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Vita Nostra

(Метаморфозы #1)

4.11  ·  Rating details ·  4,924 ratings  ·  889 reviews
Жизнь Саши Самохиной превращается в кошмар. Ей сделали предложение, от которого невозможно отказаться; окончив школу, Саша против своей воли поступает в странный институт Специальных Технологий, где студенты похожи на чудовищ, а преподаватели на падших ангелов. Здесь её учат Чему? И что случится с ней по окончании учебы? ...more
Hardcover, 2nd edition, 448 pages
Published 2008 by Эксмо (first published 2007)
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Joelgeez Just finished it and I'm shaken. However it's going to be some time before I can figure this out. I want friends to read it so we can talk about it. I…moreJust finished it and I'm shaken. However it's going to be some time before I can figure this out. I want friends to read it so we can talk about it. I see a #1 by the title. Sequel? Answers? A pointing finger?(less)
Anton Mitleider "Trilogy" does not refer to either the story, the world or even then genre, rather, it's a philosophical triptych. If you like the phantastical genre…more"Trilogy" does not refer to either the story, the world or even then genre, rather, it's a philosophical triptych. If you like the phantastical genre in general, this shouldn't be too much of a problem, though. By the way, the third book was my favorite.(less)

Community Reviews

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Average rating 4.11  · 
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Rincey
Jan 18, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is like Harry Potter, but if it was written by Kafka.
Rachel
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 ...more
Nenia ⚡ Aspiring Evil Overlord ⚡ 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
...more
Tatiana
Nov 19, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 Ardens "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)
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, that can be
...more
Marchpane
Dec 06, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
How is this baffling, esoteric, paranormal weirdness also the most accurate depiction of higher education I've ever read?
Hannah
Dec 03, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: loved-it, fantasy, arc
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,
...more
David
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
...more
Spencer Orey
Dec 15, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
...more
Rick
Nov 30, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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
...more
Doug
Nov 17, 2018 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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 ...more
Justine
Feb 13, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Mayim de Vries
Oct 24, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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 teenager,
...more
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
Lata
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
...more
Maria
Feb 23, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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 -
...more
Tbfrank
Jun 06, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
...more
Lukasz
Apr 09, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
In the beginning was the Word


Science, or more specifically - the school of magic - is a trope that's used a lot in fantasy literature. Not surprising. If done well its a joy to read. Have Diachenkos succeeded?

Short answer - yes.

Vita Nostra twists the trope in most unexpected ways. Its strange, thoughtful and dark tale about metamorphosis (both physical and metaphysical) that contains coming of age elements.

Sasha is a regular, high-school student who spends her holidays at the seaside. She
...more
Lauren (Shakespeare & Whisky)
The best and most fascinating book I have read in years.
Mary ~Ravager of Tomes~
Actual Rating: 4.5 Stars

Wow this was totally weird and very unique & Im so incredibly bummed that the next couple of books in the series have not yet been translated to English. Definitely gave me The Magicians vibes but not quite as cynical.
...more
unknown
May 08, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A novel that will make your head hurt if you think too much about what it seems to be about. Better to concentrate on what it is actually about, which is that liminal period in your early 20s when you begin to transition into an adult, and realize how utterly terrifying and final that transformation is.
Ana
Fantasy meets speech act theory!

Part ONE ↠ 3 stars
Part TWO ↠ 2 stars
Part THREE ↠ 1 star

Lou
Oct 31, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Vita Nostra, first published in 2007 in Ukraine, tells the story of Alexandra (Sasha) Samokhina, who whilst vacationing with her mother meets Farit Kozhennikov, a strange and sinister-looking man who forces her to attend a remote and mysterious university. This novel follows her adventures and exploits. One word that cannot be used to describe this novel is boring. It is certainly far from that and combines many different genres to create a truly original story. While I did enjoy aspects, I, ...more
Aliette
Jul 28, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
(cross posted from my blog review) Sasha is a normal, straight-A high-school student; until, on a holiday with her mother, a strange man with dark glasses approaches her, and asks her to get up at 4am every morning and swim to a buoy on the beach. She tries to ignore him, but when she does so, time stops passing: the same day loops over and over, trapping her in a morass of impending dread. When she finally takes the mans advice and swims, she finds herself vomitting gold coins on the beachand, ...more
Perry
Dec 18, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Conjunction Junction
What's Your Function?

How can I rate a book when I am still trying to figure out what happened? What if your Hogwarts magic superpower is .... transforming into an adverb, a pronoun, an article, etc.??


Sana
'To live is to be vulnerable. A thin membrane of a soap bubble separates one from impenetrable hell. Ice on the road. The unlucky division of an aging cell. A child picks up a pill from the floor. Words stick to each other, line up, obedient to the great harmony of speech...'

This book may have half broken my brain, but that's okay because I had too much of a good time reading it. I'd categorize it as contemporary fantasy, but it also has sci-fi, magical realism and metaphysical aspects to it.
...more
Vavita
Jan 17, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
What a ride!
I don't know when book 2 and 3 will be translated into English, but I can't wait!
This book for sure deserves to be read and re-read; it needs to be marinated and savored.
It is very cerebral. dark and complicated; although maybe not for everybody.
Angela Boord
First of all, I thought Vita Nostra was an amazing book, the best book I've read this year. It's a book I'll probably think over for a long time. But I'm having a hard time deciding what to write in a review. And from reading other reviews of the book, I think I may not be the only one who's suffered from that affliction. People tend to make a lot of the sinister, creepy (and bizarre) atmosphere of the magic school. Or they talk about how the book is about transformations. Or they mention the ...more
Avanders
I had to think about this for a bit.

I finished last night. I could hardly describe it.. well, I could describe it, but for me to say *more* than: its about a girl forced to go to a weird college in Russia where weird things are happening but we dont know what... would be spoiler.

The plot is deceptively simple.. the text is heady and philosophical. The pace is slow, yet it always felt like a page turner. I never wanted to put it down. I cant believe the imagination involved in not only coming up
...more
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Марина Дяченко
Marina and Sergey 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), and Age of Witches (2014). The primary genres of their books are modern
...more

Other books in the series

Метаморфозы (3 books)
  • Цифровой, или Brevis est (Метаморфозы, #2)
  • Мигрант, или Brevi finietur (Метаморфозы, #3)

Articles featuring this book

If you want to know the future, get a crystal ball. If you want to know how people feel about the future, read a science fiction book...
111 likes · 251 comments
“To live is to be vulnerable. A thin membrane of a soap bubble separates one from impenetrable hell. Ice on the road. The unlucky division of an aging cell. A child picks up a pill from the floor. Words stick to each other, line up, obedient to the great harmony of speech...” 6 likes
“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 . . .” 6 likes
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