening version of the story of a young person going to a magical school. If the school had teachers who were uniformly scary and mysterious, and the main character was never told what she was studying and why, and what the effects would be on her mind, body and relationships. And that transformations and incredible power were to be at her disposal, and her life would be changed unimaginably.
This novel was a
Feb 23, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fantasy
This book is slow paced, philosophical, existential and it has a sort of dreary desperation throughout. But it's also a mysterious YA fantasy book set in Russia. It's dark and bleak, and can probably be described as a more mature wizarding school book.

It's definitely not a light read, although the language is simple and easy enough. For me, this has been one of those immersive, engrossing reads that wraps me up in it's specific, unique atmosphere and won't let go until I've read the last word -
Ms. Smartarse
Published in English as Vita Nostra.

16-year-old Sasha is looking forward to her summer holidays: full of sun, swimming, and a bit of good ol' pitypar-- ahem daydreaming about romance. Instead, she finds a creepy dude who blackmails her into early morning bouts of swimming. No explanations necessary, when threats'll do just fine. Still, no holiday lasts forever, and Sasha can go back home and get rid of her creepy blackmailer right? Riiiiiiight?!

Long story short, Sasha ends up attending universit
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Марина Дяченко
Marina and Serhiy Dyachenko - co-authors of novels, short fiction, plays and scripts. They primarily write in Russian (and in the past also in Ukrainian) with several novels translated into English and published in the United States. These include, Vita Nostra (2012), The Scar (2012), The Burned Tower (2012), Age of Witches (2014) and Daughter from the dark (2020). The primary genres

Other books in the series

Метаморфозы (4 books)
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“There are concepts that cannot be imagined but can be named. Having received a name, they change, flow into a different entity, and cease to correspond to the name, and then they can be given another, different name, and this process—the spellbinding process of creation—is infinite: this is the word that names it, and this is the word that signifies. A concept as an organism, and text as the universe.” 18 likes
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