C.G. Drews's Reviews > Deathless

Deathless by Catherynne M. Valente
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really liked it
bookshelves: adult, magical-fantasy, read-2016, retelling, foodie-fiction, audio-books

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.

Okay so if you're not familiar with the story of Koschei the Deathless, lemme break it down for you: it's a Russian fairy tale about this immortal guy who keeps his "death" in an egg instead a duck inside a cow inside a etc. etc. Like I don't even remember. He needs to be introduced to a bank. You can look up his actual story on wikipedia if you like OR SOMETHING. But I won't spoil it if you don't want details! Basically Valente's version of the tale involves: being locked in cellars, seducing women, the famous witch Baba Yaga, strange magical creatures, the Russian revolution, so. much. delicious. food. descriptions, FAIRY TALE WHIMSICALNESS, and long complex Russian names I ain't even attempting because I listened to the audio so I STAND NO CHANCE FOR SPELLING.

Ohhhh it's a fairy tale. It's absolutely a FAIRY TALE. The style is sooo whimsical and nonsensical. Don't go in expecting a logical or linear story, okay? IT ISN'T LIKE THAT. I mean, there's a magical creature who is also a gun. How even????? IT IS REALLY BIZARRE AT TIMES AND I LIKED IT FOR THAT.

Hahhahahhhh hahahha hah....where are my crayons and cupcakes. OKAY SO YEAH. There are sexytimes. I think the romance was pretty abusive at the beginning but by the end, dammit I wanted Koschei and Marya to get together.

I did have feels. Several times. I was a bit frustrated in several places because of aforementioned abusive romance. And then I was confused in other places because of strange non-linear time-line jumping. BUT I STILL GOT FEELS DESPITE ALL THAT. 3 And for a book called "Deathless" a heck of a lot of people die. Be still my bleeding heart.

Because, as much as I enjoyed it...I have no idea why Marya ran off with the stump of a boring brick called Ivan. I mean, magical life vs. wife of a man with no personality at all of ever??? I REALLY DON'T GET IT, MARYA. And I also wish there'd been more of actual Koschei! He felt like a rather small part of the story which is....odd.

I still...I'm a bit befuddled. I don't really understand what went down but at the same time it was like a fairy tale so am I even supposed to have a clear explanation??

I liked it! I have small frowny moments, but the audiobook was lovely and it was such a magical story to devour. I FEEL ALL INSPIRED AND FAIRY-TALE-ISH. I love some of the darker themes weaving in there. I was surprised at how heavily it featured Russian wartime events. Like, lets talk about Communism, peoples, let's talk about it A LOT. Which was interesting but my eyes glazed over like once or twice. (Wait. I audiobooked it. My ears glazed over???) But I'm glad I tried this! And fed my mild (read: ginormous) Russian obsession. I need more Russian books. I NEED MORE FAIRY TALES. I need all the delicious food mentioned in this book because omg I am officially starving.
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Reading Progress

September 16, 2015 – Shelved
September 16, 2015 – Shelved as: to-read
June 22, 2016 – Started Reading
June 22, 2016 –
page 42
11.93% "The writing is gorgeous but I have about 3% of an idea what's going on. Bit disturbed by all the birds falling out of trees and turning into boys. MY DISTRUST OF BIRDS IS NOW WARRANTED."
June 23, 2016 –
23.0% "That went from "ooh nice intriguing fairy tale!" to "abusive and creepy romance" REALLY REALLY FAST."
July 6, 2016 –
44.0% "List Of UTTERLY INSANE People In This Book:\n • everyone"
July 9, 2016 –
65.0% "Sure, lock the magical immortal ex-husband in your basement and tell your other-husband not to go down there. \n What could go wrong."
July 10, 2016 –
80.0% "For a book called DeathLESS a lot of people are dying here."
July 11, 2016 – Shelved as: adult
July 11, 2016 – Shelved as: magical-fantasy
July 11, 2016 – Shelved as: read-2016
July 11, 2016 – Shelved as: retelling
July 11, 2016 – Finished Reading
July 28, 2016 – Shelved as: foodie-fiction
November 25, 2016 – Shelved as: audio-books

Comments Showing 1-11 of 11 (11 new)

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message 1: by Katie (new)

Katie Hanna Wow! I've read a version of this story before in an Andrew-Lang-fairy-tale-anthology; but I had no idea it was the basis of a novel as well. Marya and Koschei, huh? Interesting . . .

message 2: by Annerlee (new) - added it

Annerlee Love the review!

message 3: by ammaarah (new) - added it

ammaarah This sounds so intriguing. Russia always gets me interested in a book!

message 4: by Tandie (new)

Tandie I love your reviews. Russian fairy tales - I love. Baba Yaga rules. If I read it, could I skim all the Let's talk about Communism a lot?

C.G. Drews @Jessica: Yessss, it's so good. :D

@Annerlee: Thankyou!

@Zara: SAME. I really love Russian culture.

@Tandie: Aww, thank you. :') And I listened to the audio so I don't know if you could skim. It's more like the characters are very obsessed with the Party kind of thing? But it doesn't drown the story.

Pennie Larina No, they weren't beautifully said, sorry. I can't even understand what the narrator is trying to pronounce half of the time.

C.G. Drews @Pennie: Well I enjoyed the audio immensely. :D

Pennie Larina Cait (Paper Fury) wrote: "@Pennie: Well I enjoyed the audio immensely. :D"
I like it, too! I can understand that Dzerzhynsky St. or Koshchey can be tricky for a non-native speaker, as well as the difference between domovaya and domovye. So, 10 points to the narrator for the effort :) It's just that I keep looking things up in the hard copy to figure out what the author actually meant.

Ashna About not understanding why Maryas fall to Ivans... Its because Ivan reminds her of life in the way Deathless Koschei cannot.

Marya becomes so much like Koschei through their relationship that once she's given a sweet innocent mortal who is utterly devoted to her, she can't help but try to take him as Koschei took her. His defining trait was his devotion to Marya, as we see the world through Marya's eyes and that is how she saw him. A little puppy that reminded her of Leningrad and wheat fields.

message 10: by Stas (new)

Stas About DeathLESS - basically it refers to him not dying, even when everybody goes stabbity-stab-stab after his person. Unless they go the long route of trying to break the needle.
(is there a needle? haven't read it yet. It kinda makes him sound like a drug addict, doesn't it? Please ignore my weirdness)
Also, 'deathless' is a cultural nod, but if properly conveyed it would be 'immortal' and it basically refers only to Koschei.
Oh the woes and difficulties of translation....

message 11: by Olga (new) - rated it 3 stars

Olga I felt the same way when she left with Ivan, and I also don't get the ending :p haha

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