Goodreads: 4.18/5 (click here to view the synopsis)
As a rule I’m pretty picky about the ratings I give on Goodreads- one or two stars is for the vile and pathetic, three for the ones I enjoyed, four for the fantastic that I’d probably read again, and five, that sparse and golden five, for the ones that changed me in ways I can’t quite place. I have maybe a handful books with that last rating. This book is one of them.
- It’s a fairytale- or more precisely, it’s based on one. The prose is wonderfully lyrical and written in third person, and like all fairytales, it draws heavily on setting and background. The story is placed in a village in northern Russia, cold and frigid and bank opposite a deep, eldritch forest filled with magical deities. Fun question: if a fairytale doesn’t have a scary forest in it, is it still even a fairytale?
- It’s about magic, but it’s also not really about magic. It’s more a magical book about other things like strength, resilience, and to some extent, religion and belief. The magic bit of it is largely expressed through Russian deities (most are from popular folklore, I believe) that guard homes and river and stables and other such things, thereby protecting the denizens of the village.
- It’s a slow book, but I typically don’t like to tell people that, because often slow is interpreted as boring, and this book is anything but. The story progresses gradually, taking its own sweet time, meandering through each sub-plot and halting occasionally to munch on the berries of atmosphere and mood, but it is never, never, uninteresting. Also, there are talking horses!