Book Review: Deathless by Catherynne M. Valente

Deathless by Catherynne M. Valente
Deathless by Catherynne M. Valente

Title: Deathless

Author: Catherynne Valente

Genre: Fantasy, Historical Fiction, Fiction, Mythology, Fairy Tales, Russia, Romance, Adult, Retelling

Publisher: Tor Books

Published: March 29, 2011

Page Amount: 352 pages

Blurb From Goodreads:Koschei the Deathless is to Russian folklore what devils or wicked witches are to European culture: a menacing, evil figure; the villain of countless stories which have been passed on through story and text for generations. But Koschei has never before been seen through the eyes of Catherynne Valente, whose modernized and transformed take on the legend brings the action to modern times, spanning many of the great developments of Russian history in the twentieth century.

Deathless, however, is no dry, historical tome: it lights up like fire as the young Marya Morevna transforms from a clever child of the revolution, to Koschei’s beautiful bride, to his eventual undoing. Along the way there are Stalinist house elves, magical quests, secrecy and bureaucracy, and games of lust and power. All told, Deathless is a collision of magical history and actual history, of revolution and mythology, of love and death, which will bring Russian myth back to life in a stunning new incarnation.

Why Read: Catherynne Valente, if you have not read her, is one of my absolute favorite authors. She is so talented and writes these incredibly vivid fantasy worlds that combine and mesh reality with fairy tales. I adore her. So it was no surprise that I picked up her newer book (although I didn’t know it was out all the way in 2011!)

Review: Deathless retells the story of Koschei the Deathless, a Russian folk story that I have never heard before. Part of me rejoices in that, knowing that I will not have to reconcile the actual fairy tale with what Valente created. I think the characters of Marya Morevna and Koschei are beautifully depicted, and the development of the plot especially is reminiscent of a fairy tale (since that’s what it is), but it has something darker in it.

Marya is a young girl who  originally lives in Russia, until she is whisked away, like her sisters before her, into the world of magic. Her kidnapper (per say), Koschei the Deathless is a villain. His mother is Baba Yaga, the cruel and horrible little shriveled thing, that we all know from one fairy tale or another. She is to be his bride. This is all well and good – until we take into account what it would do to someone- living in the magic world. Marya is a strong character, whose will I strongly admire in more ways than one.

The plot itself is a beautiful maze of endurance. How can Marya handle this world? Will she ever marry Koschei and what would she have to do in order to achieve that? Only Baba Yaga knows. It is a beautiful retelling that brings tears to my eyes, and confusion (partially because I have no experience with fairy tales from Russia). The writing is from Valente, so it’s not surprising that it’s fantastic, and the vivid descriptions are too good to even effectively describe.

My point is read it: You won’t be disappointed

Rating: 5/5 Stars

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