Magical… This book is based on old Russian fairytales which are sprinkled through the book as told by Dunya, the old nurse and grandmother figure of this story. She raised Marina, daughter of the”swan-maiden” that bewitched Ivan I into marrying him. Even though it is a hard winter, Marina wants a daughter like her mother, one who could tame animals and see the future. Marina dies giving birth to Vasya (short for Vailisa), who has green eyes like the sea and has the second sight (can see the magical world). Wild and free-spirited, Vasya is always outdoors and makes friends with the guardians of the forest. When her father remarries a devout Christian woman named Anna and a new priest named Konstantin arrives in the village, the guardians and the old ways are pushed aside and fear of angering God causes an imbalance in the world. A demon known as the Bear, master of nightmares, awakens and feeds on the people’s fear and awakens the dead. The demon’s brother and master, Frost/Death, struggles to control him. Vasya is warned in dreams similar to the fairytales told by Dunya about what is happening. Anna and Konstantin help spread the fear among the village that Vasya is a witch and that Vasya’s sin and witchcraft is causing their suffering. As the “real” world collides with the magical world, Vasya must use all her bravery and magic she can find within herself to try and save her village, no matter what the cost.
There was so many fairytales in this book that I was trying to remember and figure out how they may be related to what was going on currently in the story that it almost seemed like a mystery book, trying to fit all the clues together. This book was beautifully written. I could feel the cold and the fear and the hopelessness and panic that Vasya felt having no control in the decisions that shaped her life and her future:
“Why are you frightened, Vasilisa Petrovna?” “Do not you know, Batyushka?” she said. Her laugh was soft and desperate. “You were frightened when they sent you here. You felt the forest closing about you like a fist; I could see it in your eyes. But you may leave if you will. There is a whole wide world waiting for a man of God, and already you have drunk the water of Tsargrad and seen the sun on the sea. While I …” He could see the panic rising in her again, and so he strode forward and seized her arm. “Hush,” he said. “Do not be a fool; you are making yourself frightened.” She laughed again. “You are right,” she said. “I am foolish. I was born for a cage, after all: convent or house, what else is there?” “You are a woman,” said Konstantin. He was still holding her arm; she stepped back and he let her go. “You will accept it in time,” he said. “You will be happy.”
This is supposed to be the first book in a series so I am looking forward to book 2– it can’t be released soon enough.
I gave this book 5 out of 5 stars on Goodreads.
I received an advanced readers copy of this book from NetGalley for review consideration.