Published by Del Rey on January 10, 2017
Genres: Adult, Historical, Fantasy
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At the edge of the Russian wilderness, winter lasts most of the year and the snowdrifts grow taller than houses. But Vasilisa doesn’t mind—she spends the winter nights huddled around the embers of a fire with her beloved siblings, listening to her nurse’s fairy tales. Above all, she loves the chilling story of Frost, the blue-eyed winter demon, who appears in the frigid night to claim unwary souls. Wise Russians fear him, her nurse says, and honor the spirits of house and yard and forest that protect their homes from evil.
After Vasilisa’s mother dies, her father goes to Moscow and brings home a new wife. Fiercely devout, city-bred, Vasilisa’s new stepmother forbids her family from honoring the household spirits. The family acquiesces, but Vasilisa is frightened, sensing that more hinges upon their rituals than anyone knows.
And indeed, crops begin to fail, evil creatures of the forest creep nearer, and misfortune stalks the village. All the while, Vasilisa’s stepmother grows ever harsher in her determination to groom her rebellious stepdaughter for either marriage or confinement in a convent.
As danger circles, Vasilisa must defy even the people she loves and call on dangerous gifts she has long concealed—this, in order to protect her family from a threat that seems to have stepped from her nurse’s most frightening tales.
A young woman is charged with saving her village, but it could cost her life. Let’s review!
I wanted to love this book. I wished it with my whole heart. While I did enjoy it better than some other books I’ve read recently, it didn’t live up to my expectations. 🙁
The number one problem is pacing. The book begins with Vasilisa born in her small, rural village in medieval Russia. The other characters are introduced throughout the novel organically. Most major characters have their own POVs so their motivations are always clear. But then a curious thing happens. The last hundred pages of the novel Vasilisa goes on this journey, completely changing the narrative of the story. New characters, new settings, and new backstories are introduced. It felt like the book languished in the first act before rushing through the second and third acts.
Despite the pacing issues, the novel has so many things to love. Vasilisa is a great character. Her love for her family and her village is heart warming. The setting, particularly the Russian folklore, is wonderfully mixed into the story.
tl;dr An interesting tale featuring a strong heroine, Russian folklore, and a rushed ending.