BEA'S BOOK NOOK "I can't imagine a man really enjoying a book and reading it only once." C. S. Lewis “If one cannot enjoy reading a book over and over again, there is no use in reading it at all.” ― Oscar Wilde

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Review: Ivan and Marya by Anna Kashina

Book Blurb: 
 Every Solstice, every year, a young girl dies to prolong the life of a madman.

While the girl's soul is fed to Kaschey the undead by his daughter, the gloriously beautiful Marya, the girl's body drowns in the clutches of Vodyanoy at the bottom of the Sacrifice Pool.

Every Solstice a hero tries to stop them...and dies.

But this is Ivan's year. Though his brothers plot his death, and the villagers whose daughters are dying warn him not to interfere, Ivan the Fool is determined to stop the sacrifice.

With the help of the immortals, gotten by sympathy, force, or guile, Ivan believes his love will save the beautiful Marya from herself.

My Thoughts: 
Reading this story made me wish I was more familiar with Russian mythology. Not because I needed it to understand or follow the story (although a little more background would have been nice), but because it was so intriguing that it piqued my interest. Kashina uses classic mythological elements: the youngest son of a royal family on a hero's quest,  a riddle-asking being, small acts of kindness on the hero's part are repaid in ways that aid his quest, to a female who needs rescuing (though she doesn't know it), an ancient, wise, mysterious mentor for the hero, etc. All of these elements are woven with traditional (or so I assume) Russian mythology in a coming-of-age story that is also a love story.

Ivan, who has been nicknamed the Fool in large part due to his oldest brother's manipulations, is the youngest son of a tzar. He sets off on a quest and encounters a wolf who is no ordinary wolf but a primal being,a deity in animal form. Wolf, the only name he is ever given, first tries to kill Ivan then saves him, recognizing a potential hero and saviour in Ivan. There's a prophecy that Wolf believes Ivan can fulfill. The prophecy dovetails with Ivan's quest so they work together. In addition to fulfilling the prophecy, Wolf helps that Ivan might be able to help him make amends for something that he did years ago that went wrong.

Marya is also a tzar's child but that particular tzar is also a sorcerer, and Marya a sorceress. Her father, Kaschey, is also known as the Undead. While not a vampire in the traditional sense, he does need to feed off of others to live., Each year, at the Summer Solstice, a young maiden, a virgin in her teens, is sacrificed, so that Kaschey can absorb her soul, which gains him another year of life and slows (or maybe halts; I was unclear on that) the aging process. Each year the search for the maiden who will be sacrificed extends further as Kaschey's reign extends, absorbing other kingdoms.

At it's heart, Ivan and Marya is a story of redemption and of  love: Ivan redeems his reputation, Marya redeems her soul, Wolf redeems, partially anyway, for a past mistake; Ivan falls in love, Marya learns how to love; various characters act out of love - romantic, familial, patriotic.

Kashina takes some chances with her story, primarily with viewpoints. Ivan's story is told in third person while Marya's is told in first person. As I've said before, I don't mind multiple viewpoints, or changing tenses, when handled well. Kashina does it very well, I was well into the story before I even realized that the viewpoints and tenses kept changing. The transitions are smooth and well-defined. Her descriptions are spare yet evocative, and the story is just the right length. I really like that the author did not try to pad it but let it runs it's course, even though it may not be full book length.

This review first appeared at The Book Lovers Inc. I received this story as a PDF from the author.
Publisher:  Drollerie Press
Release Date: June 15th, 2010

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