March 7, 2018
I’ve been spirited away into Catherynne Valente’s exquisitely written world. I must say, this would not be the last time I would immerse myself in her book. In fact, I got most of her books ready for me to read next.
This book is a Russian folklore retold. Since I’m not Russian, Koschei, Marya Morevna and friends were all new characters to me. Hence, I could only talk about how this book appealed to me.
As much as I was enchanted with Catherynne Valente’s writing style of this book I’m giving this a solid 3/5
Why? Here’s why.
See, as soon as I started reading this book, I knew I was going to rate it 5/5. It was almost so effortless. The ebb and flow of magic within the story was smooth and ancient and easy. It was almost as if I was there. In Leningrad. In Bunya. I was delighted to read the stories about the Tsars and Tsaritsas and how they divided the earth amongst themselves.
My problem started the moment Koschei stepped into the story.
Marya Morevna started out as an appealing character… until she wasn’t. She started out as meek and innocent and gentle. She was basically a willing prisoner, waiting for Koschei to come back to her whenever he could. For a character who started so innocent, this was expected. Such characters are ought to grow out of their thin skins and grow thicker ones. I wanted her toughen up. I was waiting for her to be the boss-ass bitch I wanted her to be. I was waiting for her to crush him. I remember thinking “I was rooting for you, human! How come you’re not doing anything?” Soon… Soon, she did. When she left with Ivan to come home to Leningrad, I thought she would finally evolve. Although, in my opinion, it would’ve been better to have a trigger that was not a man. Anything. Anything at all. A song? A memory? One of her sisters? A wolf? Another person who would not turn out to be her lover? It’s so cliché. Anyway, I thought Ivan was the trigger she was waiting for but no, he wasn’t. Did she really need Lebedeva to explain why she should leave Koschei? For someone who’s been to war and lost men in the battlefield. I expected her to realize this all on her own. I wanted her to think. There was not much pondering from Marya Morevna. She grew… eventually. When she went back to the thin house, I was waiting for her to take control of her life and her happiness but she was moping around because Koschei wasn’t there and because Ivan could never be Koschei. I was waiting for her to be a heroine who didn’t need saving… but her growth was not enough. At the end of this book, in my eyes, she was no more than a human plaything, a means of escape, a merriment to the Tsar of Life’s deathless life.
I never liked Koschei… not even for one bit. He’s evil. He’s an abductor. While he didn’t literally abduct these innocent Yelenas and Vasilisas, he took advantage of them and threw them in the stupid factory just because he can. Let us begin with how he plucked Marya Morevna from the thin house in Gorokhovaya Street and forbid her to speak?!?!?!
There is no need for you to speak tonight, Marya Morevna. That time will come, and I will hang on your words like a condemned man. But for now, please, listen to me, and do as I say. I know that is difficult for you—I would not have chosen you if you found it easy to be silent and pliable!
Oh and let us not forget when he left her at the fucking stable all night while she slept with the horse because she SPOKE!!! ARE. YOU. FUCKING. KIDDING. ME.
“Seduction of Marya Morevna” my ass! Are we really romanticizing this? THIS. IS. ABUSE.
When we are finished you will give your will to me, and I will keep it safe for you. I am very good at this thing. A savant, you might say. You, however are a novice. Less than a novice. And like a good novice, you must swallow your pride.
NO. Just no! Marya Morevna was innocent and he knew it. This was how he took advantage of that poor little thing! Will is given freely when trust is earned!
After this so-called “Seduction of Marya Morevna”. She was always left in different beautiful houses, indulged with gems and rich food and beautiful dresses. She was left with friends so that she doesn’t get bored but she was always waiting. She was always waiting for Koschei to come home. And whenever Koschei came home, it’s all sex. There was no depth in their relationship. I wanted to see how she fell for Koschei.
Baba Yaga despite her being the “wicked witch” in this story. She tried to peel Marya Morevna’s rose-colored glasses and slap her with reality when she showed her the factory filled with Yelenas and Vasilisas. Although it wasn’t enough, I loved how she somehow toughened up Marya. Sure, she could be cruel and sent Marya Morevna to run errands left, right, center but she taught the girl a lesson every now and then to which Marya Morevna never really measured up as to what I would expect from a heroine.
Somewhere along the end of the book, the events that followed Ivan’s death were too dull for me to read. I just finished he book just for the sake of finishing it. I must say, I’m not picking up the book in this series.