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Deathless (Leningrad Diptych, #1)
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Group Reads Discussions 2012 > "Deathless" The Mythology and Folklore Behind The Story

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message 1: by Kim (new) - rated it 3 stars

Kim | 1496 comments This book was based on numerous Russian folk tales and myths woven together into one story. Before reading this book I've never been exposed to those stories and so I felt quite lost at times as there isn't a lot of explanation.

How did everyone else find this? Have you read any of the folk tales before? I've found the people I know who rated this highly are of Russian origin so this is based on stories they know and grew up with.

Would it have been better if the author included a glossary to explain a lot of the Russian terms?


message 2: by Kim (new) - rated it 3 stars

Kim | 1496 comments The stories (that I know of) are The Death of Koschei the Deathless, Tsarevitch Ivan, the Fire Bird and the Gray Wolf and Vasilisa the Beautiful among others, plus a host of Slavic mythological creatures.


message 3: by Suz (new) - rated it 5 stars

Suz (suzemo) | 23 comments This is one of my favorite books ever, but I have been obsessed with Russian folk tales since I was 12 years old (I finagled a priest out of his favorite Russian folk tales book ( Russian Fairy Tales ) - yes, I was pretty much Damien as a child). I've read that book til the covers fell off, and have two more copies.

I didn't go back to re-read the folk tales specifically dealing with Koschei the Deathless, but I greatly enjoyed the whole Russian Folktale tone of the book.

I (self-centeredly) hadn't really thought that people not familiar with the stories would have a harder time of it. Thanks for bringing that to light, I might be more careful about thrusting the book in everyone's faces :)


colleen the convivial curmudgeon (blackrose13) | 1580 comments I think a glossary would've helped a bit, but I don't think it would've made all that much of a difference. What I mean is that a glossary might tell you that a rusalka is a drowned woman - but you can mostly pick that up from the context of the book, and it wouldn't really add to my appreciation of the ins and outs of what that means in Russian lore.

I do think I miss a level of appreciation of the book by not being all that familiar with the origins of the story. I mean, for something like American Gods, for instance, I was familiar with most of those stories, so I felt like I got it on a level that others didn't, necessarily. So I definitely think a level of familiarity would've added an extra dimension to this story, for me.

As far as previous exposure - I knew of Baba Yaga before I read this, because I have a friend really into those stories and because she's been a character in other stories I've read.

And shortly before reading 'Deathless' I'd read 'Secret History of Moscow' which also has Koschei as a character (though it's spelled Koschey in that book), and I encounter rusalka and domovoi and things in that book, and I had looked them up but, again, that really only gave me a surface appreciation.


Katy (Kathy_H) | 112 comments I will admit that I am not really familiar with many Russian Folktales and I have looked up a few of the characters on the internet, but even without much background I am enjoying the story.


message 6: by Christie (last edited Jun 15, 2012 10:16AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Christie Kathy wrote: "I will admit that I am not really familiar with many Russian Folktales and I have looked up a few of the characters on the internet, but even without much background I am enjoying the story."

I'm the same way. I don't know anything about the background, but I like not knowing. I have found the first few chapters to be really interesting and I am looking forward to discovering what is happening as it is happening rather than knowing how the folk tales begin and end beforehand.


Evilynn | 332 comments I have a superficial knowledge of the stories she draws on, and I loved it. I'm sure I'll find more and more things to love as I read more Russian fairy tales. The whole novel reads rather Russian too, in tone and style, not just because it's a retelling of those stories.


Avrelia | 17 comments I am Russian, and the tale about Marya Morevna was one of my favorites when I was little - I mean, she is the warrior princess, what's not to love? The thing is, while Catherynne Valente took the plot of that fairy-tale, and set it against the backdrop of Russian history in 20th century, she's created a totally new myth. There are bits of Russian folklore in there, but most of it is her own. So sometimes I felt like knowing the folklore bits actually prevented me from going deep into the story, since I tried to figure out what came from where.


Smilla's Sister (SmillasSister) | 10 comments How interesting! I'm Russian, too, and I remember seeing the book online somewhere, but I had no idea it was so interesting. Avrelia - I used to love Marya Morevna a lot, too. Now I'm really curious so I think I'll have to get the book.


Rusty | 91 comments I am not of Russian background and my knowledge of Russian folktales is sparse but better now that I have finished Deathless. I admit there were times when I wish I had known more about Russian folktales and did look for a glossary or background. Nevertheless, I enjoyed the read very much.


Peggy (psramsey) | 347 comments I just finished, and I must say, this is one of the best books I've read in a long time. Wonderful choice. I'm familiar with many of the general folklore themes, but very little of the Russia-specific stories. I didn't find the story hard to follow at all, for the most part, and when I was confused, I just went with it.

Great selection - thank you!


Karen (seaayre) | 12 comments I loved this book. It was everything that I expect a fairy tale to be, and more. Beautiful writing, and memorable story. I don't know a great deal about Russian folklore, but am now motivated to track some down.


message 13: by Mirvan (new) - added it

Mirvan  Ereon (mirvanereon) | 24 comments Kim wrote: "The stories (that I know of) are The Death of Koschei the Deathless, Tsarevitch Ivan, the Fire Bird and the Gray Wolf and Vasilisa the Beautiful among others, plus a host of Slavic mythological cre..."

These are my favorite stories!!!!!!


message 14: by Mirvan (new) - added it

Mirvan  Ereon (mirvanereon) | 24 comments I am so excited to read this book. Is it available in the Philippines? I am from the Phils..


message 15: by Gage (new) - rated it 4 stars

Gage | 11 comments I have only read two other books by Russian authors. Even though Valente is not Russian, her story telling seemed very authentic. This book has definitely sparked in me an interest in Russian fairy tales and I am looking forward to reading some soon.


Evilynn | 332 comments Gage wrote: "I have only read two other books by Russian authors. Even though Valente is not Russian, her story telling seemed very authentic. This book has definitely sparked in me an interest in Russian fa..."

Her husband is Russian and his family still lives in Russia, so she's gotten a fair amount of exposure to the culture, which I think helps.


message 17: by Smilla's Sister (new)

Smilla's Sister (SmillasSister) | 10 comments All right, you've talked me into it! I'm getting the book NOW! :)))


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