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