Deathless by Catherynne M. Valente

Deathless by Catherynne M. Valente

Title: Deathless
Author: Catherynne M. Valente
Series: Leningrad Diptych, #1
Pages: 349
Publisher: Tor Books
Release Date: March 29, 2011

       “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.”

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“Of late, she had felt that coldness in herself, and though she feared it, she loved it too, for it made her strong.”

Catherynne M. Valente’s Deathless is a retelling of the Russian fairy tale The Death of Koschei the Deathless. Valante paints a vivid fantasy world in the backdrop of war-torn Russia. As a young girl Marya Morevna witnesses her first taste of magic when she see birds across her street transform into handsome young men. As each of her sisters is whisked away by these mysterious gentlemen, Marya becomes more and more convinced that her own day will come. She makes the acquaintance of the creatures who live under her house and an old crone who moves in next door., both preceding the arrival of the enigmatic Koschei.

Koschei is a cruel character, he gives to Marya as much as he takes away. Beguiled by the power he has over her and her own childhood fantasies, Marya enters willingly into his world. But Koschei is a villain, whose controlling personality does not exclude Marya. Valente is unapologetic in describing her characters’ ugly natures and much of Koschei’s behavior can be described as abusive. Koschei’s world is also full of creatures like himself, who use and abuse for their own amusement. There is no mercy in their veins, just a dark desire to satisfy their own wants. Marya plays a dangerous game with Koschei and there are times when it’s difficult to tell whether or not she is also full of the same kind of darkness.

Though I enjoy fantasy novels, this one was a little too twisted and cruel for my own tastes. Despite this, I was really impressed by Valente’s writing and the uniqueness of her world. This is my first Catherynn M. Valente novel and it won’t be my last.

Rating: 3/5


11 thoughts on “Deathless by Catherynne M. Valente

  1. Okay, now I’m intrigued! A dark fantasy set in Russia, twisted and cruel… I may have to read this one despite it’s 3 star rating. I’ll have to have a look and see if my library has a copy! Thanks for introducing me to this one!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s by no means a bad book, it’s rather good and would probably earn a higher rating from me if I was more into these darker characters, but that’s entirely a personal preference. Valente is a wonderful storyteller and writer. I highly recommend you hunt it down as soon as possible 😉

      Liked by 1 person

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